Vaz “Personally” Paid For Undeclared Saudi Trip

As Guido reported last week, there was one MP’s junket to Saudi Arabia which was conspicuously absent from the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Keith Vaz’s spokesman has said that the reason why the trip wasn’t declared was because Vaz paid for it all himself:

‘’The visit to Riyadh in December 2017 was as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Yemen to meet the Yemeni President who was living there. The cost of the visit, accommodation and travel was borne by Mr Vaz personally. It was therefore not declarable.”

Vaz visited the Yemeni President and Foreign Minister, the Saudi Foreign Minister and the King Salman Relief Centre on his trip to Riyadh last December. Yet neither the Saudi or Yemeni Governments were generous enough to reach into their pockets to help him cover any of the cost of his trip. Vaz’s £77,379 salary is the sort of money the Saudis lose down the back of the sofa – after all they’ve shelled out over £170,000 to British MPs in the last 18 months. Poor old Keith must have really rubbed them up the wrong way for them to not offer him any declarable hospitality…

Vaz is not famously keen on putting his hand in his pocket for hotel expenses. Guido remembers another time Vaz forgot to make a declaration – Vaz Didn’t Declare Hotels Used For Encounters With Young Men“. Is it possible that he has done the same again?

Raab: People Must be Held to Account for Khashoggi Death

Dominic Raab says the Saudi account of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death is “not credible” and that people must be “held to account” over it. He won’t be drawn on what specific actions the UK could take…

Vaz’s Vanishing Saudi Sojourn

Readers will have been following Guido’s series on those Tory and Labour MPs who have been enjoying the generous hospitality of the Saudi regime. However, keen Middle East observers may have noticed a conspicuous absence from Guido’s lists so far. Regular readers of the Saudi press or even the Daily Mail may recall that a certain Mr Keith Vaz also paid a visit to Saudi Arabia in December last year…

According to Arab News, Vaz visited the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in the Saudi capital Riyadh, meeting with its General Supervisor Dr Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and making a statement praising the organisation. Vaz even brought up his trip in Parliament and added that he had met with the Saudi Foreign Minister. Yet the only foreign trip that Vaz has declared in his register of financial interests is a trip funded by the Indian Government in January this year – despite Vaz being deemed “too unwell” to face a parliamentary investigation. There is no trace of Vaz’s Saudi trip whatsoever. Will the Standards Committee have to open another investigation into Vaz before they’ve even concluded the first?

Labour’s Saudi Squad

Yesterday Guido brought you the Tory MPs who have been the beneficiaries of Saudi largesse. Of course the Tories weren’t the only ones – there are numerous Labour MPs who have also enjoyed the generous hospitality of the House of Saud. Five Labour MPs enjoyed lavish all-expenses-paid trips to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Who were the lucky five…

  • Mike Gapes (Lab) Visit to “deepen understanding of Saudi Arabia.” 9-13 April 2018. Paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shura Council. Value: £8,762
  • Kevan Jones (Lab) Visit to “deepen understanding of Saudi Arabia.” 8-13 April 2018. Paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Value: £8,762
  • John Spellar (Lab) Visit to “deepen understanding of Saudi Arabia.” 9-13 April 2018. Paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shura Council. Value: £8,762
  • Paul Williams (Lab) Visit to “deepen understanding of Saudi Arabia.” 9-13 April 2018. Paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shura Council. Value: £8,762
  • John Woodcock (Ind, formerly Lab) Visit to “deepen understanding of Saudi Arabia.” 9-13 April 2018. Paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shura Council. Value: £8,762

John Spellar has since interrupted Emily Thornberry in a recent Commons debate to object to her opposition to the UK selling planes to Saudi Arabia, without declaring his interest. The total value of the MPs’ junckets came in at a cool £43,810. It’s safe to say that they got better treatment than tortured and murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi…

Dozen Tories Took £85,000 of Junkets to Riyadh in Last Year

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has just announced he is pulling out of the upcoming “Davos in the Desert” conference in Saudi Arabia next week after revelations that the country was behind the torture and killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This morning Guido revealed Tory Vice Chairman Rehman Chishti had received £46,000 from the Saudis, further research by Guido reveals that since 2017, 11 other Conservative MPs have declared all-expenses-paid trips to Saudi Arabia, funded by the Saudi government. These junckets are worth more than £85,000. Liam Fox will not be taking his planned trip to Saudi Arabia next week, but look at all the Tories who did…

  • Richard Bacon
    • Trip to Saudi Arabia to understand the “strategic importance of the Coalition operations in Yemen.” 11-15 January 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Defence. Value: £8,257.
  • Alex Burghart
    • Visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. 24-29 September 2017. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,800.
  • Leo Docherty
    • Visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. 24-29 September 2017. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,800.
    • Trip to Saudi Arabia to understand the “strategic importance of the Coalition operations in Yemen.” 11-15 January 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Defence. Value: £8,257.
  • Mark Garnier
    • “Fact finding” trip to Saudi Arabia. 11-15 February 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,802
  • James Heappey
    • “Fact finding” trip to Saudi Arabia. 11-15 February 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,802
  • Simon Hoare
    • Visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. 24-29 September 2017. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,800.
  • Philip Hollobone
    • Trip to Saudi Arabia to understand the “strategic importance of the Coalition operations in Yemen.” 11-15 January 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Defence. Value: £8,257.
  • Mark Menzies
    • Visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. 24-29 September 2017. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,800.
  • Stephen Metcalfe
    • “Fact finding” trip to Saudi Arabia. 11-15 February 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,802
  • Andrew Mitchell
    • Meetings with the Government of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Paid for by the Saudi Government. 13-15 January 2018. Value: £6,629.67
  • Keith Simpson
    • “Fact finding” trip to Saudi Arabia. 11-15 February 2018. Paid for by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Value: £7,802

Following their visits Mark Menzies warned Ministers to not be “put off by siren voices that want us to disengage” with Saudi export markets, and Leo Docherty called for further trade engagement with Saudi Arabia “the right thing to do not only commercially, but strategically and morally.” 

U.S. intelligence is now reportedly “convinced” the Saudi state is responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It’s worth keeping an eye on which MPs have been very quiet on this issue…

UPDATE: Bravo to Mark Menzies who has written a letter to the Foreign Secretary supporting a “thorough investigation”.

Tory Vice Chairman Paid £46,000 from House of Saud

As the world learned this week of the horrific torture and murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi – he was according to some reports alive when his torturer began cutting him up with an electric bone saw – the register of MPs’ interests was published. The new register of interests reveals that Tory MP Rehman Chishti received £46,000 from Saudi Arabia between March 2016 and January this year for advisory work with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Chisti only stopped taking the lucrative £2,000-a-month payments from the Saudis when he became Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Communities in January. The party position comes with a £10,000 honorarium.

Guido looks forward to getting the benefit of hearing Chisti’s inside view of the Saudi regime’s behaviour when he speaks in the inevitable debates on the matter in the Commons…

UPDATE: Dozen Tories Took £85,0000 of Junkets to Riyadh in Last Year

Owen Jones “Discredited From the Start”

Guardian columnist Owen Jones has been taking aim once again at the hard left’s public enemy no.1 – a certain T. Blair, natch – using his latest column to decree that “A new party would just be a Blairite tribute act, discredited from the start”. Nothing to do with the rampant entryism and anti-Semitism infesting the once-great Labour Party, of course…

As well as getting a bit too friendly some admittedly pretty unpleasant dictators, also on the charge sheet was today’s revelation that the Tony Blair Institute has been receiving funding from the Saudi Arabian regime. Blair was dismissed as “beholden to the wealthy and powerful, including the headchoppers of Riyadh”.

Let’s hope Owen wasn’t reading, er, the Guardian on March 7th this year, where there were no fewer than three giant adverts paid for by none other than… the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

If Blair’s Saudi funding renders his political efforts “discredited from the start”, will Owen start applying the same standards to his own Guardian columns? Of course, the current leader of the Labour Party would never dream of cosying up to murderous dictators or taking funds from repressive regimes either…

h/t @jamesprice_tpa

Saudi Arabia “Foremost” in Funding UK Extremism

A new report from the Henry Jackson Society finds that Saudi Arabia is “foremost” among the sources of foreign funding and support for Islamist extremist ideology in the UK. The study examines the ways in which the Saudi and other foreign governments stoke Islamist thought and activities in Britain. It finds that:

  • Saudi Arabia has spent at least £67 billion promoting Wahhabi ideology abroad in the past 30 years;
  • A number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology” and have studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or have been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself;
  • In 2014 it was estimated that Britain’s Salafi Mosques had a collective capacity for a 44,994 strong membership;
  • In a minority of cases, institutions in the UK that receive Saudi funding are also run directly from Saudi Arabia;
  • Saudi textbooks are used in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools;
  • There have also been “numerous cases of British individuals who have joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria whose radicalisation is thought to link back to foreign funded institutions and preachers“.

The report calls for a public inquiry in order to understand the foreign backing for Islamist extremism in the UK:

“What is publicly known about the foreign funding of Islamist extremist activities in the UK almost certainly does not represent the full extent of what has happened in recent years… Given that there is a clear lack of information and understanding about this subject, both among policy makers and the public, the government should start to address this issue by launching an official and public inquiry into the subject.”

May has been suppressing a government report on funding of extremism for over a year – likely because it reveals Saudi culpability. She could begin by making those findings public…

Blue on Blue: May Attacks Boris For Telling Truth About Saudis

Theresa May’s spokesman has issued a public slap down of Boris Johnson after he was caught on tape by the Guardian criticising Saudi Arabia. It’s a shame that the Guardian and the BBC think calling out a warmongering human rights abusing dictatorship is a “gaffe“. Now Downing Street has shot him down for telling the truth: “Those are the Foreign Secretary’s views. They’re not the government’s views”. Which is about a brutal a dressing down as a Number 10 spokesman can give. As Iain Martin points out, criticising the Saudis for fighting brutal proxy wars should not be remotely controversial. Boris was never likely to go native like Hammond did at the FCO, fair play to him for telling the truth even if Theresa May wants to butter up the world’s wrong uns. The government castigated Corbyn for his Castro guff. Slapping down Boris today is the height of hypocrisy from Number 10…

Blunt Assessment: After Saudi Farce, Now Libya Report Debunked

What on earth is going on with Crispin Blunt? The Foreign Affairs select committee chairman lost the plot last week, demanding private investigators find out who exposed his determination to water down criticism of the Saudis. The ‘super-committee’ on Saudi arms then descended into farce and released competing reports, with notoriously Arabist Blunt’s report arguing we should go much softer. Very odd behaviour.

This morning the Foreign Affairs committee’s report on Libya is now being called into question. Guardian journalist Patrick Kingsley has debunked one of the report’s most important and bizarre claims – that Gaddafi wasn’t a major threat to civilians in Benghazi. The committee cited a report from Amnesty International, however it appears no such Amnesty report exists. Confusing. Embarrassing for Blunt and the Foreign Affairs committee – that’s two very public humiliations in the space of 24 hours…

Canadian “Hot” Lesbian Oil Advert Pulled

LESBIAN OIL

An advert for Canadian oil showing a steamy lesbian kiss was pulled after killjoys lashed out. The ad, fronted by the Canada Oil Sands Community Facebook page, featured a raunchy tryst with the caption “In Canada lesbians are considered hot! In Saudi Arabia if you’re a lesbian YOU DIE!”

canada oil sands community

While the page has removed the advert, it today uploaded a new one depicting two men being hanged, with the text:

“Did you know it’s against the law to be gay in Saudi Arabia? If you get caught being gay you die. Why is Canada importing oil from places like this when we have our own?”

Pro-fracking groups in Lancashire should listen and learn…

Hammond Fibs and Saudi Slavery Slipped Out on Dumping Day

hammond

Over 300 government documents were quietly slipped out on “dumping day” yesterday, the traditional Whitehall operation where dozens of embarrassing stories are slipped out all at the same time on the last day before recess. Among the worst revelations are the admission that Philip Hammond repeatedly misled parliament about Saudi human rights abuses in Yemen – Tobias Elwood says the former Foreign Secretary made a string of erroneous statements downplaying actions by the British ally during the conflict. Then there is the disturbing revelation that a Saudi diplomat brought a slave to London. Saudi officials also face a further claim of “human trafficking, slavery or forced labour” in Britain. Theresa May told her new Cabinet that politics is not a game, but the charade of dumping day lives on… 

Guido’s Middle East Gay Rights Quiz

Gay_flag

Scored below four? You can join Labour here

Saudi Stooge Kawczynski Slams Scrapping of Prison Contract

SAUDI

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski heckled colleagues who praised the decision to scrap the Saudi prison contract, shouting “disgraceful” before crying “No!”, when Stewart Jackson said Gove “speaks for the House when he articulates the reasons for this decision”. Kawczynski was previously been grilled on Newsnight on his extensive links to Saudi Arabia:

He later threatened to sue Newsnight editor Ian Katz for pointing out that his links to the Saudi regime:

https://twitter.com/iankatz1000/status/642474677051486208/photo/1

These donations go all the way back to October 2009, when the Saudis kindly financed the MP’s £5,000 trip to the gulf state. Kawczynski is Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Saudi Arabia and has also written a book on the country. All in the good cause of “promoting Anglo-Saudi relations” of course…

Victory for Gove-Carswell-Corbyn Alliance: Saudi Prison Deal Scrapped

Following the revelation this morning that Michael Gove had started a Cabinet row with Philip Hammond over the proposed £5.9 million prisons deal with Saudi Arabia, the PM has binned it. Douglas Carswell, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Corbyn also opposed the Ministry of Justice contract to supply prison services to Saudi Arabia. Is this the beginning of a new alliance in the cause of freedom?

New Saudi King Renames Roads While Body Still Warm

king road

Following the death King Abdullah this morning, the newly appointed absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia King Salman has waited no time in doing what all good employees should – updating his online presence. Within hours of his brothers death, Google has changed the name of Prince Salman Road in Riyadh to King Salman Road. The body is still warm…

King Salman was also quick to change his Twitter handle from @HRHPSalman to @KingSalman, a name it appears he has been squatting on for some time.

king twitter

Someone called “Richard” is sitting on @king_uk. Guido wonders who is might be…

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