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?

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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…

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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?

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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…

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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”.

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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

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