Iain Duncan Smith refunds cash from holiday firm to avoid conflict of interest


Exclusives:

Asked why he returned the payment, Sir Iain told the Sunday Mirror: “Simple, didn’t need it.”

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has refunded a £2,000 donation he was handed by a holiday firm in order to avoid suggestions of a conflict of interest.

The ex-welfare chief accepted a cash donation in November from Cyprus Premier Holidays, which specializes in travel to North Cyprus.

But Parliament’s latest financial disclosures reveal he refunded the payment on January 19.

Sir Iain has long campaigned for a ban on flights to Turkish occupied North Cyprus to be overturned.

Asked why he returned the payment, Sir Iain told the Sunday Mirror: “Simple, didn’t need it.”

He said the donation had been “unsolicited”, and added that when he saw he had received the money, he said “I don’t need this, I don’t want this.”

I have voluntarily refunded the cash to the firm to avoid any suggestion of a conflict of interest.

The flag of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) painted on the Kyrenia mountain range north of the divided Cypriot capital Nicosia
(

Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, only Turkey flies direct flights into Northern Cyprus – with all flights from elsewhere needing to touch down in Turkey first.

And since 2017, more restrictions have been placed on passengers from the UK entering the region through Turkey – forcing them to disembark, undergo security screening and fly into Cyprus on a separate aircraft.

There’s no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of either Sir Iain or Cyprus Premier Holidays.

There are an estimated 30,000 Turkish Cypriot people living in the UK – with around 5,000 of them living in Sir Iain’s constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green.

Sir Iain has been vocal in his support for overturning the ban, and met with Ersin Tatar, the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus in January 2020.

In 2018, Sir Iain arranged a Commons petition calling on the government to overturn the flight ban.

And the same year, he told a Turkish Cypriot cultural festival in London: “I am doing my level best to urge the government, the Foreign Office and the international community to recognize the problem facing families in my constituency and their ability to fly directly to North Cyprus.”

Sir Iain has not raised the issue in Parliament since the donation was accepted.

Last year (2021), in response to a separate petition to overturn the ban, which attracted more than 13,000 signatures, the Government said it had “no plans to authorize direct flights between the UK and the north of Cyprus.

They added: “Direct flights would breach obligations under international law.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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