London: British lawmakers were under fire on Friday for spending a whopping 1.5 million pounds on "fact-finding" visits to foreign countries, including 23 to India, during last two years with all expenses paid by foreign governments, pressure groups and companies.
Several MPs have spent months out of the country on foreign trips, sometimes while Parliament is sitting, while many of those funding the visits have a vested interest in lobbying MPs, The Independent reported today.
After the trips, a significant number of MPs have made speeches in the House of Commons supporting the political positions of the governments and countries they have visited.
The Independent`s analysis reveals that 242 MPs have declared "fact-finding missions" and visits worth an average 6,500 pounds to countries including Sri Lanka, China and former Soviet States since the last election.
MPs have been on 36 visits to China and Hong Kong, 23 visits to India and 34 visits to the US since the UK general election in 2010, but only one MP has accepted a trip to Afghanistan and only two MPs have visited Belgium.
The highest-claiming MPs include the former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband who, since losing the Labour leadership to his brother, has gone on 14 foreign trips costing 47,600 pounds and taking up 47 days mainly to give speeches and attend conferences.
The foreign trips taken by Miliband, who declared in the aftermath of his leadership defeat that "South Shields comes first", have helped him to earn 400,000 pounds in addition to his MPs salary.
Labour colleague Barry Gardiner, the MP for Brent North, has accepted 52,071 pounds in foreign trips since the election, spending a total of 73 days out of the country as Vice-President of Globe International an international group representing parliamentarians.
The MPs defended the trips saying that they always tried to travel when Parliament was not sitting and the trips were an important way of fact-finding and building UK relationships abroad.