Row over Mole's round the world trip

IPSWICH MP Chris Mole find himself in the middle of a rumpus today as he gets ready for a round-the-world trip at the taxpayers' expense.He is one of four Labour MPs preparing to jet off to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and San Francisco to see how democracy works in other countries.

IPSWICH MP Chris Mole find himself in the middle of a rumpus today as he gets ready for a round-the-world trip at the taxpayers' expense.

He is one of four Labour MPs preparing to jet off to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and San Francisco to see how democracy works in other countries.

The trip has come under fire from opposition politicians, but Mr Mole insisted today that the 12-day visit would be valuable.

"This is not just a jolly, we shall be looking at how compulsory voting works in Australia and how local democracy works in New Zealand," he said.


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"We have to stop off in Singapore and San Francisco so we thought it was worthwhile looking at democracy there as well."

The delegation is from the committee scrutinising the work of John Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of the committee are not going on the trip.

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Conservative member Sir Paul Beresford said: "I don't think the chairman can justify it and I am not going.

"I'm not sure that New Zealand has much to tell us about local government and urban regeneration. I can't quite see how our select committee with our remit is going to actually benefit. It's a very nice trip though, nice places to see if you are not paying for it."

Mr Mole's Conservative opponent at the next election, Paul West, said: "I am appalled. This is just the kind of thing that gives politicians a bad name. I can't see the justification of foreign trips like this."

Mr Mole replied: "Is he saying that people on the foreign affairs select committee, or the defence select committee, should never go abroad."

Members of the committee could only go on the 12-day trip, which is costing taxpayers an estimated £30,000, if they had attended most of its meetings over the past year.

Mr Mole accepted MPs would be staying in good hotels and would be travelling business class.

"You need to stay in a good hotel to freshen up after a 12-hour flight before you meet the ambassador," he said.

"A 12-hour flight is still an ordeal if you are in business class - and we will be flying economy on the short trip from Australia to New Zealand."

N What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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