|The Conservative MP was caught on film by The Times undercover journalists reportedly offered to lobby
ministers on behalf of the gambling industry and leak a confidential policy document for up to £4,000 a month and has had the party whip
Scott Benton, the MP for Blackpool South, was caught by covert journalists working for the Times posing on behalf of a fake investment fund
saying he could call in favours from colleagues and get easy access to ministers when queueing for parliamentary votes.
Wednesday night, a spokesperson for the Tory chief whip Simon Hart said that Benton had the party whip suspended whilst an investigation is
ongoing. Benton has referred himself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, the spokesperson added.
In a statement to the Times, Benton
said he had contacted the Commons authorities after the meeting to seek advice because he was concerned that what was being asked of me was not within
parliamentary rules and there had been no further contact.
However, the revelation threatens to reignite allegations of sleaze in
the Conservative party and shine a light on the world of paid lobbying in Westminster. Benton who receives regular hospitality from the gambling
industry was one of eight MPs the Times said it approached.
The paper said it touted a fictitious investment fund seeking an expert
adviser amid a significant review of gambling laws and that gaining insight from policymakers is a key part of our strategic investment
strategy. While some MPs declined, Benton was said to have been happy to meet.
Elected in 2019, his constituency is being reshaped under the
boundary review set to kick in before the next general election raising questions about whether he will stand again and where.
Benton was asked
what he could offer the fake company instead of a PR or lobbying firm, the Times said. According to the paper, he said: Theres probably 10
different PR firms I know who are trying to get meetings with the minister
The beauty of politicians, if you like, are we vote in the House of Commons
two or three times a day, and well be voting later.
You will literally stand at the beginning at the entrance to the voting lobby. And if
you wait there for five minutes, the minister has to pass you. And then youve got 10 minutes while you walk around to the next vote to have his
Benton went on to suggest he could, if hired, provide real-time information and easy access to ministers, as well as
sitting down with them to go through a formal response to a policy consultation line by line, the Times reported.
He also allegedly offered
to put parliamentary questions on the table. Referring to written questions MPs can submit to government departments, Benton is said to have told
the undercover reporters: We can table things on the public record and get an instant response within five working days on any question whatsoever, which
obviously nobody else outside the political realm can.
Benton took out his phone to read out one such question he had submitted, the paper said.
He said it was sent on 17 February on behalf of one business, essentially however, it was not clear whether he received any financial reward
The Times also reported that Benton said he could leak a copy of the forthcoming white paper on gambling reforms up to 48 hours before it was
made public, allowing the fake company to gain an insight into its content ahead of the rest of the market.
The current code of conduct says:
Taking payment in return for advocating a particular matter in the house is strictly forbidden. Members may not speak in the house, vote, or initiate
parliamentary proceedings for payment in cash or kind.
The revelations have raised questions about the struggle to clamp down on MPs second
jobs. Recently, the former cabinet ministers Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng agreed to work for £10,000 a day to further the interests of another fake
company, having been duped by the campaign group Led By Donkeys. Both MPs deny any wrongdoing.