The Daily Mirror has today (Monday 2nd October) reported that the Standards Committee is poised to suspend MP Scott Benton for more than 10 days, which will trigger a process that will give his constituents in Blackpool South the chance to remove him.
The Standards Committee will announce the now Independent MP Benton’s fate within the next few weeks. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has been looking into allegations that his actions caused ‘significant damage to the reputation of the House’ of Commons.
This would then cause PM Rishi Sunak to face another nightmare by-election in a Red Wall seat. Blackpool South was held by Labour from 1997 to 2019 when MP Benton won the seat for the Conservatives by just 3,690 votes.
The Mirror reports that MP Benton had the Tory whip suspended in April 2023 following being filmed offering to lobby ministers and leak confidential information on behalf of gambling industry investors. Benton suggested to undercover reporters that MPs were able to get around transparency rules on corporate hospitality by putting a falsely low value on tickets to avoid having to declare them.
The Standards Committee launched the probe after Benton referred himself for investigation. The Code of Conduct for MPs states that ‘members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole or of its members generally.’
In April 2023 MP Benton issued a statement following the publication of The Times’ investigation. He said, ‘Last month I was approached by a purported company offering me an expert advisory role. I met with two individuals claiming to represent the company to find out what this role entailed. After this meeting, I was asked to forward my CV and some other personal details. I did not do so as I was concerned that what was being asked of me was not within Parliamentary rules. I contacted the Commons Registrar and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner who clarified these rules for me and had no further contact with the company. I did this before being made aware that the company did not exist and the individuals claiming to represent it were journalists.’