On December 14th, the House of Commons Committee on Standards issued a report regarding MP Scott Benton’s alleged breach of the House’s rules. In the report, the Committee deemed it appropriate for Mr Benton to be suspended from his position as MP of Blackpool South for 35 days.
As reported by Casino Guardian earlier this year, investigative journalists working for The Times provided evidence of Mr Benton expressing willingness to lobby on behalf of a fictitious gambling company in exchange for money. Mr Benton was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Betting and Gaming prior to this scandal, but was suspended from the Conservative Party in April, and has since sat as an independent member of parliament.
As for the specifics surrounding the case, reporters who posed as gambling industry investors who represented Tahr Partners, a non-existent company, arranged a meeting with Mr Benton this March to offer him a job position. As part of the deal, Mr Benton allegedly proposed that he lobby on behalf of the investors, involve other ministers in the scheme, disclose confidential information regarding the then not yet announced Gambling White Paper 48 hours prior to its unveiling, and commit other actions that violate the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct.
Mr Benton’s Suspension Could Result in a By-election
According to the report, Mr Benton’s suggestion that he and other members of parliament were “for sale” could lead to the House of Commons sustaining substantial damage when it comes to its reputation. An emphasis was placed on how the situation could affect not only the reputation of Mr Benton, but that of other members as well, due to how he had suggested during the meeting that what he was promising was something routinely done by MPs.
Although Mr Benton has argued that his statement was a lie, the commissioners pointed out that the fictitious gambling industry investors could not have known that he was not being truthful. It was therefore concluded that Mr Benton’s statements were in breach of paragraph 11 of the House of Commons’ rules and condemned the MP for his actions.
A 35-day suspension without pay is the recommended sanction. If this decision comes into effect, it could necessitate a by-election for the Blackpool South seat, and this would become the latest of a string of by-elections that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has had to face this year.
October saw two major by-election wins for the Labour Party, wherein two positions previously held by the Conservatives were filled by Labour MPs. The first Labour Party win was of Alistair Luke Strathern, who was elected as the new Member of Parliament for mid Bedfordshire after former MP Hon Nadine Dorries resigned. The other seat lost by the Tory party was that of Tamworth, as Sarah Siena Edward was elected as the new MP for Tamworth on October 19th after Christopher Pincher’s September resignation. In addition, another potential by-election that could lead to a loss for the Tory Party is that of Peter Bone. The house of commons suspended him this October over allegations surrounding bullying and sexual misconduct.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.