Blackpool South MP loses suspension appeal and could face by-election

(Pic courtesey Scott Benton)

Blackpool South Conservative MP, Scott Benton, has lost his appeal against a 35-day Parliamentary suspension, and could now face a recall vote, which may result in a by-election, where he faces losing his seat.

Last December, the Commons Standards Committee recommended Benton should be suspended for 35 days following an investigation by The Times, in which reporters posed as employees of a fake lobbying company, TAHR, that led to a suggestion Benton would be willing to break lobbying rules for money.

He was suspended by the Parliamentary Tory Party last April.

He appealed the suspension, but now the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), the body that sits above the Parliamentary Standards Committee, has upheld the original suspension.

MPs will now vote on the punishment. If passed it will trigger a recall petition which could lead to a by-election if 10% of hi constituents vote for it.

Benton was elected MP for Blackpool South in 2019, with a majority of just 3,690.

If a by-election is called it could mean yet another loss for the Conservatives, with the majority of recent by-elections being won by opposition parties.

The IEP said it “found no substance” to Benton’s argument to support his appeal.

It said there had been “no procedural flaw” in the process and his arguments against the recommended sanction was “erroneous”.

In his meeting at a London hotel with The Times reporters, Benton, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for betting and gaming, gave the impression he would be happy to be paid between £2,000 and £4,000 a month to help the fake company.

In a damning secret recording of the meeting the Conservative MP was filmed offering to lobby ministers directly, and to share market sensitive information and ask questions on behalf of the businesses in Parliament and to give the supposed Indian-backed gambling client access to the White Paper on gambling reform 48 hours before publication.

MPs cannot carry out paid lobbying or offer advice on how to influence parliament.

Benton did not accept any financial payment arising from the meeting.

His House of Commons suspension is one of the longest recommended by the committee.

Earlier last year the committee recommended a 90-day suspension for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he resigned before the matter could be considered.

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