The British Conservatives has suspended Member of Parliament (MP) Scott Benton pending an investigation into undercover footage of him offering to lobby ministers on behalf of gambling investors in exchange for money.
He was stripped off the party whip after an undercover investigation for The Times found he was prepared to leak market sensitive information to a bogus investment fund and ask parliamentary questions on its behalf, in breach of parliamentary rules.
A spokesperson for Conservative Party chief whip Simon Hart said that following his self-referral to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Benton “has had the Conservative Party whip suspended whilst an investigation is ongoing.’’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who entered office in 2022 promising “integrity’’ within the party, had come under pressure to withdraw the whip from the Blackpool South MP. Labour said the prime minister’s failure to act before Benton referred himself to the commissioner showed his “weakness.”
Benton was caught on camera telling undercover reporters posing as investors how he was willing to take actions which would break parliament’s lobbying rules. Under those rules, MPs are forbidden from advocating a particular matter in the house or raising it with ministers in return for payment.
They are also prohibited from serving as a paid parliamentary adviser or consultant or guiding firms on ways to influence parliament.
In a meeting in early March, Benton described how he could support the fund, which he believed was set up by an Indian businessman looking to make investments in the UK betting and gaming sector, by attempting to water down proposed gambling reforms.
It comes as the Government is carrying out a major review of gambling laws, mulling stricter regulations that could affect operators’ profits.
Benton offered a “guarantee’’ to provide a copy of an upcoming gambling White Paper to the business at least two days before publication, potentially allowing it to benefit from market sensitive information.
He also said he could table parliamentary written questions and that he had previously done so on behalf of another company.
Benton said he could offer “the direct ear of a minister who is actually going to make these decisions; and speak to them outside the Commons voting lobby.