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Tory MP suspended over fake gambling investors lobbying sting

| By Robert Fletcher
The Conservatives have suspended Scott Benton as an MP after an undercover newspaper investigation recorded him offering to lobby ministers on behalf of reporters posing as fake gambling industry investors.
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Benton, the MP for Blackpool South, was caught on film by The Times speaking with a team of undercover reporters about a potential advisory role with a fake business. The meeting was secretly filmed by the newspaper.

While Benton did not pursue the bogus role or break any rules, video evidence published by the newspaper showed Benton explaining how he could table parliamentary questions. The UK parliament’s code of conduct prohibits MPs from lobbying in return for payment. 

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.

Benton referred himself to parliament’s standards watchdog over the matter, with the MP having the whip removed by the Conservative party last night (5 April).

“Last month I was approached by a purported company offering me an expert advisory role,” Benton said in a statement sent to the BBC. “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.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative chief whip, Simon Hart, added: “Following his self-referral to the parliamentary commissioner for standards earlier this evening, Scott Benton has had the Conservative party whip suspended while an investigation is ongoing.”

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