Former Tory MP Faces Commons Ban Following Gambling Lobbying Scandal

Allegations and Recommended Ban-

In a recent development, former Tory MP Scott Benson of Blackpool South is in the spotlight, facing a potential 35-day ban from the Commons.

This comes after he was exposed offering paid lobbying services for a gambling firm, portraying himself as ‘for sale’ in an undercover operation conducted by the Times.

The Commons Standards Committee, following an investigation, has recommended a seven-working-week suspension, sufficient to trigger a recall petition in his margin seat.

Current Status and Political Ramifications

The scandal led to Mr. Benson’s suspension by the Tories earlier this year, and he currently serves as an independent. The proposed penalty, awaiting ratification by MPs, raises concerns about the possibility of a challenging by-election for Rishi Sunak in the new year.

Sunak secured a majority of 3,690 in 2019, a victory that was crucial given the seat’s historical allegiance to Labour since 1997. A potential by-election would serve as a litmus test for the party’s ability to retain support in traditionally challenging areas.

Serious Breach of Lobbying Rules

The Standards Commission, in its report, deemed Mr. Benson’s actions as ‘an extremely serious’ violation of lobbying regulations.

The report highlighted the damaging message conveyed by the former MP during an undercover meeting, where he implied that he and other Members of the House were ‘for sale.’ The Standards Commission condemned his comments as unjustifiably tarnishing the reputation of all MPs.

Details of the Undercover Sting

The undercover operation took place in March, where Mr. Benson met individuals posing as executives from Tahr Partners, a fictitious Indian gambling conglomerate seeking a more significant presence in Britain.

During the meeting, he was offered two days of work per month for up to £48,000 annually, along with a seat on the board of one of its firms.

Mr. Benson, who chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Betting and Gaming, allegedly offered ‘direct access to a government minister,’ lobbied ministers during Commons votes, and promised to ‘call in favours’ with other MPs.

Response and Defense

When questioned by the Standards Commissioner, Mr. Benson maintained that he had not agreed to anything violating lobbying rules.

He claimed to have already decided against working with the fictitious firm, attempting to distance himself from the alleged misconduct.

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