Scott Benton faces Commons suspension over lobbying to give Tories potential byelection headache – UK politics live | Politics #Scott #Benton #faces #Commons #suspension #lobbying #give #Tories #potential #byelection #headache #politics #live #Politics

Scott Benton MP faces 35-day Commons suspension over lobbying offer to undercover reporters

The Commons standards committee has just published its report into Scott Benton, the Conservative MP (now suspended from the party and sitting as an independent) investigated for telling undercover reporters he would be willing to lobby on behalf of the gambling industry.

The committtee says Benton should face a 35-day suspension for breaking parliamentary rules. That would allow campaigners to use the recall process to trigger a recall byelection in his constituency, Blackpool South, where he had a majority of just 3,690 over Labour at the last election.

Key events

Scott Benton was investigated for breaching Commons rules on the basis of comments he made to undercover reporters working for the Times who were posing as working for an investment fund looking to hire an MP able to help in relation to gambling policy.

The complaint was investigated by Daniel Greenberg, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, and here is an extract from the summary of his findings. His report has been published as an appendix in the standards committee’s report.

Grenberg said:

Having considered the evidence, my findings are:

a) Mr Benton did not attend the meeting as part of his “purely private and personal” life because the fictitious company was presented as being interested in employing Mr Benton on account of his connections to the House of Commons and its members.

b) Mr Benton made statements to the effect that:

i) he had breached the house’s rules in the past;

ii) he would be willing to breach and/or circumvent the house’s rules for the company in return for payment;

and iii) other members had previously breached and/or circumvented the house’s rules and would be willing to do so in the future in return for payment.

I have found no evidence to support a finding that Mr Benton had breached parliamentary rules outside of this meeting.

Having reached these findings, it is my opinion that Mr Benton’s conduct falls within the class of conduct that would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole and its members generally, and accordingly amounts to a breach of paragraph 11 of the code.

What standards committee said about why Scott Benton deserved ‘serious sanction’

Here is the conclusion from the standards committee’s report into Scott Benton.

By repeatedly indicating his willingness to disregard the house’s rules [on paid lobbying], and by giving the impression that many members of the house had in the past and will in the future engage in such misconduct, Mr Benton committed a very serious breach of paragraph 11 of the rules. His comments gave a false impression of the morality of MPs in a way which, if the public were to accept them as accurate, would be corrosive to respect for Parliament and undermine the foundations of our democracy.

A serious sanction is appropriate. We recommend that the house suspend Mr Benton from its service for a total of 35 days, with concomitant loss of salary.

Paragraph 11 of the rules in the code of conduct for MPs says:

Members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its members generally.

Scott Benton MP faces 35-day Commons suspension over lobbying offer to undercover reporters

The Commons standards committee has just published its report into Scott Benton, the Conservative MP (now suspended from the party and sitting as an independent) investigated for telling undercover reporters he would be willing to lobby on behalf of the gambling industry.

The committtee says Benton should face a 35-day suspension for breaking parliamentary rules. That would allow campaigners to use the recall process to trigger a recall byelection in his constituency, Blackpool South, where he had a majority of just 3,690 over Labour at the last election.

Rishi Sunak denies being ‘tetchy’ as he promises Tories ‘gear change’ on tax

Good morning. Rishi Sunak has given a Christmas interview to the Spectator, the rightwing magazine widely read by Conservatives, and there are two good lines – one personal, and relatively trivial, and another not particularly surprising, but of huge relevance to the election campaign next year.

Katy Balls was interviewing Sunak and she asked him about a word that comes up increasingly frequently when journalists are trying to describe his demeanour in public, particularly when he is being challenged. Sunak insisted he was not “tetchy”; he was just “passionate”. Balls wrote:

He has been accused of being ‘tetchy’ – most recently during his diplomatic spat with the Greek Prime Minister over the Elgin Marbles. What does he think of the allegation? ‘I don’t understand that,’ he replies. He points to his leadership campaign. ‘That wasn’t an easy time for me, I was taking a lot of criticism and flak. But I just fought hard for what I believed in – every day, seven days a week for six weeks. I’m the same person now, I am fighting for the things I believe in. There’s nothing tetchy. But I am passionate. When things are not working the way I want them to work, of course I’m going to be frustrated.’

But the main point line was about taxation, and how the Conservatives will campaign in the election expected next year. We all know that Sunak intends to go into that election trying to depict the Conservatives as, unlike Labour, a tax-cutting party (even though the tax burden is on course to hit a post-war high). But there were two points that were newish.

First, he promised a “gear shift” in the Tories’ approach to taxation (which implies promising even larger tax cuts than expected – which critics would see as evidence of electoral desperation).

And, second, he was explicit about using welfare cuts to fund them.

On tax, Sunak told Balls:

I have always said I’m a Thatcherite in the truest sense. As Nigel Lawson and Margaret Thatcher said: cut inflation, cut taxes. That’s what we’ve done! We have delivered more tax cuts in one fiscal event than at any point since the 1980s.

When Balls made the obvious point about the tax burden being particularly high, Sunak replied:

That’s a really glass-half-empty way to look at it. You’ve got to differentiate. Look, why is the tax burden as high as it is? It’s because we had a once-in-a-century pandemic and we had a war in Ukraine, both of which necessitated an enormous response from the government …

The choice at the next election is between me and Keir Starmer. A Labour party that wants to borrow £28 billion a year is not going to control welfare or public spending. A Conservative party is going to do those things – and cut your taxes instead.

Balls says, as chancellor, Sunak was surprised to find that a third of all UK households are in receipt of some kind of benefit. He told her he thought more reform was needed.

Over the last decade we haven’t reformed those rules [to qualify for welfare]. Three times as many people today are being told that they don’t have to work because of ill-health than were a decade ago. I don’t believe our country has got three times sicker …

[Some changes] take time because they are very large system changes – you are dealing with a very complex system… Our priority, going forward, is to control spending and welfare so that we can cut taxes. We are in a position to be able to do all that because we have got inflation down. The economy has turned a corner and that means that there can be a gear shift in how we approach taxes.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: NHS England publishes its latest performance figures.

Morning: The Commons standards committee is expected to publish its report into allegations against the Conservative MP Scott Benton.

Morning: Rishi Sunak visits a school in north London.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

3pm: David Cameron gives evidence to the Lords European affairs committee.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

#Scott #Benton #faces #Commons #suspension #lobbying #give #Tories #potential #byelection #headache #politics #live #Politics

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