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Blackpool MP suspended after newspaper’s lobbying sting


A Conservative MP has been suspended by the party after being filmed by The Times offering to lobby ministers.

Blackpool South MP, Scott Benton, told undercover reporters that he could table parliamentary questions, leak a confidential document and lobby ministers.

He believed he would be doing it on behalf of a fake gambling firm.

According to a transcript from The Times he was asked what he could offer that a PR of lobbying outfit couldn’t.

“The direct ear of a minister who is actually going to make these decisions,” he said.

“There’s probably ten different PR firms I know who are trying to get meetings with the minister [. . .] The beauty of politicians, if you like, are we vote in the House of Commons two or three times a day, and we’ll be voting later.

“You will literally stand at the beginning at the entrance to the voting lobby. And if you wait there for five minutes, the minister has to pass you. And then you’ve got ten minutes while you walk around to the next vote to have his ear.”

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He was filmed as part of an undercover investigation by The Times. The newspaper had set up a fake company called Tahr Partners, with a website, and office addresses in London and Chennai.

The newspaper said that it had emailed 8 MPs, many ignored the approach, while one said that being paid to lobby was “likely to breach parliamentary rules.” Another MP initially agreed to meet, but pulled out thinking that the company “wasn’t genuine.”

35-year-old Benton, said he had referred himself to the standards watchdog.

“Last month I was approached by a purported company offering me an expert advisory role,” he stated.

“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.”

He has been suspended while an investigation takes place.

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