'Tory Sleaze' Returns As MP Filmed Offering To Lobby Ministers For Gambling Industry

Scott Benton outlined services he could provide as the government reviews gambling laws.
Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South.
Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South.
David Woolfall/UK Parliament via PA Media

Labour has hit out at “Tory sleaze” after a Conservative MP was filmed offering to help gambling industry lobbyists in exchange for financial reward during an embarrassing sting operation.

The Times newspaper caught Scott Benton, the MP for Blackpool South, outlining his services after reporters posed on behalf of a fake investment fund.

Benton appeared to propose actions that would be in breach of parliamentary lobbying rules. He did not pursue the role and no rules appear to have been broken.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak, who entered office promising to deliver “integrity”, is facing calls to strip the MP of the Conservative whip in light of the revelations.

The newspaper said a meeting took place between Benton, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for betting and gaming, and undercover reporters at a central London hotel last month.

At the meeting, 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 said he had previously done it on behalf of a 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.

The MP agreed with a fee proposed by the reporters in the range of £2,000 to £4,000 a month for two days’ work.

In a statement, Benton said: “Last month I was approached by a purported company offering me an expert advisory role.

“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.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “That smell? The rotten stench of Tory sleaze. #CashForQuestions

“Yet another Conservative MP looking to line his own pockets while Sunak does nothing. This PM is failing to deliver the integrity he promised. Only Labour will clean up politics.”

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “These shocking revelations are yet another damning indictment of the state of the Conservative Party. The British public are sick of Conservative sleaze.

“Rishi Sunak must strip Benton of the Conservative Party whip immediately. Anything less would make a mockery of his claim to restore integrity.”


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