Sunak faces fresh by-election headache after Scott Benton loses suspension appeal

An MP who was filmed offering to lobby for individuals posing as gambling industry executives faces a 35-day suspension.

Scott Benton, who was elected as the MP for Blackpool South at the 2019 election, was found to have committed a “very serious” breach of parliamentary rules by the standards committee in December.

The committee said the former Conservative MP, having had whip the removed from him over the incident, was “clearly motivated” by financial gain.

Benton has now lost his appeal against the committee’s finding, with the independent expert panel upholding his 35-day suspension.

The standards committee report will now need to be approved by MPs, in the first part of a process which could trigger a by-election in his marginal “red wall” seat.

Any suspension of at least 10 days triggers a recall petition in a member’s constituency. Then, if more than a tenth of the voters in an MP’s constituency sign the petition, a by-election is called.

Benton won his seat in 2019 with a majority of 3,690, with the constituency previously held by Labour since 1997.

Polls show Labour would be expected to regain the seat if a contest were held.

The probe into Benton was launched after he made the remarks to undercover reporters, suggesting MPs were able to get around transparency rules on corporate hospitality by putting a falsely low value on tickets.

It was implied that this would prevent the MP having to declare them.

In the ruling published in December, the standards committee said Benton’s engagement with a fictitious company, set up by reporters at The Times, was “clearly motivated” by a desire for financial gain.

In the footage, released by The Times, Benton agreed to a fee of up to £4,000 for two days’ work, boasting of his “direct” access to ministers. The Blackpool South MP did not act on the proposal.

The committee report, released in December, said: “By repeatedly indicating his willingness to disregard the House’s rules, 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.”

It added: “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”. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.