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Ex-Tory MP Scott Benton to appeal proposed suspension over lobbying scandal | Politics News

Former Conservative MP Scott Benton has said he will appeal his recommended suspension from parliament and intends to make a formal complaint over it.

The Blackpool MP was suspended from the parliamentary Tory party in April after being caught in an undercover sting by The Times suggesting he would be willing to break lobbying rules for money.

Following an investigation into the matter, the Committee on Standards on Thursday recommended a 35-day suspension from the House of Commons, paving the way for a potential by-election.

The committee said Mr Benton committed an “extremely serious breach” of the rules by giving the message “he was corrupt and ‘for sale’ and that so were many other Members of the House”.

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Responding for the first time to the Standards report, Mr Benton said: “I will today be submitting a formal complaint to the House Authorities, as well as appealing the decision of the committee in due course.”

In his statement, Mr Benton claimed that the report’s findings had been leaked to journalists the night before it was due to be published.

He said while he was “sworn to secrecy” and told he could only read the judgement an hour before it would be made public on Thursday morning, the committee “did not adhere to its own standards and principles”.

He said: “The night before the report was published, people on the Committee on Standards leaked contents of the report to a journalist and I was contacted on the evening before publication repeatedly by members of the press. This was not the first such leak whilst the investigation was taking place.

“This process is designed to be open, fair, honest and transparent so the public and MPs can have trust in the process.

“This trust has been breached by Members of the Committee. I can’t have faith in a standards process that doesn’t adhere to its own ethics, standards and principles.”

He claimed that the report into his conduct “makes several pivotal statements that are completely factually inaccurate”.

“If those that judge MPs are not being open minded, fair and proportionate in the way that they are handling evidence or examining witnesses, our democracy is under threat,” he said.

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Mr Benton will submit an appeal to the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), the body that sits above the Parliamentary Standards Committee.

It kicks the potential for a by-election into the long-grass, as the IEP will now review the standards committee’s findings before any action is taken.

A suspension of more than 10 days – if passed by a vote in the Commons – means that a recall petition is triggered, paving the way for a by-election if 10% of constituents sign it.

Mr Benton was elected as the Tory MP for Blackpool South in 2019, and has a majority of just 3,690. It had been a Labour seat since 1997 – but was Conservative before that

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both overturned five-figure majorities in recent by-elections.

The committee highlighted aggravating factors in their decision about Mr Benton – including him providing an “incomplete and incorrect picture of what had transpired”.

They also noted that it was a “repeat offence, or indication that the offence was part of a pattern of behaviour”.

Mr Benton met undercover reporters from The Times who were posing as employees of a fake lobbying company.

The chair of the all-party parliamentary group for betting and gaming suggested he would be happy to be paid between £2,000 and £4,000 a month to help the fake company – complete with a logo, website and office addresses in London and Chennai in India.

There are strict rules that prevent MPs from carrying out paid lobbying or advising how to influence parliament.

Mr Benton ultimately did not accept any financial payment arising from the meeting.

Suspension of SNP rebel Fergus Ewing is ‘proportionate’, says minister | UK News

Suspending rebel SNP MSP Fergus Ewing from the party’s parliamentary group at Holyrood for a week is proportionate, a senior member of the Scottish government has said.

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan backed the proposed seven-day suspension of the former rural affairs secretary, who has been a vocal critic of Humza Yousaf’s government in recent months.

The suspension – which Mr Ewing has two weeks to appeal against – was approved after he voted with the opposition at Holyrood in a vote of no confidence against Scottish Green co-leader and government minister Lorna Slater amid the controversy surrounding the deposit return scheme.

Mr Ewing has also spoken out against the Scottish government on issues such as the new licensing regime for short-term rental properties as well as the stalled deposit return scheme.

He has also traded barbs with the Scottish Greens in recent months, describing the party as “wine bar revolutionaries” and “hard-left extremists”, as well as calling the atmosphere within the SNP group “toxic”.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP – son of the late SNP trailblazer Winnie Ewing – said: “The SNP is not an ordinary party – we are a party that has always put Scotland first, and that means to me, putting the interests of the people of Scotland first.

“But in good conscience, and it grieves me to say this, I don’t believe that is any longer the case.”

A meeting of SNP MSPs at Holyrood on Wednesday night resulted in a vote of 48 to nine in favour of Mr Ewing’s suspension.

Minister for Net Zero and Just Transition Mairi McAllan arrives ahead of First Minister Humza Yousaf statement on 'Our Priorities for Scotland', in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday April 18, 2023.
Image:
Net zero and just transition secretary Mairi McAllan

But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday, Ms McAllan said there is still room for free thinkers within the SNP.

Asked if she had voted in favour of his suspension, she said: “In full transparency, yes I did.

“It is something I certainly would expect to be the outcome if I had done what Fergus did.

“It is part of a normal party mechanism in a democratic system.”

Asked whether politicians can express their opinions within the SNP, Ms McAllan added: “Of course, I like to think of myself as a free thinker.

“In particular the first minister has been quite clear he wants people to come to him and to speak to him internally if they have any concerns they wish to raise, he has an open door in that regard.

“But Fergus is a longstanding MSP, he has been a minister, he understands the procedures here and what the outcome is of voting the way he did.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry claimed his rebellion was “the product of years of inadequate debate in our party about policy making”.

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In a statement posted on social media, Ms Cherry – who has criticised the Scottish government’s policy on gender recognition reform – said: “I may not agree with Fergus Ewing on everything but he is a man of integrity.

“I’m glad there were rebels on this vote. His rebellion is the product of years of inadequate debate in our party about policy making. That needs to change. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

Ms McAllan made it clear she does not agree with Ms Cherry’s comments, adding that suspending Mr Ewing was “a proportionate response to a serious breach of party standing orders which was voted on by majority, overwhelming majority, by the group in Holyrood”.

Mr Ewing was flanked by his sister and fellow SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, former party leadership contender Kate Forbes, MSP Christine Grahame, and his lawyer John Campbell KC.

Asked how he would conduct himself in the future, Mr Ewing said: “I choose to defend my constituents’ interests and let the cards fall where they may.”

Tory MP Chris Pincher resigns after suspension from Commons over groping allegations | Politics News

Tory MP Chris Pincher has resigned after he lost his appeal against an eight-week suspension from the Commons following groping allegations made against him.

The Commons Standards Committee announced the sanction in July following an investigation into the claims and whether the former deputy chief whip caused “significant damage to the reputation of the House” – a breach of the members’ code.

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The move means there will be a by-election in his constituency of Tamworth, in Staffordshire,

Mr Pincher – who resigned from Boris Johnson’s government over the allegations last summer – did not appeal against the breach, but argued to the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) that the punishment was disproportionate.

In his resignation statement he said: “I have said already that I will not stand at the next general election.

“However, following the Independent Expert Panel’s decision I wanted to talk to my office team and family.

“I do not want my constituents to be put to further uncertainty, and so in consequence I have made arrangements to resign and leave the Commons.

“Tamworth is a wonderful place and it has been an honour to represent its people.

“I shall make no further comment at this time.”

Tamworth has a majority of nearly 20,000. Mr Pincher has represented the constituency since 2010.

The by-election is likely to come as unwelcome news to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following a series of Tory losses at the ballot box recently.

Mr Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip in June 2022 after reports he had he groped two men while drinking at the Carlton Club in central London, and was later suspended by the Conservative Party.

His departure is touted by many as the reason for Mr Johnson’s exit from Downing Street, as numerous ministers turned against him after reports the then-PM knew about other claims relating to Mr Pincher’s behaviour when he gave him a role in his government.

An investigation by Commons Standards Committee gave details of the Carlton Club allegations.

A House of Lords employee claimed Mr Pincher had stroked his neck and squeezed his bottom.

The second complainant – a civil servant – said he touched his bottom before moving his hand to touch and squeeze his testicle.

The watchdog said Mr Pincher’s conduct had been “completely inappropriate, profoundly damaging to the individuals concerned, and represented an abuse of power.

The eight week suspension they recommended was enough to trigger a re-call petition which in turn could have led to a by-election.

The IEP, in upholding his punishment, said Mr Pincher’s arguments were “misconceived or erroneous”, adding: “The sanction is far from being arbitrary or disproportionate.”

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Gary Lineker says he doesn’t fear suspension from BBC role – and stands by his criticism of govt’s migrant policy | UK News

Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker has told reporters outside his London home that he stands by his criticism of the government’s asylum seeker policy and does not fear suspension by the BBC.

It follow a row over his adherence the BBC’s impartiality rules after the former England striker shared a Twitter video put out by the home secretary in which she unveiled government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel.

“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” he wrote.

Lineker, who has presented the BBC football programme since the late 1990s, wrote in another tweet: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she was “very disappointed” by Lineker’s comments and branded them “irresponsible”.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said it is important for the BBC to maintain impartiality if it is to “retain the trust of the public who pay the licence fee”.