MP faces suspension for offer to breach lobbying rules
The Committee on Standards has recommended that Scott Benton MP be handed a "serious sanction" having found his offer to lobby for a fictitious company breached the Code of Conduct for MPs.
In March this year, an undercover investigation by The Times newspaper found the Conservative MP offering to breach lobbying rules by offering services in return for payment. This included introducing the company to Ministers, approaching and lobbying Ministers on behalf of the company, asking other Members to support the company, and tabling parliamentary questions on behalf of the company.
The committee's report found "[t]hese actions would be a breach of the lobbying rules if undertaken by a Member that has received payment" and that the message sent by the MP was that he and other MPs were "corrupt and for sale". They concluded this breached Paragraph 11 of the code by damaging the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons and its members and have recommended he be suspended for 35 days.
Lobbying is a two-way activity and it is the responsibility of parliamentarians and organisations to understand and work within the rules and the impact breaching those rules has on our democracy. This report is clear that in Mr Benton's case he clearly outlined how he would and, according to him, has breached lobbying rules. The CIPR sends all new MPs an advisory booklet on how to conduct yourself properly when dealing with lobbyists. It appears Mr Benton has mislaid his copy.
For the last ten years, consultant lobbyists have been required to place themselves on a statutory register. None has ever been involved in a ‘lobbying scandal’. We need a new Lobbying Act that includes all lobbying activity so we can have a better system of transparency to restore some of the serious damage this is having on trust in Parliament.