Blackpool South MP Scott Benton is found to have breached Parliamentary rules
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton has breached some Parliamentary rules in regards to payments, according to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
The Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, opened an investigation after receiving a complaint that, as an MP, Mr Benton had breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.
The complainant alleged the Conservative MP, who is also a councillor in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, had failed to register six entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests within the House’s 28-day deadline, for payments received for his work as a Member’s researcher – for Calder Valley Tory MP Craig Whittaker – before he became an MP himself, and for work as a councillor for Brighouse ward on Calderdale Council, says the Commissioner’s report.
The Commissioner said in failing to register his various interests within the specified time frame, she found he had breached the rules.
The Commissioner upheld the complaint and Mr Benton, who was elected as resort MP at the 2019 General Election, has acknowledged and apologised for his breach of the rules and said he has put in place measures to avoid a recurrence including attending a refresher meeting with Parliament’s Registrar.
The Commissioner said she considered the breach to be at the less serious end of the spectrum and decided the inquiry could be concluded through this rectification procedure.
Another concern of the complainant's was related to Mr Benton’s reasons for not standing down as a councillor, but the Commissioner said this was out of their remit and so would not form part of their inquiry.
And in terms of an aspect of the complaint relating to declaration of financial details of a visit to Israel while working as a researcher, the Commissioner said she was satisfied Mr Benton did not breach the rules because the trip did not arise from his role as Member’s staff and and was not sufficiently related to that work to require registration.
In response to the Commissioner, after she notified him of the verdict, Mr Benton said: “I accept the decision which has been reached by Kathryn and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my mistake and apologise once again for inadvertently breaching the rules.
“I will ensure that I conscientiously report my outside interests in accordance with the rules in future and I have put in place measures to ensure that I do so.
"I have contacted the Members Registrar to request a refresher meeting as soon as possible so that I can discuss the requirements with them."
He added: "I have also fully reviewed my list of interests and I can confirm that these are all correct as of at present."
Mr Benton is also facing a separate Calderdale Council standards hearing on separate matters – no date has yet been set for this but it had been indicated it may take place early this year.
Mr Benton was contacted for further comment in regards to the Commissioner's findings.