UK Conservative lawmaker Benton suspended after newspaper sting
A lawmaker in Britain's governing Conservative Party has been suspended after he was filmed in a newspaper sting offering to lobby ministers and leak market-sensitive information on behalf of a fake company.
Scott Benton, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's party since 2019, has been suspended pending an investigation.
The move comes after the Times published a video in which Benton told its undercover reporters, who were posing as gambling industry investors looking for a paid adviser, that he could leak them a copy of an upcoming market-sensitive government policy paper on gambling reforms.
Benton also offered to submit parliamentary questions and talked of his access to ministers. The journalists had proposed paying him thousands of pounds a month, the Times said.
Members of parliament are not allowed to accept money to raise issues with ministers or ask questions in parliament, and are also not allowed to provide advice on how to influence the work of parliament.
A spokesperson for Simon Hart, who is in charge of Conservative party discipline, said Benton had been suspended from the party after he referred himself to the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Benton's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The BBC quoted the lawmaker as saying in a statement that he had not followed up on the meeting because he had been 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," he said.
"I did this before being made aware that the company did not exist and the individuals claiming to represent it were journalists."