Scott Benton: Former Calderdale councillor turned Blackpool MP appeals Parliament suspension

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A former Calderdale Council councillor and party group leader, who is now an MP in Blackpool, is appealing his suspension from Parliament.

This afternoon Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, announced he is appealing the Parliamentary standards committee decision and has also made a formal complaint over the process.

Until being elected as MP for his Blackpool South seat in the 2019 general election, Mr Benton led the Conservative group on Calderdale Council from spring 2016.

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He represented Brighouse ward on the council from 2011 until his election to Parliament and also worked in the office of Calder Valley’s Conservative MP Craig Whittaker.

Conservative Scott Benton is appealing his suspension from ParliamentConservative Scott Benton is appealing his suspension from Parliament
Conservative Scott Benton is appealing his suspension from Parliament

Mr Benton has been suspended for 35 days over a “very serious breach” of standards rules which “communicated a toxic message about standards in Parliament".

The commissioner’s investigation arose from a self-referral by Mr Benton following articles published by The Times newspaper in connection with a ‘sting’ operation in which comments by Mr Benton had been covertly recorded.

The Commissioner concluded Mr Benton breached Paragraph 11 of the rules contained in the code of conduct for Members of Parliament.

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If MPs endorse the decision, it could trigger a recall petition by Blackpool South electors.

But Mr Benton said this afternoon that he is appealing the suspension to the Independent Expert Panel - the body that sits above the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Parliamentary Standards Committee.

The appeal will be heard in the New Year so the suspension itself is now suspended, he said.

He has also made a formal complaint to House Authorities over Committee on Standards process.

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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.

“Throughout this process I’ve been sworn to secrecy by the Committee on Standards.

“Even this week, I was told I was only allowed to read their judgement at 8am yesterday – an hour before publication.

“Yet the night before the report was published, people on the Committee of Standards leaked contents of the report to a journalist and I was contacted on the evening before publication repeatedly by members of the press.

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“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.

“Time and time again, this process has demonstrated itself to me to be anything but fair and transparent.”

Mr Benton, who had the whip removed by the Conservative Party after the news broke in the spring and now sits in the Parliament as an Independent, said the decision was heavily influenced by the memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

He claimed this “makes several pivotal statements that are completely factually inaccurate".