Reaction from Blackpool South MP Scott Benton after he loses his appeal and faces a possible by-election

The recall petition would be open for six weeks
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Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, who is facing a recall vote, says he is 'deeply disappointed' by the decision of an independent panel to dismiss his appeal against his 35-day suspension.

Blackpool South MP Scott BentonBlackpool South MP Scott Benton
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton

He was found to have breached Commons rules after an undercover sting investigation by Times newspaper journalists posing as gambling investors.

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The MP appealed against both the finding and the suspension, but in a report published today (Tuesday February 20), an independent panel upheld the Standards Committee’s original decision, saying there had been “no procedural flaw” in the process or leak of information. The panel also described Mr Benton’s arguments against the recommended suspension as “misconceived or erroneous”, finding the sanction was “neither unreasonable nor disproportionate”.

Mr Benton won the seat at the 2019 General Election for the Conservatives with a majority of 6,390 over Labour's Gordon Marsden, who had represented Blackpool South for 22 years.After being suspended by the Conservative Party, he has continued to represent the constituency as an independent.

Following the outcome of the appeal, he said the process had lacked integrity, with confidential information leaked to the press, and said he was "deeply disappointed by the decision of the Appeal Panel to uphold the Standards Committee's unjust findings against me. "

He added: "Since being elected in 2019, I have helped to deliver over £400m in additional government funding for projects in Blackpool – one of the highest amounts in the country."

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Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, called for Mr Benton to resign. He said: “Scott Benton should do the decent thing and resign, saving the people of Blackpool South a lengthy recall petition that would leave them without the representation they deserve."

MPs must now vote on triggering the recall petition which would be open for six weeks and trigger a by-election if 10 per cent of constituents sign it. A by-election could then be held at the end of April or the beginning of May.

Labour's candidate Chris Webb has already been campaigning in the constituency after being chosen to stand last March. Born in the town and recently having become a dad, he would be the first homegrown MP to represent Blackpool South if he was to be elected. He has previously unsuccessfully contested the Blackpool North seat twice.

Meanwhile, Mr Benton has continued to work in the constituency as an independent. He said: "Whilst this process has been taking place, I have continued to work tirelessly on behalf of my constituents, recently submitting a petition for regenerating Bond Street and Central Drive, campaigning to restore commercial passenger flights to Blackpool Airport, and fighting to improve local GP and dentistry services.

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"My record of activity, both in Blackpool and in Westminster, where I am among the most frequent contributors to Parliament, speaks for itself."

What is a recall petition?

  • The petition would be open for six weeks with constituents able to sign in person at a signing station (similar to a polling station) or by post or by proxy. Notices are sent to all eligible voters telling them that a petition is to be opened in their constituency.
  • The petition must be available for signing Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, except bank holidays, with some provision made for other times, for example, to enable signing later in the evening. Younger voters can sign if they have their 18th birthday in the six-week signing period.
  • As in an election campaign, campaigners are permitted to campaign for or against the MP being recalled. If 10 per cent of eligible registered voters sign the petition, the Speaker of the House of Commons is informed and the seat becomes vacant.
  • A by-election is then required with the timing expected to be determined by the party which previously held the seat, as is the usual custom, with that being the Conservatives on this occasion. The recalled MP may stand as a candidate. If the 10 per cent threshold is not reached the recall fails and the MP retains their seat.
  • A recall procedure for MPs was introduced in the UK in 2015 in response to the MPs’ expenses scandal that occurred in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, and so far five have been held.

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