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May 9, 2024updated 10 May 2024 8:46am

Cash for questions Tory MP has IPSO complaint against The Times rejected

Times undercover investigation into cash for questions was in the public interest, IPSO says.

By Dominic Ponsford

A Conservative MP filmed undercover by The Times offering to lobby on behalf of the gambling industry for cash has had a complaint to press regulator IPSO rejected.

The Times invented a lobbying company and secretly filmed Scott Benton MP agreeing to submit parliamentary questions and leak an unpublished white paper in exchange for between £2,000 and £4,000 per month.

Benton said the article breached Clause 10 of the Editors’ Code which says journalists cannot use subterfuge unless acting in the public interest.

The MP said there was no public interest in the story because it did not expose wrongdoing.

The Times told IPSO that “if an elected representative was not acting with selflessness, integrity, accountability and openness, the public had a right to know and that – following various parliamentary lobbying scandals – the publication decided to re-examine this issue”.

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IPSO said: “The Public Interest portion of the Editors’ Code explicitly references exposing serious impropriety, and raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public. The committee considered that the publication had demonstrated that, prior to the meeting with the complainant, the publication had considered which element of the public interest would be met by undertaking the planned subterfuge.”

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The Times sting led to Benton being suspended as an MP and he resigned in March 2024, prompting a by-election which Labour won last week with a 26% vote swing away from the Tories.

Read the Benton versus The Times IPSO adjudication in full.

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Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
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  • Head of Department/Function
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