Philip Davies is accused of failing to declare his benefits from companies with links to gambling industry properly. Photograph: Rex Features
From the Guardian
A Tory member of an influential parliamentary select committee who received more than Â£10,000 in benefits from companies with links to the gambling industry â€“ which he did not declare during a contentious year-long inquiry into the betting trade â€“ has been referred to the Westminster authorities by campaigners.
Following revelations by the Guardian, Fairer Gambling, which campaigns against exploitative betting, has written to the parliamentary commissioner for standards claiming that Philip Davies, a prominent member of the culture, media and sport select committee, had made “numerous breaches of the parliamentary code of conduct”.
Davies had recorded in the register of MPs’ interests that in March 2011 he was taken to the Cheltenham festival â€“ a trip worth Â£870 â€“ as a guest of the bookmaker Ladbrokes. He failed, however, to mention this when he quizzed Richard Glynn, the chief executive of Ladbrokes, six months later during a select committee session.
According to the MPs’ register, Davies has also been given an annual “subscription” worth Â£4,680 from Peninsula Business Services, run by Peter Done â€“ one of two brothers who founded BetFred, a bookmaker which took over the Tote and has 1,000 betting shops in Britain. Done remains a shareholder in BetFred’s holding company. Davies did not declare this in the select committee, saying it was not relevant as the company dealt with employment services rather than gambling.
The parliamentary code says: “A member should make a declaration of interest at an early stage in any inquiry to which that interest particularly relates. If the interest is especially relevant to one witness or group of witnesses appearing before the committee, the interest should be declared again at the appropriate session of evidence.”
After the Guardian story appeared, Davies told the Bradford Telegraph and Argus: “In hindsight, I could have referred people to my register of interests at the select committee hearing, but I wasn’t trying to conceal anything. I have been making the same arguments about gambling before these donations, and the committee’s decision was unanimous. It is not like I had the casting vote.”
Derek Webb, a multimillionaire former poker player who funds Fairer Gambling out of what he describes as a “social conscience”, says the parliamentary code of conduct states that MPs should also declare relevant interests when tabling questions and “in a debate in the House the member should declare an interest briefly, usually at the beginning of his or her speech”. In April and May 2011, Davies asked ministers questions relating to gambling and intervened in debates but did not declare his trip to Cheltenham.
Webb said that the “integrity of the [select committee] inquiry into the Gambling Act 2005 â€¦ may have been compromised”.
“We have written to the parliamentary commissioner for standards in relation to the conduct of Philip Davies MP. Not only has he failed to declare his gifts from the betting industry at select committee, but he also failed to do so when submitting written questions on problem gambling and when he speaking in an adjournment debate where he argued that the gambling industry should not pay for problem gambling.
“The code of conduct clearly states he should have declared his interests in all instances, so we expect a thorough investigation before the government responds.”.
Ministers are set to respond to the committee this month.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham who has campaigned against problem gambling, said: “There are clear grounds for the standards commissioner to investigate the influence of the bookmakers on the select committee report as we do not want legislation effectively written by the bookmakers for the bookmakers.”
When contacted by the Guardian, Davies refused to comment on the allegations.