3:05pm Thursday 3rd January 2013
MP Philip Davies dismissed a report claiming he failed to declare donations from the gambling industry while he was chairman of a select committee on gambling laws as a “misleading hatchet job”.
A national newspaper said the Shipley MP – whose constituency includes Menston and Burley – was invited to the Cheltenham Festival by Ladbrokes and received an annual subscription from a business with links to Betfred while the committee was assessing whether gambling laws needed change.
The trip to the festival cost Ladbrokes £870, but the newspaper said this was not declared to the select committee when Mr Davies, a former bookmaker, quizzed the company’s chief executive six months later.
Mr Davies described the article as “nonsense,” pointing out information on the donations had been available to the public for a year and a half.
He said: “It is a misleading article, a hatchet job. If I hadn’t declared my donations then that would be wrong, but I declared them in my register of member’s interests. The Ladbrokes trip happened in March, 2011 and I declared it that April.”
The story also said Mr Davies received a subscription valued at £4,680 from Peninsula Business Services, a company run by Peter Done, one of two brothers who founded Betfred. Mr Davies admits he knew of the link, but saw no financial benefit from the subscription, which would offer his employees support in the case of an employment tribunal.
He said: “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.”
In his response to the newspaper, Mr Davies said that people knew of his background, including that he used to work for a bookmakers, and that he did not believe he had any interests to declare to the committee.
That provoked former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell to write on his blog that Mr Davies was “arrogant” and “out of touch” adding: “Think he should declare a financial gain from betting companies when he is looking into the future of legislation on gambling.”
Mr Davies said: “I have no interest in what Alistair Campbell has to say. I think people will take whatever spin he has to put on anything with a pinch of salt.”
The committee’s conclusions – which include a call to relax rules that limit the number of high reward gambling machines in casinos and betting shops – goes before ministers this month.
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