Milton Keynes Tory MP Ben Everitt defends his 'freebie' trips to watch rugby and ski
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Ben Everitt, the MP for Milton Keynes North, has defended two freebie trips he has enjoyed over the past 12 months.
One trip was watch an international rugby match and the other was to ski in Switzerland – but both gave him a chance to discuss parliamentary business with officials, he says.
The rugby-loving MP was given a ticket and hospitality by The Betting & Gaming Council to watch England Rugby’s international with South Africa at Twickenham on November 26 last year. It was worth a total of £1,138.80.
The MP was also hosted in Davos, Switzerland in January of this year by the College Green Group, Skigruppe der Bundesversammlung and Davos Klosters Bergbahnen AG.
The purpose of the MP’s visit was apparently to attend meetings in his role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing Market and House Delivery and as part of the British-Swiss Parliamentary Ski Week.
Mr Everitt told the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “The rugby match was an opportunity to engage with the Betting and Gaming Council on the Online Safety Bill, while the ski trip was an annual trip with the Swiss Government, but this was my first time to be invited.”
He said the ski trip allowed him to talk to Swiss MPs and other officials about the war in Ukraine, foreign policy, the EU and healthcare.
Earlier this summer the MP posted photos of himself posing topless on his social media after training to play for the Commons & Lords RUFC at the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup.
Made up of MPs, Lords and their staff, the UK Parliament rugby team aims to play and promote the sport of rugby union.
Meanwhile, Greg Smith, MP for nearby Buckingham, was the largest single recipient of free hospitality in 2023, receiving motorsport tickets worth a combined £10,000 over the summer. He told the LDRS that motorsport was “a vital constituency interest”.
Critics said the public were likely to be “appalled” at the thousands of pounds worth of gifts and trips given away to MPs during the cost of living crisis.
Susan Hawley, the Executive Director of the Spotlight on Corruption charity, has called for greater transparency over MPs’ registered interests.
She told the LDRS: “The public, who have faced one of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, are likely to be appalled that their MP is getting free junkets such as foreign trips and tickets to the races.
“These kinds of donations are rarely given without the person behind the gift wanting increased access or to enhance their reputation.
“Paid for trips abroad are a particular red flag and there are real questions whether MPs should be allowed to accept these at all given the particular risk of foreign influence.
“If MPs are going to accept this kind of expensive hospitality, then they need to provide much greater transparency about exactly what has been discussed during these cosy chats at the rugby or the Grand Prix.
“That way the public can decide for themselves if MPs are acting in our best interests – or in their own.”