Tory MP’s ex-aides work at betting firm that paid him £50,000 | Society

The Conservative MP Philip Davies has been accused of “cronyism” after it emerged that two of his former aides now oversee safer gambling at the betting firm GVC, which paid Davies £50,000 to advise on the subject.

Davies accepted a £400-an-hour role with the company between July and September, ahead of a government review of gambling laws, the Guardian revealed this week. The job involved advising Ladbrokes owner GVC on safer gambling.

The company’s head of safer gambling and external affairs, Sophie Dean, worked for the Shipley MP from at least 2013-18, according to parliamentary records and the MP’s website.

GVC’s chief of corporate affairs, Grainne Hurst, also worked for Davies as a parliamentary researcher between 2010 and 2012. When she was appointed earlier this year, GVC said she would help the company “lead the industry on responsible gambling and develop relationships with the media and external partners”.

The Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs examining gambling harm, said: “It is astonishing that Mr Davies would allow himself to be placed in such a compromising position.

“Cronyism is alive and well it seems. This does little to instil public faith in politicians.”

A spokesperson for GVC said Davies had reported directly to former chief executive Kenny Alexander, who signed off on the contract before stepping down earlier this year.

The company said his job advising on safer gambling did not involve reporting to Dean, head of safer gambling.

Davies did not return a request for comment, nor did he respond earlier this week when the Guardian asked him about the nature of his work for GVC.

He has since told a newspaper in his constituency, the Telegraph & Argus, that the contract contained a “no lobbying” clause that prevented him from making representations on behalf of GVC to ministers in charge of gambling reforms.

GVC also told the Guardian that the contract, which was terminated in September, precluded him from lobbying, which would have been against House of Commons rules.

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Davies has said that he stepped down from the culture select committee earlier this year to avoid a conflict of interest given the committee’s work on gambling.

The Shipley MP is a well-known advocate for the industry, with a personal and family history in bookmaking.

He has previously come under fire for promoting the interests of gambling companies in parliament while accepting hospitality and favourable terms on a betting account with Ladbrokes.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing by the parliamentary standards watchdog.

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