Brian Binley MP: ‘We have to be careful, politicians scrounge all the time’
MPs enjoy lavish hospitality at the expense of the British taxpayer and a Maltese bank
By Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Ben Bryant
10:23PM GMT 06 Nov 2013
On a taxpayer-funded trip to Malta, as he enjoyed the hospitality of a bank and prepared to attend a complimentary open-air concert that evening, Brian Binley MP was alerted to the presence of a local politician wandering nearby.
“You see, we are totally corrupt,” he said to one of his hosts.
A tongue-in-cheek comment it may have been, but it was not the first time during the trip that the Conservative member for Northampton South had felt the need to poke fun at the conclusions that could be drawn from the largesse he was enjoying.
Earlier, when speaking to a businessman who had sponsored a private party on the Mediterranean island, he noted that parliamentarians “scrounge you all the time” and were “political hangers on”.
Mr Binley attended a drinks party hosted by the Bank of Valletta before being treated to an open air concert in the Maltese capital featuring Rebecca Ferguson, a runner-up on The X Factor, and Joseph Calleja, a Maltese tenor.
An undercover reporter was present at the function.
Mr Binley had accompanied Mark Pritchard, the Conservative MP for Wrekin, on an official visit to the island.
Both are members of the all-party parliamentary group for Malta.
Mr Binley said the visit was funded by the taxpayer.
During the VIP party, the MPs met the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat, government ministers and MEPs, as well as senior members of the bank.
It is understood that the Bank of Valletta gave the MPs two free tickets for the event, but that Mr Pritchard also obtained two tickets for the concert from a friend.
Mr Binley told the local businessmen that he would speak positively about the event’s sponsor when he returned home.
“We will talk about the bank of Malta won’t we? … Bank of Valletta, sorry. And we will say what a wonderful organisation it is,” he said.
He also offered to “repay” his hosts’ hospitality if they came to London.
The disclosures will add to concerns that some MPs are too close to businesses that want to promote their interests in Britain.
On Wednesday The Telegraph disclosed that Mr Pritchard offered to use his political contacts to set up business deals with foreign officials and ministers in return for payments totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Mr Pritchard said that he had not broken the Code of Conduct and that his business contacts were unconnected to his parliamentary work.
Mr Binley and Mr Pritchard spent five days in Malta this summer.
They stayed in a five-star hotel in St George’s Bay, a popular tourist resort. Rooms can cost more than €400 (£340) a night and staff at the hotel were told the two men were “VIPs”.
When Mr Binley was asked by a reporter who had funded the trip, he replied that it had been paid for by the taxpayer.
“It’s mostly taxpayers’ money. Some of it’s European money actually. It’s mostly taxpayers’ money. European money is taxpayers’ money,” he said.
During their stay, Mr Binley and Mr Pritchard met members of the Maltese government, including the foreign and finance ministers.
Mr Pritchard told a reporter whom he met at the hotel that the trip was “worthwhile” because there was a “new government, so they need to get to know us and we need to get to them know them. I will feed back to Number 10”.
When the MPs met Malta’s recently elected prime minister and his wife at the party in Valletta, Mr Binley introduced them as a “two-man parliamentary delegation”.
“Oh my God, that’s good”, said the prime minister’s wife.
“I think it’s better”, replied Mr Binley.
“It’s better actually. You get more treatment”, said the prime minister’s wife with a laugh.
When talking to an executive of the bank, Mr Binley said that he and Mr Pritchard had “conned our way in” to the party.
The conversation moved on to how the party and concert was “the one event where everyone wants to be”.
The executive pointed out a member of the Maltese parliament and commented: “So that explains it.”
Mr Binley replied: “Yeah, you see, we are totally corrupt”. Then, jokingly, he added: “Not as bad as Chelsea fans.”
The MP also referred to the “pleasant night” and asked the businessman: “Was it good for business? Because we were just hangers on, political hangers on”
Later, when discussing who had invited the MPs to the party, he joked: “Well, we’ve got to be very careful, because we might, you know what politicians are like, they’ll scrounge you all the time.”
Following the expenses scandal of 2009, Mr Binley was ordered to apologise for his use of taxpayers’ funds. He rented a flat in Pimlico, claiming £58,500 in second home allowance.
However, the flat was owned by a company called BCC Marketing.
Mr Binley and his wife each own 20 per cent of BCC Marketing, while his son owns a further 20 per cent. MPs are barred from using taxpayers’ funds to rent accommodation if they have an interest in its ownership. After The Daily Telegraph revealed the arrangement, Mr Binley was ordered to apologise by the Standards Commissioner.
He was also ordered to return £1,500. “I consider the breach of the rules in respect of the Mr Binley’s rental claims to be a serious matter,” John Lyon, the Standards Commissioner, wrote in his report.
Mr Binley moved out of the flat and it was sold in 2011 for a profit of up to £110,000. BCC Marketing bought the Pimlico flat for £345,000 in 2006 and sold it for £455,000 in 2011.
Mr Binley previously complained to the Press Complaints Commission after The Daily Telegraph stated that he was a millionaire. The PCC upheld his complaint.
He stood for election as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons last month, but lost out to Eleanor Laing, a fellow Conservative.
Mr Binley refused to comment.