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Tory MPs accepted £2,400-worth of VIP tickets for Cheltenham Festival only days before lockdown

Two Conservative MPs accepted VIP tickets to the Cheltenham Festival worth £2,400 only days before the coronavirus lockdown. 

The four-day horse racing event has been widely criticised in recent weeks for going ahead after more than 250,000 people flocked to the Cotswolds in mid-March. 

Now it has emerged that Philip Davies and Caroline Nokes received eight tickets between them from sports betting company GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral, as reported by the Mirror

Mr Davies, who is MP for Shipley, did not confirm whether or not he attended the event

Mr Davies, who is MP for Shipley, did not confirm whether or not he attended the event

Ms Nokes, who accepted two VIP tickets, was photographed at Cheltenham racecourse

Ms Nokes, who accepted two VIP tickets, was photographed at Cheltenham racecourse

Philip Davies (L) and Caroline Nokes (R) both accepted VIP tickets to the Cheltenham Festival

The horse racing event has been criticised for going ahead given the coronavirus crisis

The horse racing event has been criticised for going ahead given the coronavirus crisis

The horse racing event has been criticised for going ahead given the coronavirus crisis

Ms Nokes was photographed at the festival after accepting two VIP tickets

Ms Nokes was photographed at the festival after accepting two VIP tickets

Ms Nokes was photographed at the festival after accepting two VIP tickets 

Mr Davies, who is MP for Shipley, accepted six of those tickets – worth £300 each – but did not confirm whether he used them, saying: ‘I have absolutely nothing to say to the Daily Mirror.’ 

MP for Romsey and Southampton North Ms Nokes, on the other hand, was photographed at the event and accepted two tickets worth £300 a piece.  

Both Davies and Nokes registered the tickets with authorities in the House of Commons, stating they would have access to a hospitality box during their time at the racecourse.  

‘I accepted the tickets and declared them in accordance with the rules, which clearly you can establish from the register of members’ interests,’ Ms Nokes said. 

‘As you know it was prior to the lockdown being declared and there were no restrictions on movement.’ 

The former minister added that other MPs also attended, including Shadow Security Minister Conor McGinn.

Labour's Conor McGinn also attended as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing

Labour's Conor McGinn also attended as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing

Labour’s Conor McGinn also attended as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing 

Mr McGinn confirmed he attended in his role as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing. 

Tens of thousands of people attended the event, which took place between Tuesday, March 10 and Friday, March 13, when no government social distancing measures were in place at the time.

Sporting events were being cancelled elsewhere in Europe at the time but it was only as the Festival was reaching its conclusion that the English Premier League was halted.

The event did take place at a time when no government social distancing rules were in place

The event did take place at a time when no government social distancing rules were in place

The event did take place at a time when no government social distancing rules were in place

Cheltenham Festival organisers have defended their decision to go ahead with the meeting

Cheltenham Festival organisers have defended their decision to go ahead with the meeting

Cheltenham Festival organisers have defended their decision to go ahead with the meeting

Cheltenham organisers have insisted the event ‘went ahead under the government’s ongoing guidance throughout,’ pointing out other sports continued in Britain at the time.

‘It’s simply not possible to know how and where someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 has contracted it,’ said Dr Sue Smith two weeks ago, the Festival’s senior racecourse medical officer. 

‘The standards of hand wash and hygiene at the Festival were of the highest level and all measures were taken in accordance with daily updates from Public Health England.’

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