UK Politics

MP Keith Vaz suspended from Commons after drug and sex inquiry

Keith Vaz Image copyright PA Media

Labour MP Keith Vaz has been suspended from the Commons for six months after he was found to have "expressed willingness" to purchase cocaine for male prostitutes.

MPs approved the recommendation from the Commons standards body, which released its report earlier this week.

It said there was "compelling evidence" he offered to pay for a class A drug and had paid-for sex in August 2016.

Mr Vaz said he was receiving treatment for a serious mental health condition.

A statement issued by his office said Mr Vaz had cooperated at all stages of the inquiry and he had been admitted to hospital on Monday. He was not present in the Commons on Thursday.

Labour's Chief Whip Nick Brown told MPs his party accepted the suspension recommendation, saying it is a "sad day for us".

Standards Committee chairwoman Kate Green said she had written to ask the leader of the House in the next Parliament to bring forward the suspension again, if Mr Vaz is re-elected, so that he would have to serve the full six months.

Earlier, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Mr Vaz should stand aside as the Labour candidate for Leicester East, the seat he has held since 1987, in the 12 December election.

"I think he himself should agree not to be a candidate," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It has been a very sad issue, not just for him but for his family and his children."

When it was put to her that Mr Vaz had not had the Labour whip withdrawn, and still remained a member of the Parliamentary party, she replied: "Not yet."

'Disrespectful'

In a scathing report the committee said there was "convincing evidence" that Mr Vaz was "evasive or unhelpful" during an investigation into his conduct by Commons standards commissioners Kathryn Hudson and Kathryn Stone.

A statement on Mr Vaz's website "vigorously" rejected this allegation and said he cooperated at "all stages of this process".

"He holds the standards system in the highest regard and with the highest respect," it said.

The revelations, first reported by the Sunday Mirror, led to Mr Vaz standing down as chairman of the Home Affairs Select committee - which at the time was conducting an inquiry into drug policy.

It was alleged the MP had met two men at his London flat to engage in paid-for sex, and that during this encounter - which was covertly recorded by one of the men - he offered to buy illegal drugs for a third person to use.

In her report, the commissioner said the recording "contains evidence of Mr Vaz's apparent willingness to purchase controlled drugs for others to use".

"While his comments regarding this may not amount to a criminal offence, he shows disregard for the law and that, in turn, is disrespectful to the House and fellow members, who collectively are responsible for making those laws."

At the time, Mr Vaz said he had met the men to discuss the redecoration of his flat.

But the cross-party committee said Mr Vaz's characterisation of the meeting - in which he reportedly posed as a washing machine salesman - was "not believable and ludicrous".

The MP's claim during the inquiry that his drink may have been spiked and that he had since suffered memory loss about the incident were "not relevant", the report found.

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