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Embattled Keith Vaz quits Commons committee role after 'escort' scandal

Published 06/09/2016

Labour MP Keith Vaz after speaking in the House of Commons
Labour MP Keith Vaz after speaking in the House of Commons

Keith Vaz has quit as head of one of the most influential House of Commons committees after becoming embroiled in a rent boy scandal.

The high profile MP said "those who hold others to account must themselves be accountable" as he announced his resignation.

Mr Vaz had come under increasing pressure following claims that he paid two male escorts he met at a flat he owns near his family home in north London last month.

The 59-year-old Leicester East MP has said he has referred the allegations to his solicitor as he stood down as chairman of the Home Affairs committee.

He said: "It is in the best interest of the Home Affairs Select Committee that its important work can be conducted without any distractions whatsoever. I am genuinely sorry that recent events make it impossible for this to happen if I remain chair.

"I have always been passionate about select committees, having served as either chair or member for half of my time in Parliament. The integrity of the select committee system matters to me. Those who hold others to account, must themselves be accountable."

He insisted he was "immeasurably proud" of the work the committee has carried out over the last nine years, adding that he is "privileged to have been the longest serving chair of this committee".

The announcement came after the Mirror newspaper published new transcripts of a recording of the MP talking with the two escorts, which it said scotched suggestions that he was the victim of a "press sting".

According to the paper, the tape showed Mr Vaz telling one of the men to treat the other as his "bitch" and discussing having sex.

Mr Vaz said the decision to resign and stand aside immediately from the committee's business was "my decision, and mine alone" and "my first consideration has been the effect of recent events on my family".

He had faced claims that the committee's investigations into issues like prostitution or drugs could be undermined if he remained as chairman.

Mr Vaz was reported as saying that he is not intending to leave his post on Labour's National Executive Committee.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the MP's future on the party's ruling body would be discussed when it meets.

He said: "He's made his decision because he felt that to carry on in the circumstances that he is now involved in would detract from the work of the Home Affairs Committee and so he has made that decision for himself."

Conservative Tim Loughton, who takes over as interim leader of the committee, said Mr Vaz gave a "very frank" account to members about what had happened.

"The committee listened, I think, in sadness to what Keith had to say and with a good deal of respect," he said.

"Keith has clearly acted in the best interests of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the important work that we do.

"With sadness we all accepted that that was the appropriate course of action that he has taken and we also appreciate the many challenges facing him personally and his family."

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought he had done the right thing, Theresa May's official spokeswoman said: "It is a decision for him."

Speaker John Bercow was seen giving Mr Vaz a heartfelt pat on the back during a chat in the Commons.

The pair spoke for a few minutes during a division next to the speaker's chair, with Mr Bercow leaning over to squeeze Mr Vaz's wrist.

The MP will formally hand in his notice as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee to Mr Bercow.

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