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Keith Vaz reportedly quitting home affairs role after male escort allegations

Published 04/09/2016

A newspaper alleged that Keith Vaz paid for the services of male escorts
A newspaper alleged that Keith Vaz paid for the services of male escorts

Labour MP Keith Vaz is reportedly standing down as chairman of the influential Commons Home Affairs committee after a newspaper alleged he paid for the services of male escorts.

The Sunday Mirror alleged Mr Vaz met the men at his flat in north west London on August 27.

In a statement, Mr Vaz said: "It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way. I have referred these allegations to my solicitor Mark Stephens of Howard Kennedy who will consider them carefully and advise me accordingly.

"At this time I do not want there to be any distraction from the important work the Home Affairs Select Committee undertakes so well.

"Select committees do vital work in holding the government and others to account. We are due to publish two reports, one into anti-Semitism and the other into FGM (female genital mutilation) in the next few days, in addition we have a number of key witnesses.

"I will of course inform committee members first of my plans when we meet on Tuesday. My decision has been based entirely on what is in the best interests of the committee which I have had the privilege of chairing for the last nine years."

In an earlier statement issued to the Mail on Sunday, the Leicester East MP said: "I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions, in particular to my wife and children.

"I will be informing the committee on Tuesday of my intention to stand aside from chairing the sessions of the committee with immediate effect."

Naz Shah, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, told Sky News she had spoken to Mr Vaz, adding "he has done the right thing" by standing aside.

A Labour Party spokeswoman told The Press Association: "Keith Vaz has issued a statement on this matter.

"As with all departmental select committees, Keith was elected to the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee by the House of Commons, and his position is a matter for him and the House."

The Home Affairs Committee is currently probing a review of prostitution laws.

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale said that Keith Vaz's reported resignation seemed "sensible".

"I haven't read the whole of the allegations and therefore it's difficult to comment on them," he told Sky News's Murnaghan programme.

"But Keith Vaz as I understand it is that he will stand aside from the chairmanship of the select committee.

"Given the areas of which the committee is responsible, that does seem to me to be a sensible course of action. I wouldn't want to comment beyond that."

Labour shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said this was a "dreadful" experience for Mr Vaz, and his wife and children.

"I have known Keith for over 30 years, I think this must be a dreadful time for him, and his family - his wife and his two children. And I would rather not comment," she told Sky News.

Mr Vaz, who is married with two children, was first elected as an MP in June 1987. He was elected chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2007.

The Commons Home Affairs committee is next due to sit at 3.30pm on Tuesday when it is expected to hear evidence on t he work of the immigration directorates.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted the controversy was a private matter.

"I think it should be treated as a private matter. He is going to meet the Home Affairs Select Committee and discuss with them what his role will be in the future. I'm not sure what that decision will be. I leave it to him to decide on that," he told the BBC.

Asked if he was happy for Mr Vaz to remain in the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn said: "Well, he hasn't committed any crime that I know of. As far as I'm aware it is a private matter, and I will obviously be talking to Keith."

The Sunday Mirror also claimed money was paid into an account used by one of the escorts by a man linked to a charity set up by the MP.

The Charity Commission said the regulator would consider becoming involved in the matter if it felt such action was needed.

A spokesman told the Press Association: "The Charity Commission is aware of the allegations made regarding an individual linked to the charity Silver Star.

"The commission has asked journalists to forward any details and evidence they have in order to determine whether there is a regulatory role for the commission."

There is no suggestion in the newspaper report that the charity's money was used in the affair.

Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Press Association he would be writing to the Charity Commission about the matter, and also contacting the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards regarding Mr Vaz's conduct.

A former trustee of the Silver Star charity, Dr Malde Modhwadia, told the Daily Telegraph: "We need to find out what has been going on. There will be an investigation. Our charity is a worldwide charity, with its headquarters in Leicester and we do good work raising health awareness for diabetes sufferers."

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