Police raid Sewel's flat in cocaine probe - peer resigns from House of Lords
Lord Sewel, who is alleged to have taken cocaine with prostitutes, is to step down from the House of Lords and, in a letter to Parliamentary officials, has apologised for the "pain and embarrassment" he has caused.
Detectives have raidedhis home as a probe gets under way into allegations the peer took cocaine while cavorting with prostitutes.
A uniformed police officer was on guard outside the door of Nelson House, Dolphin Square, London, following two days of lurid accusations against Lord Sewel.
The former Labour minister had requested a leave of absence from the House of Lords while investigations are carried out, promising not to enter Parliament or claim allowances - but left the door open to a future return to the red benches.
A search warrant was carried out on his central London property at 6pm but the Metropolitan Police said no arrests have been made at this stage. After a three-hour search, detectives were seen leaving the property carrying several bags of evidence.
A standards watchdog in Parliament has also been handed the case following complaints from both Lord Speaker Baroness D'Souza and Liberal Democrat party president Baroness Brinton.
Lord Sewel has faced intense pressure to quit the House of Lords entirely following the allegations, revealed over two days in The Sun on Sunday and The Sun.
The newspapers' footage shows the peer snorting white powder - alleged to be cocaine - from a prostitute's breasts using a £5 note. He is also pictured wearing an orange bra and leather jacket as he reclines smoking a cigarette. The 69-year-old apparently paid one of the women for the night with a cheque for £200.
In a conversation reportedly recorded in Lord Sewel's Dolphin Square flat, the peer branded Prime Minister David Cameron "the most facile, superficial prime minister there's ever been" and labels Mayor of London Boris Johnson "a joke".
Mr Cameron led questions over the peer's future in Parliament, while Labour suspended his party membership.
Confirming its investigation, which began before a complaint was received, the Met said: "The Metropolitan Police Service has today, Monday, July 27, launched a criminal investigation into allegations of drug-related offences involving a member of the House of Lords.
"A warrant under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, was today granted at Westminster Magistrates' Court. The warrant was executed at 6pm at an address in central London by officers from the Special Enquiry Team of the Homicide and Major Crime Command (HMCC). No arrests have been made at this stage and inquiries are ongoing."
Earlier, Lord Sewel asked Clerk of Parliaments David Beamish for a leave of absence - a move which can be reversed with three months' notice.
He said: "I wish to take leave of absence from the House as soon as it can be arranged. I also wish to make clear that in doing so I have no intention of returning to the House in any way until the current investigations have been completed, when in the light of their outcome I will review my long-term position. I believe this is compatible with due process."
The peer's decision came after he quit his £84,500-a-year role as deputy speaker of the Lords, a role which had involved overseeing standards in the Upper House.