Conservative ministers are facing questions about why they backed the Labour MP Keith Vaz to join the Commons justice committee, just weeks after he stepped down from his position as chair of the home affairs committee over revelations about his private life.
Around 150 Tory MPs, including dozens of ministers, voted for Vaz in what appeared to be a whipping operation in favour of his appointment.
Vaz, a former Europe minister, resigned from the home affairs committee in September after claims that he paid for two male escorts at a time when the committee was investigating prostitution. Claims that Vaz offered to pay for cocaine for the prostitutes are the subject of a complaint to the police and the House of Commons standards watchdog.
Despite the complaints, Vaz stood to fill a vacant seat on the justice committee. In a highly unusual move, the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen forced a vote on the appointment. It is believed to be the first time a vote on such an appointment has been held for decades.
Bridgen told the House of Commons that the public would not forgive it for appointing an MP to an influential committee while police and parliament examine complaints against him.
He said: “I would leave the House with this question: if the right honourable member for Leicester East found himself last month to be not fit to be chair of the home affairs select committee and the matters are unresolved, what makes him think that he is a fit and proper person this month?”
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of Vaz, with more than 200 supporting his appointment and about five against.
Theresa May’s official spokeswoman declined to say on Tuesday whether the government had endorsed Vaz’s appointment.
However, it is understood the Conservatives did not want to spark a
battle with Labour over select committee appointments that could have seen some of its own candidates vetoed.