Keith Vaz faces parliamentary ban over drugs for sex workers scandal

Committee finds Labour MP caused significant damage to reputation of Commons

The Labour MP Keith Vaz is facing a six-month ban from parliament for offering to buy drugs for sex workers and failing to cooperate with an inquiry.

The MP for Leicester East will face an automatic recall petition after the standards committee found he “caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons”.

The inquiry examined claims published in the Sunday Mirror in 2016 that he offered to buy cocaine for male sex workers while posing as an industrial washing machine salesman.

Vaz’s explanation, which included that he had amnesia and could not recall key events, was “not believable and, indeed, ludicrous”, the inquiry found.

The inquiry examined claims that Vaz visited a flat he owned and met two men who recorded the events that followed. Vaz told the Romanian male escorts his name was Jim and he was a washing machine salesman. He was quoted discussing the possibility of obtaining cocaine for them next time they met, although he reportedly said he would not want to take the drug himself.

After claims by Vaz’s friends that the MP may have been drugged during the newspaper sting, the Mirror released details of what it claimed was a second meeting between Vaz and the two men. It included a transcript of him allegedly ordering them to take up sexual positions.

Vaz denied that the purpose of his encounter with the two men was to engage in paid-for sex, the inquiry report said. “He asserts that the purpose was to discuss the redecoration of the flat in which the meeting took place. He claims that this was necessary because an ambitious programme of redecoration of his main residence, a detached house in north London, was about to begin. For the duration of those works, Mr Vaz and his wife would need to relocate to the nearby flat which he also owned.

“They needed to move in there not later than Monday 5 September, on which date the House of Commons was due to return from its summer recess, requiring Mr Vaz’s attendance at Westminster,” the report said.

The report also said Vaz implied that because the encounter was a newspaper sting operation, the two men steered the conversation with Vaz in ways that gave a misleading impression. He declined to comment on details of his encounter with the two men on grounds of the medical condition of amnesia.

Kathryn Stone, the commissioner for standards, who conducted the inquiry into Vaz, said he had failed to answer questions put to him about the events of that night or his explanations.

“He has not ‘cooperated at all stages’ with the investigation process. He has failed, repeatedly, to answer direct questions, he has given incomplete answers and his account has, in parts, been incredible,” she said.

Vaz has previously been found to be in serious breach of the MPs’ code of conduct and in contempt of the house. In 2002, while investigating claims that Vaz had accepted undeclared payments from businessmen, the standards and privileges committee found he had recklessly made a damaging and untrue allegation against a former police officer and had wrongly interfered with the house’s investigative process. He was also found to have provided misleading information to the commissioner for standards and the committee about his family’s financial relationship with the Hinduja brothers, two UK-based industrialists. At the committee’s recommendation, the house suspended him for a month.

Monday’s report said: “Although 2002 is a long time ago, the breach of the code that Vaz was found to have committed – effectively that of perverting the course of justice – was a very serious one. Such behaviour, if treated with impunity, may strike at the heart of trust in any standards system.

“It would be reasonable to expect someone holding that post to be aware of the need to set a particularly good example to other members by obeying the rules of the House − especially so as HASC [the home affairs select committee, of which Vaz was a member] is responsible for parliamentary oversight of important elements of the criminal justice system, including the police and the criminal law.”

A statement on Vaz’s website said he had been receiving treatment for a “serious mental health condition” for the past three years as a result of the events of August 2016.

It said: “He has shared all the medical reports in confidence with the committee. He has nothing further to say on this matter other than what was said in his oral and written statements to the committee and to the commissioner.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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