Keith Vaz faces six-month ban from parliament

Standards committee looked at claims that the MP offered to buy drugs for sex workers

Keith Vaz is expected to be banned from parliament following concerns he could stand again as an MP without an official punishment for offering to buy drugs for sex workers.

The House of Commons will be asked to support recommendations that the MP for Leicester East should receive a six-month ban for bringing parliament in to disrepute and failing to cooperate with an official inquiry.

In practice, parliament signs off recommendations from the standards committee which spent three years examining claims that Vaz offered to buy cocaine for male sex workers while posing as an industrial washing machine salesman.

Vaz has received support on Twitter from his local constituency association in the event that he decides to stand again. However, Labour’s ruling body is due to discuss his case this week and could decide that he should not stand as a Labour candidate because of the committee’s findings.

Kate Green, the chair of the standards committee, said she had asked the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, that Vaz’s case should be heard swiftly so that any election should know the settled view of parliament.

“Our thinking is that this is a serious case and we wanted the House to act swiftly. Should he contest the forthcoming election, it is right that the electors in Leicester East are aware of the view that the House, not just the committee, takes of his conduct,” she said.

Sources close to the leader’s office said parliamentary time would be found to discuss the committee’s findings.

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.

At the time, Vaz was chair of the home affairs select committee which was examining the issues of drug use and prostitution.

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 in recorded conversations that 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,” it said.

The committee, which made its recommendations on Monday, also asked that he should not be given access to a former member’s pass once he has stepped down as an MP.

Any ban recommended by this parliament would have to be rubber-stamped again by the next parliament after the election. This, however, is usually a formality, an informed source said.

Labour’s national executive committee, on which Vaz continues to hold a seat, will also decide whether to restore the party whip to Stephen Hepburn and Kelvin Hopkins, who have denied allegations of sexual harassment, and Chris Williamson. Williamson was suspended over comments he made about the party’s handling of antisemitism. He has said he regrets the remarks but that he is determined to clear his name.

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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