Disgraced MP Keith Vaz suspended for six months after drug probe

31 October 2019, 17:10

Labour MP Keith Vaz has been suspended
Labour MP Keith Vaz has been suspended. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Disgraced Labour MP Keith Vaz is facing calls to stand down as a Labour candidate after he was suspended for six months.

A scathing Commons report found he had caused "significant damage" to the reputation of the House after he “expressed willingness” to buy cocaine for male prostitutes.

The Standards Committee, the Commons disciplinary body, said his explanation that he may have been given a "spiked" drink and that he was suffering from amnesia was "not believable and, indeed, ludicrous".

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Mr Vaz should now stand aside as the Labour candidate for Leicester East, the seat he has held since 1987.

She added: “It has been a very sad issue, not just for him but for his family and his children."

Ms Abbott also said Mr Vaz had “not yet” had the Labour whip withdrawn.

MPs endorsed the recommended suspension without a formal vote.

A statement on Mr Vaz's website said that he was admitted to hospital on the day the committee's report was published.

It said he had been receiving treatment for a "serious mental health condition" since details of the encounter were published in the Sunday Mirror in 2016.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also said the committee has asked him or the next person in his role to bring forward the necessary motion to ensure the suspension continues in the next Parliament and does not just last for the remainder of this session before the election.

Speaking as MPs debate the recommended suspension, Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons: "The select committee has specifically asked that the next Leader of the House, or me if I continue in office in the new parliament, would bring the suspension forward as soon as the House reassembles so that it isn't in effect only a two-day suspension - and that's been specifically requested by the committee."

Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) argued that Mr Vaz's suspension sentence should be doubled to a year.

Speaking about the statement that Mr Vaz has published on his website, Sir Peter said: "I think someone who's (written) that after the report comes out should have the suspension doubled to a year, and I say this - not a party point - he should not be nominated, if he's nominated he should not be elected, and if elected he should be suspended for a very long time."

Fellow Tory MP and member of the Standards Committee Sir Christopher Chope said: "Would it be reasonable, if the right honourable gentleman is returned following the next General Election, for the Standards Committee to revisit this issue having regard to what's on the website now?"

He continued: "It seems to me that what's on the website is designed to bring the work of the Standards Committee into disrepute."