MPs suspend Labour’s Keith Vaz from Parliament for SIX MONTHS for sex and cocaine shame – but he could dodge the punishment if he is re-elected on December 12
- Commons Standards Committee recommended veteran Labour MP is banished
- MPs approved the punishment in debate without a formal vote this afternoon
- But Mr Vaz is allowed to stand for election and could avoid sanction if re-elected
- It would mean that the shamed MP effectively escapes any punishment
Keith Vaz’s explanation of that night with the two rent boys (pictured) was dismissed by MPs who recommended he is suspended from the Commons – but he could dodge the sanction thanks to the general election
MPs suspended Keith Vaz from Parliament for six months today – but he could dodge the punishment if he is re-elected on December 12.
The House approved the conclusions of the Standards Committee, which found earlier this week that there was ‘compelling evidence’ Mr Vaz had offered to buy the class A drug for male prostitutes.
But the chair of the committee, Kate Green, warned that Mr Vaz could still avoid the sanction, as it will effectively be wiped out by the dissolution of Parliament for the election.
Although Labour backed the report in the chamber this afternoon, former minister Mr Vaz has yet to be stripped of the whip or deselected in his Leicester East constituency.
The debate on the report saw a bitter row between Speaker John Bercow and Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who initiated the complaint against Mr Vaz.
Mr Bridgen accused the Speaker of failing to take action against his ‘friend’ earlier.
But Mr Bercow, on his last day in the chair, raged that it was not his responsibility to intervene in standards issues.
The House approved the conclusions of the Standards Committee, which found there was ‘compelling evidence’ Keith Vaz had offered to buy the class A drug for male prostitutes
Keith Vaz spotted at Heathrow Airport earlier this week – he is now said to be in hospital
Andrew Bridgen (left) had an extraordinary row with Speaker John Bercow(right) during the debate today
The House heard that Mr Vaz was not present as he had been admitted to hospital following the publication of the Commons Standards Committee report.
Opening the debate, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘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.’
The committee found Mr Vaz had committed a ‘very serious’ breach of the code of conduct for MPs during an encounter with two men at his London flat in August 2016 when he ‘expressed a willingness’ to purchase cocaine.
The shaming of Keith Vaz: What the damning report found about his night with rent boys
Former Europe minister Keith Vaz, 62, committed a ‘very serious breach’ of code of conduct for MPs, said the House of Commons Standards Committee.
The Sunday Mirror reported in September 2016 that Vaz, posing as an industrial washing machine salesman called Jim, invited two male prostitutes into his flat to engage in paid-for sex and offered to pay for cocaine for another man to use.
Married with two children, Vaz, who was born in Aden to a family from Goa, has been the MP for the central England seat of Leicester East since 1987.
‘I found Mr Vaz’s account of the events that led to the media reports incredible,’ said Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards.
‘I found his reason for being unable to assist me fully with my inquiry implausible.’
The standards committee said his explanation that the men were there to discuss redecorating the London flat, and that he may have been given a ‘spiked drink’, was ‘not believable and, indeed, ludicrous’.
The committee concluded:
- That Mr Vaz’s explanation of the incident on August 27 2016 is not believable;
- That on this occasion Mr Vaz expressed a willingness to procure a Class A drug, cocaine, for the use of another person;
- That on this occasion Mr Vaz engaged in paid-for sex.
It said that he had caused ‘significant damage’ to the reputation and integrity of the Commons and by failing to co-operate fully with the Commons inquiry process, he had shown ‘disrespect for the House’s standards system’.
The committee said his claims including that he had met the men to discuss painting and decorating and that his drink may have been spiked were ‘not believable and, indeed, ludicrous’.
It also questioned Mr Vaz’s suggestion he could not remember what had happened because he had amnesia – as he did not mention this until four months into an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
The committee found that Mr Vaz had given a number of the inaccurate responses to the commissioner including claiming that he had been taken to hospital by ambulance in the days after he met the two men.
A statement published on Mr Vaz’s website insisted the events that took place at his flat in August 2016 ‘were purely personal and private, and occurred in circumstances where neither Mr Vaz’s public nor his Parliamentary role were engaged’.
It added: ‘Mr Vaz has never bought, possessed, dealt with or used illegal drugs. He has a cardiovascular condition which would mean that were he to consume any non-prescribed drugs he would in all likelihood die.’
The statement continued: ‘Mr Vaz has cooperated at all stages of this process. At no stage during the inquiry has either Commissioner stated in writing or otherwise that Mr Vaz has been uncooperative.
‘Mr Vaz vigorously rejects the allegation that he has failed to cooperate with the inquiry: to the contrary he holds the standards system in the highest regard and with the highest respect.’
In an extraordinary clash in the chamber this afternoon, Mr Bridgen told Mr Bercow: ‘It’s clear to me and it will be clear to the public that to the fag end of your tenure in that chair you are defending the indefensible, and your very close relationship with (Mr Vaz) – the House can come to its own conclusions, the Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions, and Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs.’
But Mr Bercow said he was sure the public would come to their own conclusions, adding: ‘He can try to smear me, he will get the square root of nowhere.’
He added: ‘I am friendly with a great many members having served in this place for 22 years, I do not get involved in matters appertaining to standards, there is a machinery for deliberation on those matters in the form of a parliamentary standards commissioner and a committee.’
‘They deal with those matters.’
Mr Vaz denied offering to buy cocaine for a Romanian rent boy despite audio recordings by the Sunday Mirror – and said he had amnesia because his drink was spiked – MPs said his explanation was ‘ludicrous’
The shaming of Keith Vaz: A sordid saga of sex and drugs – and a disgraceful bid to wriggle off the hook
Party animal: Keith Vaz pictured with a belly dancer at the 2009 Labour Conference
According to Keith Vaz, that night with the two rent boys was all a dreadful misunderstanding.
The young escorts he had invited to his flat with the words ‘We need to get this party started’ were, in fact, professional decorators.
They had kindly dropped round at 11.30pm on a Saturday evening ‘to discuss interior décor’ in his apartment and, because he was a busy MP, this was the only time he could meet them.
So begins the former chairman of the Commons’ home affairs select committee’s explanation for the sordid night three years ago when he paid two male prostitutes for sex and offered to buy cocaine for a third.
Yesterday, the married father-of-two’s explanation was branded ‘frankly ludicrous’ by the Commons’ standards committee.
In an excoriating 69-page report, they demolished the former Labour grandee’s lies, obfuscation and desperate attempts to escape censure.
And they revealed that, when Mr Vaz’s absurd claims about the decorators began to unravel, he resorted to pleading amnesia.
The committee said paid-for sex between consenting adults was not illegal, but Mr Vaz’s attempts to mislead the inquiry brought shame on him.
Call me Jim
The inquiry by the standards commissioner concerned the evening of August 27, 2016, at a well-appointed £400,000 Edgware flat belonging to Mr Vaz, a 10-minute walk from his £2.2million marital home.
As the rent boys undressed, one of them asked his name and the MP for Leicester East replied ‘Jim’, telling his Eastern European guests he was a washing machine repair man.
Alas, the ruse was pointless because they were fully aware of his true identity and one of them was secretly recording the proceedings on his phone for the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
Eight days later, it published its expose, including extracts of the home affairs chairman – whose committee was tasked with monitoring crime, immigration and drugs policy on behalf of the nation – discussing illegal drugs, unprotected sex and money. He resigned as chairman days later.
Only now has Mr Vaz’s ‘implausible’ version of events been made public, after the commissioner’s inquiry finished and her findings were endorsed by the Commons’ standards committee which published a report yesterday.
It tells how the MP insisted he and his wife had planned an ‘ambitious’ renovation at their house and needed to quickly refurbish the flat to serve as their temporary home.
The MP’s wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness. Mr Vaz and his wife Maria are pictured above in September 2016, a day after the revelations broke
Because of his crowded diary of engagements – which included a football match and a birthday party – he could not meet the ‘decorators’ until late in the evening on Saturday August 27.
On the Sunday Mirror’s tape, Mr Vaz can allegedly be heard calling one of the men ‘a naughty b****r’, and informing him: ‘I’m getting very horny.’
Yesterday the committee concluded: ‘The notion that the men were at Mr Vaz’s flat in connection with painting and decorating is incredible. The recording contains no evidence of any conversation about …decorating.’
Paid for sex
Commissioner Kathryn Stone said: ‘Mr Vaz has told me he has never paid for sex. Sexual activity took place…I believe Mr Vaz paid for that activity.’
Mr Vaz and his visitors reminisced about other prostitutes including one who ‘forgot the condom’, with the MP recalling: ‘I had to f*** him without a condom.’
The report said: ‘No reasonable person who has listened to the audio recording could believe his claim that the purpose of the two men’s visit was to discuss interior decoration. Mr Vaz’s claims … are, frankly, ludicrous.’
As the trio waited for a third rent boy – a Romanian – Mr Vaz offered to buy him cocaine, the report found.
The MP – who in 2010 demanded action against the ‘dangerous’ cocaine trade – said he did not want any but would be willing to pay for the Romanian to have some, the tape revealed.
The report said: ‘The men can be heard discussing ‘poppers’, ‘weed’ and ‘coke’. Mr Vaz was the first to mention ‘coke’ that evening.’
In 2016, the Met examined the case but did not to take any action. Mr Vaz told the commissioner the recording could not be relied on and insisted he had never taken drugs.
Initially, Mr Vaz tried to dismiss the Sunday Mirror’s investigation as bearing ‘no relation to what actually occurred’.
But when asked by the commissioner what had really occurred, he pleaded amnesia. He claimed his drink must have been spiked.
The inquiry said the one-hour-40-minute recording proved he had not been incapacitated, as he spoke freely to the prostitutes.
The report said: ‘He knew about their pet dog, the study plans of one of the men, their travels and their overdraft. These are not the details most people would know about their decorators.’
The commissioner found it ‘extremely puzzling’ that Mr Vaz did not wheel out his amnesia claims until later in the inquiry.
She added that the fact Mr Vaz was calling himself a false name also undermined his claims.
The MP’s wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness – contradicting Mr Vaz’s claims he had not spoken to her, said the standards commissioner, who added: ‘Mr Vaz’s wife said that she said she had had no inkling that her husband enjoyed sex with men. The article said Mr Vaz had told his wife ‘something was going to break [in a newspaper], that it was bad…While he did not go into detail, he did concede – to his wife’s incredulity – that his infidelity involved men’.’
The report said Mr Vaz ‘has done himself no favours by his inability to provide a single, consistent, plausible account.’
It revealed the lengths he went to ‘throw dust in the eyes of the commissioner and the committee’, adding he ‘has done his best to complicate, obfuscate and confuse the inquiry’.
The MP claimed he was the victim of conmen and produced a ‘dossier’ of claims about the rent boys, including that one had a ‘conviction for littering from a vehicle’. This was rejected as irrelevant.
He claimed the Sunday Mirror’s tape was ‘doctored’ but an independent expert found it was not.
He complained he was the victim of ‘entrapment’. But the committee said the sting had not ‘fostered’ Mr Vaz’s misconduct, but rather had exposed it.
The report said: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Vaz was being steered in directions he was unwilling to go.’
The committee said it was ‘difficult, to put it mildly’ to accept his excuses. It said the inquiry could have been finished long ago if he had told the truth.
- Mr Vaz was cleared of failing to declare a conflict of interest when his committee produced reports on prostitution and drugs.