Senior Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz was on Thursday suspended for a period of six months after the House of Commons endorsed a report by the Commons Standards Committee claiming damaged the reputation and integrity of the House.
The House accepted the committee’s report on his involvement in a drugs-for-male-sex-workers scandal revealed in a widely-publicised sting operation in 2016. Vaz, 62, has been the longest serving Indian and Asian MP since 1987, elected from Leicester East. The suspension period of six months is the longest ever imposed on any MP in British parliamentary history.
MPs unanimously voted to suspend Vaz after Labour chief whip Nick Brown said the party “Accepts the report, accepts the findings and accepts the recommendations in full”. Vaz has been advised by senior party leader Diane Abbott to reconsider contesting the December 12 election.
Kate Green, chairperson of the committee, said there is concern that Vaz would not serve the full term of the suspension if he were re-elected at the December 12 election and would only in effect have a three-day ban.
This is due to the parliamentary convention that no House of Commons can bind its successor House after elections. She told the House that if Vaz were to be elected again, the new House would bring the ban forward.
“It’s our view that should the…member be returned to the house we would urge the incoming parliament passes as a resolution as quickly as possible to ensure the full sanction of the term is served,” she said.
The committee ruled on October 28 that Vaz, who has since been hospitalised for a mental condition, had caused ‘significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole’.
Vaz was the chairman of the influential Home Affairs Committee when the scandal emerged in tabloid Sunday Mirror. He resigned after questions about conflict of interest about the work of the committee and issues that figured in the sting operation.
The committee said Vaz “disregarded” the law by “expressing a willingness” to supply cocaine to two male prostitutes, adding that there was “compelling evidence” he procured a class A drug and had paid-for sex in August 2016.
Thedog said in its report that Vaz’s claim that he had met the men to discuss the redecoration of his flat was “ludicrous”.
The committee said in its report: “By expressing willingness to purchase a Class A drug, cocaine, for others to use, thereby showing disregard for the law, and by failing to co-operate fully with the inquiry process, thereby showing disrespect for the House’s standards system, he has caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole”.
“This is a very serious breach of the Code. We recommend that the House should suspend Mr Vaz from its service for six months. We note that this suspension, if agreed by the House, will trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015 and require a recall petition to be opened in Mr Vaz’s constituency”.
The committee also recommended that if Vaz were to cease to be an MP for whatever reason, he should not be eligible to be granted a former member’s pass.
The report added that Vaz’s conduct has been disrespectful of the house’s system of standards: “He has failed, repeatedly, to answer direct questions; he has given incomplete answers and his account has, in parts, been incredible”, it said.