Labour MP Keith Vaz has stepped down as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee after allegations that he paid male escorts for sex and offered to pay for drugs.
The Sunday Mirror appeared to out MP Keith Vaz, who the newspaper claims hired two male escorts for sex and offered to cover the cost of cocaine. The paper alleges that the MP pretended to be a washing machine salesman.
The newspaper also claimed that he sent text messages asking one of the escorts to “pick up some poppers”.
Mr Vaz has now quit as the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which has recently probed the use of class A drugs and whether sex workers.
In a statement published by the Mail on Sunday, he said: “I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions in particular to my wife and children.
“I will be informing the Committee on Tuesday of my intention to stand aside from chairing the sessions of the Committee with immediate effect.
“At this time I do not want there to be any distraction from the important work the Committee undertakes so well.”
Sky News reports that Mr Vaz has stepped down “temporarily” from his role as chair as he consults with his lawyer.
The Sunday Mirror alleged the MP had two meetings with the escorts, including a 90-minute meeting on August 27.
One text, reportedly sent by Mr Vaz, said the men should arrive at “11pm, nice and late”. He is said to have added: “I want a good time please.”
John Whittingdale told Sky News that Mr Vaz’s resignation was probably “sensible”.
“I haven’t read the whole of the allegations and therefore it’s difficult to comment on them,” he said on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme.
“But Keith Vaz as I understand it is that he will stand aside from the chairmanship of the select committee.
“Given the areas of which the committee is responsible, that does seem to me to be a sensible course of action. I wouldn’t want to comment beyond that.”
Fellow Committee member and Labour MP Naz Shah said that Mr Vaz has “done the right thing” by stepping down.
The paper outed Mr Vaz, who has been the MP for Leicester East since 1987, and who has a wife and two children. The MP has voted in favour of LGBT rights.
According to allegations in the Sunday Mirror, he met up with two “Eastern European prostitutes” last week in a flat he owns in Edgware, North London, close to his family home.
During the alleged meeting with the two escorts, which appears to have been secretly filmed by one of them, Mr Vaz apparently said “we need to get this party started”, and the paper claims that he talked about having bareback sex with an escort.
The Sunday Mirror reports that he met the two escorts through another escort he knew in London and that they were paid in cash.
In text messages allegedly sent by Mr Vaz before the meeting, it is claimed that the MP asked one of the escorts to “pick up some poppers”.
The MP was involved in the debate on whether poppers should be banned, as the government originally proposed. Indeed Mr Vaz told Parliament: “Poppers have a beneficial health and relationship effect in enabling anal sex for some men who have sex with men.”
A second report by the Sunday Mirror alleges that Mr Vaz tried to hide his identity, saying his name was Jim and that he sold industrial washing machines for hotels to wash towels in. In an audio recording, the MP boasts that the machines are “the size of this wall”.
As the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, which is overseeing the biggest investigation into drug and commercial sex laws for decades, Mr Vaz has said that he is “not convinced” that men who pay for sex should be prosecuted.
The committee suggested that there is not enough evidence that sex work should be illegal.
During the meeting Mr Vaz also reportedly said that he had no cocaine in the flat, asking “How much is it going to be?”, and according to the recording, adding that he will cover the cost the next time they meet.
Asking questions about prices of their sexual services in text messages before the alleged meeting, Mr Vaz apparently said he was “very sleepy” but that he wanted a “good time”.
Responding to the allegations initially, Mr Vaz said: “I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions in particular to my wife and children.
“I will be informing the Committee on Tuesday of my intention to stand aside from chairing the sessions of the Committee with immediate effect.”