A senior Labour MP is facing moves to oust him from parliament after he was recorded allegedly paying male escorts for sex and offering to buy cocaine.
Keith Vaz was found by the standards committee to have breached the Commons code of conduct by showing willingness to buy class A drugs for others to use.
It recommended a six month suspension from parliament, a sanction which would trigger a recall petition in Vaz’s Leicester East seat if MPs approve it in a Commons vote, and is believed to be the longest since records began in 1949.
The committee said the former minister had shown both a “disregard for the law” and “disrespect” for the Commons’ standards system, causing “significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole”.
Apart from Vaz’s willingness to buy drugs, the committee accepted the view of the parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone that the MP’s account of what happened was “incredible”.
The committee and commissioner dismissed Vaz’s claims in response to a prior inquiry by the commissioner that:
The Sunday Mirror’s audio recording was “wholly unreliable”
That his 90-minute encounter with the two men was not to engage in paid-for sex but to discuss the interior decoration of his flat
That he could not comment on the details of the encounter because he had amnesia
That the men “steered” the conversation because they were engaged in a newspaper sting operation.
The committee in particular described as “ludicrous” Vaz’s claims that the meeting, at 11.30pm on Saturday August 27 2016 at a flat he owns near his family home, was to discuss a “quick, temporary redecoration” to be completed before parliament’s return from summer recess eight days later.
His claim to have amnesia, either due to stress or a spiked drink, was also dismissed.
The committee concluded due to “compelling” evidence that the MP’s account was “not believable”, that he expressed a willingness to buy cocaine fo another person, and that he engaged in paid-for sex.
The inquiry was subject to repeated delays due to two referrals to the Metropolitan Police - who on each occasion decided not to proceed with a criminal investigation - the 2017 general election and Vaz’s ill health.
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It took place under two commissioners for parliamentary standards - Kathryn Hudson and her successor Stone.
However, the committee said that if the MP had given a “candid and co-operative account” of the incident from the outset, it could have been concluded much earlier.
It said “much of the welter of documentation and procedural challenges which has emanated from Mr Vaz has been designed, in our opinion, to ‘throw dust in the eyes’ of the commissioner and the committee”.
It added that although the core issues facing the inquiry were relatively simple, “Mr Vaz has done his best to complicate, obfuscate and confuse the inquiry through arguments of little merit and documentation of dubious relevance”.
The commissioner did not uphold claims of a conflict of interest because Vaz was chair of the home affairs select committee at the time of the allegations.
A statement on the MP’s website said he had been treated for a “serious mental-health condition” for the last three years as a result of the events of August 2016.
“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,” the statement said.