Britain’s longest-serving Asian MP Keith Vaz stepped down from his role as the chair of the home affairs select committee on Tuesday (6) after becoming embroiled in a scandal involving male prostitutes.
The father of two said he was “sorry for the hurt and distress” caused by his actions, adding that those who hold others to account must themselves be accountable.
Vaz, who has been married to Maria Fernandes Vaz for 23 years, was taped paying two male escorts for their services, the Sunday Mirror revealed in an exposé over the weekend.
In a statement, the Leicester East MP said: “It is in the best interest of the home affairs select committee that its important work can be conducted without any distractions whatsoever. I am genuinely sorry that recent events make it impossible for this to happen if I remain chair.
“I have always been passionate about select committees, having served as either chair or member for half of my time in parliament. The integrity of the select committee system matters to me. Those who hold others to account must themselves be accountable.”
The senior politician added that the decision was his alone, and his first consideration had been the effect of recent events on his family.
Vaz, a 59-year-old former Europe minister under ex-prime minister Tony Blair, chaired the powerful parliamentary committee for nine years, which looks at drugs policies, sex workers and immigration.
The story provoked a debate about whether the paper intruded unfairly into Vaz’s private life. The Sunday Mirror said there was a public interest, given his role in scrutinising legislation on sex workers and drugs.
Vaz was filmed and recorded meeting the escorts at a flat he owns near his home in north London last month, according to the report.
In one conversation with an escort published in the tabloid and its sister publication the Daily Mirror, Vaz reportedly offered to buy cocaine for a later date, although he said he would not take any himself.
The politician, who was born in Yemen to Indian parents from Goa, made history when he was elected to parliament in 1987 for Leicester East, becoming the first Asian MP in post-war Britain.
His sister Valerie Vaz is also a Labour MP for Walsall South.
Vaz was one of the country’s most recognisable politicians. His work as the committee chair won plaudits for his forensic questioning of ministers and senior public figures.
Former MP and cabinet minister David Mellor said Vaz was “the best chairman of a select committee that there is at the moment”, but agreed it was right for him to step down.
Vaz said it was “deeply disturbing” that the Sunday Mirror paid male prostitutes to expose his extra-marital sexual activities.
He added that he was referring the paper’s allegations to his solicitor.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “He hasn’t committed any crime that I know of. As far as I’m aware it is a private matter.”
Vaz said he had recommended that Tim Loughton, the longest serving Tory member on the panel, takes over as interim chairman of the home affairs select committee.