Wednesday 17 January 2018

Peer quits House of Lords over 'prostitutes and drugs' scandal

Scandal: Baron John Sewel
Scandal: Baron John Sewel
David Cameron

Michael Wilkinson in London

THE Disgraced British peer Lord Sewel has quit his seat in the House of Lords after footage emerged of him allegedly taking cocaine with two prostitutes.

The Deputy Speaker contacted the Clerk of the Parliaments indicating his intention to terminate his membership of the House of Lords with immediate effect.

The former Labour minister has bowed to intense pressure to resign from Parliament following the drugs and sex scandal, exposed in 'The Sun' newspaper.

In a statement, Lord Sewel said: "I have today written to the Clerk of the Parliaments terminating my membership of the House of Lords. The question of whether my behaviour breached the Code of Conduct is important, but essentially technical.

"The bigger questions are whether my behaviour is compatible with membership of the House of Lords and whether my continued membership would damage and undermine public confidence in the House of Lords. I believe the answer to both these questions means that I can best serve the House by leaving it.

"As a subordinate, second chamber, the House of Lords is an effective, vital but undervalued part of our political system. I hope my decision will limit and help repair the damage I have done to an institution I hold dear.

"Finally, I want to apologise for the pain and embarrassment I have caused."

Lord Sewel would have woken up yesterday only to see more lurid allegations strewn across the pages of 'The Sun'.

The newspaper further alleges that the peer boasted to prostitutes about sleeping with a BBC presenter.

It comes after he was allegedly filmed snorting cocaine off a prostitute's breast with a £5 note at his flat in Dolphin Square, near the Houses of Parliament.

He was also pictured wearing an orange bra and leather jacket as he reclined, smoking a cigarette.

Fellow members of the House of Lords rounded on Lord Sewel yesterday, adding pressure on him to resign as a peer.

Baroness Boothroyd said: "He has been the bad apple in this barrel. We have been trying to uphold our standards. This doesn't leave us with a very good smell. He has brought the House into some disrepute."

The disgraced peer's untenable position raised further questions about wider reforms of the House of Lords.

A spokesman for the British Prime Minister reaffirmed David Cameron's manifesto commitment to reduce the cost of politics.

Yesterday's 'Daily Mirror' went further by suggesting the Lords should be scrapped altogether.

Lord Sewel is the first peer to quit the House of Lords under a cloud since the introduction last year of new rules allowing members to resign, retire or be expelled for wrongdoing.

Since the passage of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, some 30 peers - including former chancellor Lord (Geoffrey) Howe and ex-Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft - have retired because they no longer wished to play a role in the House, but Lord Sewel is the first to be forced out by a scandal.

Previously, peers could be temporarily suspended if they went bankrupt or were found guilty of treason, and Tony Benn secured a change of the law in 1963 to allow him to renounce his title so he could serve as an MP. A handful of peers stood down to retain their non-dom tax status when a 2010 law required members of the Lords to be UK taxpayers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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