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British MP Keith Vaz likely to face parliamentary probe

world Updated: Sep 05, 2016 22:20 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

British opposition Labour Party MP Keith Vaz leaves his home in northwest London on Monday. (Reuters)

Senior Labour MP Keith Vaz is likely to face an inquiry by the parliamentary standards commissioner after he reportedly paid male prostitutes to visit him at his London flat, putting a question mark over his high-profile political career.

Indian-origin Vaz, who is chairman of the influential home affairs committee, is expected to formally announce his resignation from the panel after meeting its members on Tuesday. The Charity Commission is also examining reports that a Vaz-related diabetes charity, Silver Star, paid the male escorts.

Speaking in China where she is attending the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "important people have confidence in their politicians", but added that "what Keith does is a matter for him".

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said he was urging parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson to investigate Vaz.

Bridgen told BBC Vaz's position as the home affairs committee’s chairman was "completely untenable". While people have the right to a private life, there was a "conflict of interest" in his role on the panel, which examines and reports on matters such as policing and prostitution. 

He added: "His position is completely untenable...he should do the decent thing and resign."

A Charity Commission spokesman said the organisation was aware of allegations made regarding an individual linked to the charity Silver Star. “The commission has asked journalists to forward any details and evidence they have in order to determine whether there is a regulatory role for the commission," he said. 

Silver Star was set up by Vaz in 2007 after he learnt he had Type 2 diabetes. Vaz is the patron of the charity, which operates in Britain and India to raise awareness about the disease.

Vaz said in a statement: “It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way. I have referred these allegations to my solicitor who will consider them carefully and advise me accordingly. 

“At this time I do not want there to be any distraction from the important work the home affairs select committee undertakes so well.”

Parliamentary committees do vital work in holding the government and others to account, Vaz added. “I will of course inform committee members first of my plans when we meet on Tuesday. My decision has been based entirely on what is in the best interests of the committee which I have had the privilege of chairing for the last nine years,” he added.

British tabloids reported on Sunday that Vaz, a married father of two, allegedly paid the male prostitutes. The home affairs committee that he chairs is looking into a shake-up of prostitution laws and also investigates vice and drugs.