Keith Vaz, the senior-most British MP of Indian origin, announced his resignation as chairman of a key parliamentary committee after he was caught in a sting operation with male prostitutes in his London flat, details of which were splashed by tabloids on Sunday.
The mass circulation ‘Sunday Mirror’ reported that Vaz, who is chairman of the influential Home Affairs Committee of parliament, paid for the services of four male escorts in August. A long-time Labour MP from Leicester East, Vaz, 59, is a married father of two children.
The tabloids went to town with photographs from the sting operation, his remarks during the encounter as well as his purported text messages to the male escorts, reported to be European.
After the story broke, Cambridge-educated Vaz suggested that the ‘Sunday Mirror’ may have paid the male escorts involved in the sting operation. The committee he chairs has been examining the issue of laws related to prostitution in Britain.
He told BBC: “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 Mark Stephens of Howard Kennedy who will consider them carefully and advise me accordingly.”
Born to Goan parents in Aden in 1956, Vaz is the fourth Indian-origin MP to be elected in the history of Britain’s parliament in 1987 (the previous three were Dadabhai Naoroji in 1892; Mancherjee Bhownagree, 1895; and Shapurji Shaklatvala, 1922).
He has held the Leicester East seat since 1987, and has been in the forefront of Indian/Asian participation in British politics.
Active in Britain’s Indian community, Vaz has several friends in Indian politics and films, some of whom campaign for him during elections. His sister, Valerie Vaz, is also a Labour MP from Walsall South.
In a statement reported by the ‘Mail on Sunday’, 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”.
“At this time I do not want there to be any distraction from the important work the Committee undertakes so well,” he added.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “Keith Vaz has issued a statement on this matter. As with all departmental select committees, Keith was elected to the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee by the House of Commons, and his position is a matter for him and the House”.