Lord Sewel Quits And Apologises
28 July 2015, 08:32
Lord Sewel has quit the House of Lords and apologised for his behaviour after footage emerged of him allegedly taking cocaine with two prostitutes.
The former Labour minister has bowed to intense pressure to resign from Parliament following the drugs and sex scandal, exposed in the Sun newspaper.
The married former peer has apologised for the "pain and embarrassment'' he has caused.
In a statement to parliamentary officials, he 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, 69, faced widespread calls to step down from Parliament after the newspaper ran lurid claims about his alleged tryst with prostitutes.
The Sun newspaper today 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.
The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation and raided Lord Sewel's home yesterday evening, two days after the shocking allegations first surfaced.
A group of officers, including one on a bicycle, searched the flat for three hours and left carrying several bags of evidence and a battering ram.
The peer's departure comes just a day after he signalled he could try to cling on to his seat in the House of Lords.
He quit his £84,500 a year role as deputy speaker of the Lords and chairman of the Lords privileges and conduct committee in the wake of the scandal.
But on Monday he requested a leave of absence "until the current investigations have been completed, when in the light of their outcome I will review my long-term position'' - which had left the door open for him to return to the chamber.
Lord Hill of Oareford, Tory former leader of the Lords, said Lord Sewel's decision to step down was "better late than never''.
He said, "I think it's the right thing to do. I think his position wasn't tenable.
"I am glad he's had a change of heart. I think if you are responsible for the setting of standards you yourself have to make sure you deliver on that.
"I think he has done the right thing and I am relieved that has happened.''
The scandal had fuelled criticisms the unelected House of Lords is out of touch and should be scrapped.
The chamber has swollen in size in recent years, and there are currently 783 members, making it the largest legislative assembly outside China.
And David Cameron is said to be set to appoint dozens of new peers to the House of Lords.
Lord Hill, who worked with Lord Sewel in developing reforms on the rules which govern the conduct of peers, said: "There were measures that we put in place that enabled the House to suspend, remove people from the House.
"You had to specify the length of time of that expulsion, but, yes, they were put in place and I think, if he had not resigned, I'm sure those measures would then have cranked into action.
"You would have seen it working in practice. If it hadn't worked in practice, I'm sure that the House would have found a new way of plugging that gap because I think everyone agreed the position which we had had before - whereby there were people, whether it was expenses or other issues, who were not behaving properly, there were not effective sanctions - we needed to fix that problem and I think they are now a more effective set of sanctions.''