LONDON — Caught in what appeared to be a classic British newspaper exposé, an opposition lawmaker on Tuesday relinquished leadership of an influential parliamentary committee over allegations that he paid for the services of prostitutes and offered to buy drugs for them.
The Sunday Mirror published a report two days ago about the encounter involving the lawmaker, Keith Vaz, a prominent member of the Labor Party and a former minister for Europe,
Vaz said Tuesday tha it was “in the best interest” of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which he led, for its work to be “conducted without any distractions whatsoever.”
“I am genuinely sorry that recent events make it impossible for this to happen if I remain chair,” Vaz said.
After the allegations were published Sunday, Vaz argued that it was “deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way,” adding that he would refer the report to his lawyers.
The Sunday Mirror sought to justify its report by pointing to the political responsibilities of Vaz, suggesting that his conduct had compromised his ability to fulfill his duties.
As chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, he had a prominent role in oversight of the department that controls Britain’s policy on, among other things, drugs and prostitution.
According to the Sunday Mirror, Vaz, who is a married father of two, met with two men, identified by the tabloid as prostitutes, on Aug. 27 at a London apartment. Vaz, 59, a native of Yemen, has held several key posts in the House of Commons.