27 Jul 2015

Lord Sewel urged to resign from House of Lords

Lord Sewel requests a leave of absence from the House of Lords until investigations into newspaper footage, that appeared to show the peer taking drugs with prostitutes, are complete.

The 69-year-old peer, who has already stood down as Deputy Speaker in the wake of the scandal, could be expelled from the House of Lords under new rules that he helped introduce earlier this year.

He told parliamentary officials: “I have no intention of returning to the House in any way until the current investigations have been completed.”

The former minister quit his £84,500-a-year role which involved overseeing conduct issues in the upper house after video footage leaked to The Sun on Sunday showed him allegedly taking drugs with two prostitutes.

The video purportedly shows the disgraced peer snorting white powder – thought to be cocaine – from a prostitute’s breast using a five-pound note at his flat in Pimlico, London.

Lord Sewel is also pictured in wearing an orange bra and leather jacket while reclining in a chair and smoking a cigarette.

In the video, he can be heard calling David Cameron “the most facile, superficial prime minister there’s ever been,” during a conversation with one of the women in his flat.

He labels Mayor of London Boris Johnson “a joke” and a “public school upper class twit”, and describes Scottish MP Alex Salmond as a “silly, pompous prat”.

Lord Sewel also accused former Prime Minister Tony Blair of being “in love with George Bush”.

‘Shocking and unacceptable’

Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza has referred Lord Sewel to the Met Police for investigation, calling his behaviour “shocking and unacceptable.” She said the serious allegations against the Lord will be investigated “as a matter of urgency.”

In a statement she said: “The House of Lords will continue to uphold standards in public life and will not tolerate departure from these standards.

“These serious allegations will be referred to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and the Metropolitan Police for investigation as a matter of urgency.”

The Metropolitan Police released a statement on Monday saing it was launching a “criminal investigation into allegations of drug-related offences involving a member of the House of Lords.”

“A warrant under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, was today granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court,” the statement said.

“The warrant was executed at 18.00hrs at an address in central London by officers from the Special Enquiry Team of the Homicide and Major Crime Command (HMCC). No arrests have been made at this stage and enquiries are ongoing.”

Lord Sewel risks becoming the first peer to be expelled from the House of Commons under tough new rules he himself helped introduce in March.

The House of Lords (Suspension and Expulsion) Act 2015 allows peers to be barred from parliament if they breach its code of conduct.

The code maintains that members must “always act on their personal honour”.

The Lords Commissioner for Standards Paul Kernaghan, a former police chief constable, will gather evidence on whether there has been any misconduct.

The cross-party Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee, which Lord Sewel chaired until the scandal broke, will then decide on a punishment.

‘Cannot expect a serious hearing’

Earlier this month, Lord Sewel wrote an article on the new rules that stated: “Scandals make good headlines. The requirement that members must always act on their personal honour has been reinforced.”

Labour MP John Mann insisted Lord Sewel should retire from the Lords voluntarily before he is expelled.

“He chaired the committee that makes the decisions on discipline. It was his committee,” the Bassetlaw MP said.

“He cannot possibly go in front of his own committee and expect a serious hearing.”

Lord Sewel became a member of the House in 1996 and was made a Labour minister as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in 1997.

He was made chairman of committees in May 2012 including the committee for privileges and conduct which implemented the new code of conduct.