Tory MEP resigns over porn and drugs scandal

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The Independent Online
THE TORY Euro MP caught in possession of cocaine and homosexual pornography bowed to the inevitable yesterday and announced he would step down at the European elections in June.

Tom Spencer, MEP for Surrey, had the Conservative whip withdrawn and will be excluded from all party activities in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg.

After a day of intense pressure from senior Conservatives, Mr Spencer said he would remove his name from the party's list of candidates for the summer elections.

His decision to quit came less than 24 hours after he admitted that Customs officers had found magazines of hard pornography, two cannabis joints and 1.5 grams of cocaine in his luggage.

However, Mr Spencer revealed that Customs had only discovered the cocaine after he told them he was carrying the class A drug. He said he had volunteered the information because he did not want to be accused of dishonesty. "My lawyer, who was with me, looked at me and thought I was completely off the wall. It was a very small amount. I don't take cocaine, it's not my scene," he said.

Mr Spencer, a former leader of the Tory group in Europe who chairs the European Parliament's foreign affairs and security committee, was fined pounds 500 in an out-of-court settlement after the discovery by Customs on his return from a weekend in Amsterdam. At first, he had resisted calls for his resignation, but caved in when the party chairman, Michael Ancram, indicated Mr Spencer was likely to be forced to stand down.

If he had tried to tough out the bad publicity he might have been barred from the candidates' list "within days", according to Conservative Central Office sources.

In a brief statement issued last night, he said he was sorry that his "act of folly" had caused embarrassment to the Tory party. He and his wife had reviewed his predicament and he had decided to step down after discussions with colleagues, friends and supporters in the party.

"I have concluded that it is in the best interests of all concerned that I should withdraw from the party's list for the next European elections," he said.

Mr Ancram, who had been poised to refer Mr Spencer's case to the Tories' new ethics and integrity committee today, said he was glad the affair was closed. "I welcome his decision to resign from the Conservative list, which I believe is in the best interests of himself, his family and the party," said Mr Ancram.

"I would like to pay tribute to him for the important work he has done on behalf of the party in Europe over the years. I hope he may now be given the space to rebuild his life."

Mr Spencer, who says he is gay, said he had received many messages of support during the two days in which he had tried to weather the storm. He will remain an MEP until the June elections and a member of the party afterwards.

The three-member ethics and integrity committee, which was formed as part of anti-sleaze measures aimed at cleaning up the Tories' image, could have thrown him out if the matter had been referred.

It is chaired by Elizabeth Appleby QC, who sits with Robin Hodgson, chairman of the National Conservative Convention, and Archie Hamilton, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee.

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