Vaz should give up his seat, say MPs

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Indy Politics

Keith Vaz faces calls to resign his seat as well as being banned from the Commons for a month after he was severely censured by an MPs' sleaze inquiry.

A Commons debate to approve the suspension of the Leicester East Labour MP could also embarrass Tony Blair, who will now be challenged to explain why his party does not remove the whip from the MP.

Members of the Standards and Privileges Committee, which on Friday found Mr Vaz in contempt of the House, pointed out that the only other MP to face a month-long ban, the controversial Tory Teresa Gorman, resigned her seat at the last election.

The Independent on Sunday – which revealed last week that Mr Vaz would be banned – has learnt that some MPs on the committee felt he should face a tougher penalty. Theyprivately wanted Mr Vaz to be punished with the longest ban meted out to a colleague, but as there were no votes it was not recorded in their report.

David Davis, the Tory chairman, led the calls for the former Minister for Europe to resign. Another came from one of Mr Vaz's critics from his own constituency Labour party.

Mustafa Kamal, a Labour councillor in Leicester, said: "The only honourable course for him is to step down. We have been telling the Labour Party locally and nationally that this man was going to bring the party into disrepute. He has become a source of deep embarrassment to a very good and decent Prime Minister."

The committee cleared Mr Vaz of not declaring benefits from the wealthy Hinduja brothers, whose efforts to obtain British passports led to the downfall of Peter Mandelson.

The MPs rejected eight out of 11 complaints against Mr Vaz and concluded that Mr Vaz would have escaped with a demand to apologise to the House but for the contemptuous way he had dealt with the inquiry. This included "reckless" claims that another witness in the case, Eileen Eggington, a former police officer with an impeccable record, had harassed his sick mother in a telephone call.

The MPs accused him of interfering in the committee's investigative process, and concluded: "We have found that Mr Vaz committed serious breaches of the Code of Conduct and a contempt of the House."

Mr Vaz, in a note of defiance, vowed not to resign. He accused the outgoing Commons watchdog, Elizabeth Filkin, of rushing out her final report as a "last hurrah".

MPs will be asked on Wednesday to approve the appointment of Ms Filkin's successor, Philip Mawer, former secretary-general of the General Synod of the Church of England. One of Ms Filkin's champions, the Tory MP Peter Bottomley, will tell the House that he will resign from the standards committee in protest at her treatment.

"I will withdraw from the committee because the of the mistakes and the misunderstanding by the House of Commons Commission [the body which appoints the standards commissioner] and the malice of some MPs against Ms Filkin," he said.

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