UK lord on leave after 'drugs and prostitutes' sting

AFP , Monday 27 Jul 2015

A British politician on Monday said he would go on an unpaid leave of absence from the House of Lords pending an investigation after he was filmed allegedly snorting drugs off a prostitute's breasts.

Lord John Sewel resigned as deputy speaker of parliament's upper house after The Sun newspaper published its sting on Sunday and Monday but he is facing pressure to quit the chamber entirely.

The paper's front page on Monday showed the former government minister relaxing in an orange bra and leather jacket belonging to a prostitute.

"I wish to take leave of absence from the House as soon as it can be arranged," he said in a letter to parliamentary authorities.

"I have no intention of returning to the House in any way until the current investigations have been completed, when in the light of their outcome I will review my long-term position," he added.

The married 69-year-old left his £82,525 ($128,000, 115,600 euros) a year salaried post at the House of Lords after the scandal first broke.

Sewel would, however, have been able to claim a daily allowance like all members of the House of Lords.

Once on leave of absence he will be unable to receive that allowance for attendance.

He would also have to give three months' notice to return to the House of Lords from his leave.

The announcement came after Prime Minister David Cameron questioned whether it would be "appropriate" for Lord Sewel to continue approving laws despite the "very serious allegations" against him.

The police are looking into The Sun's footage showing Sewel partying naked with two women and snorting a white powder, alleged to be cocaine.

Scotland Yard said it had executed a search warrant at an address in central London but had made no arrests.

The video showed the father of four with a rolled-up banknote wedged in his left nostril.

In the video, he is heard discussing the allowance he gets as a peer and telling the two women: "It's not (for) lunch, luvvie darling -- it's paying for this."

He gave the women a £200 cheque each, dated Wednesday.

Lords Speaker Baroness Frances D'Souza said the "revelations about the behaviour of Lord Sewel" were "shocking and unacceptable".

She wrote to the police and to parliamentary authorities asking for investigation.

If he is found to have breached the House's code of conduct, Sewel could become the first peer to be expelled under new rules he helped to introduce.

A former lecturer, Sewel has been a member of the House of Lords since 1996 and served as a junior minister in the Scotland office under the Labour government of prime minister Tony Blair.

In his committee chairman role, he wrote on the Huffington Post news website on July 16 that the Lords had just agreed stronger sanctions for misbehaviour.

"The actions of a few damage our reputation. Scandals make good headlines," he wrote.

"The requirement that members must always act on their personal honour has been reinforced."

He even wrote about "members caught in sting operations by journalists" being found guilty of breaking the code.

Labour lawmaker John Mann called for Sewel to retire from the Lords immediately to save himself "further embarrassment".

"He chaired the committee that makes the decisions on discipline," Mann said.

"He cannot possibly go in front of his own committee and expect a serious hearing... He is a disgrace. He should retire and resign immediately."

Sewel was also recorded criticising numerous senior British politicians, calling Cameron "the most facile, superficial prime minister there has ever been".

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