According to CNN, Lord Sewel, a deputy speaker in the upper house of the UK Parliament, has resigned from his post after video emerged that allegedly showed him snorting cocaine in the company of prostitutes. Sewel, whose responsibilities included upholding standards in Westminster, also appears set to face a police investigation over the scandal.
Footage obtained by The Sun on Sunday appeared to show the peer – who had been deputy speaker of the Lords – snorting powder from a woman’s breasts. The peer has apologised for the “pain and embarrassment” caused and said his exit would “limit and help repair” the damage to the reputation of the Lords.
David Cameron is resisting calls from other parties for wider reforms. Speaking in Singapore, where he is on a trade trip, the prime minister welcomed Lord Sewel’s decision to “absent himself” but said he had tried and failed in the last Parliament to overhaul the Upper House and was not planning “to go down that route again”.
The Metropolitan Police has said it is looking into “allegations of drug-related offences involving a member of the House of Lords”, after searching a property in central London.
On Monday, the former Labour peer requested a leave of absence from the Lords, but sources had suggested he did not plan to quit.
But in letter to the Clerk of Parliaments published on Tuesday, he wrote: “The question of whether my behaviour breached the Code of Conduct is important, but essentially technical.
Although Lord Sewel has resigned from the House of Lords he keeps the peerage he was given by the then Labour leader Tony Blair in 1996.
Baroness Stowell, the Conservative leader of the House of Lords, welcomed Lord Sewel’s decision but said it was “disappointing” he had not made it earlier.
“For the House of Lords to earn the confidence of the public, all of us must respect the privileges that come with a peerage and recognise that – because we are unelected – it is especially important to meet the standards the public have a right to expect, and to act swiftly when we fail.”
While the code of conduct governing peers’ behaviour would be “continually kept under review”, she said it was important that the Lords now had “powerful sanctions to deploy” against wrongdoers, including the threat of expulsion.
She added that it was evident from the Sun’s footage that Lord Sewel had shown “contempt for Parliament and for the privileges associated with being a member of the House”. She said it was “that contempt that was the most damming thing that led to us wanting to be quite rigorous in applying all pressures to him”.