Disgraced Labour MP Keith Vaz has been appointed to the justice committee, despite the use by Conservative MPs of a rare parliamentary procedure to try to block his appointment.
MPs voted Monday night to appoint the MP for Leicester East to the powerful committee which oversees Britain’s justice system, The Guardian has reported.
Vaz, the former chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, stood down from that role in September following allegations that he had paid for the services of male escorts, who he requested bring drug amyl nitrate, commonly known as ‘poppers’, to the liaison. His committee was conducting an inquiry into prostitution at the time.
He is also said to have offered to buy cocaine for their use at future meetings. Both allegations are currently being looked into by the police and by the House of Commons standards watchdog.
Yet two months on Vaz, who has earned the nicknames ‘Teflon MP’ and ‘Vaz-eline’ for his ability to slip away from scandal, has stood to fill a vacant seat on the justice committee.
In a rare move, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen forced a vote on the appointment, believed to be the first of its sort for decades.
Addressing colleagues during the debate, Bridgen told the Commons: “I would leave the house with this question. If the right honourable member for Leicester East found himself last month to be not fit to be chair of the home affairs select committee and the matters are unresolved, what makes him think that he is a fit and proper person this month?”
Nonetheless, Bridgen’s motion to reject Vaz from the committee fell by 203 votes to seven. Despite the action by the Conservative MP, it has been revealed today Vaz’s appointment was actually rubber-stamped by Conservative whips and members of parliament, who turned out to ensure the vote passed in his favour.
Of the 203 votes for Mr. Vaz, 159 were Conservative MPs, reports the Guido Fawkes political blog.
Questions regarding conflicts of interest around Mr. Vaz’s appointment remain. In a preliminary report on the findings of its inquiry into prostitution, the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended the Home Office should change the law so that soliciting is no longer an offence.
Vaz said at the time: “Treating soliciting as a criminal offence is having an adverse effect, and it is wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women, should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of sex workers should therefore end.”
He also argued against a proposed ban on amyl nitrate during a Commons debate on the Psychoactive Substances Bill. The substance was subsequently left out of the bill.
Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, has announced that she will conduct an official investigation into Vaz’s conduct to determine whether he breached the MPs’ code of conduct, which covers public interest, and whether damage was done to the reputation of the Commons.