LORD Sewel has resigned from the House of Lords after coming under intense pressure to quit over footage of him allegedly taking cocaine with two prostitutes.
The former Labour minister – who is the first peer to stand down in disgrace following new rules introduced last year allowing resignations from the Upper House – apologised for the “pain and embarrassment” caused by the sex and drugs scandal.
The married 69-year-old had earlier quit his £84,500-a-year role as deputy speaker of the Lords and chairman of the Lords privileges and conduct committee, but until yesterday morning was resisting calls for him to leave Parliament altogether.
On Monday night the Metropolitan Police raided Lord Sewel’s home with a sniffer dog and battering ram. A group of officers searched the flat for three hours and left with several bags of evidence as part of their investigation into “allegations of drug-related offences involving a member of the House of Lords”.
In a statement to parliamentary officials announcing his resignation, Lord Sewel said: “I hope my decision will limit and help repair the damage I have done to an institution I hold dear . . . I want to apologise for the pain and embarrassment I have caused.”
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed his decision to “absent himself” but played down the prospect of further reform of the second chamber, saying there was “no point in trying that route again” after the failure of proposals under the coalition.
Finally, I want to apologise for the pain and embarrassment I have causedLord Sewel
The SNP, however, stepped up its calls to reform the unelected upper chamber.
Pete Wishart, the SNP’s parliamentary spokesman, said: “The House of Lords has never been held in such contempt by the Scottish people who see it as nothing other than a repository for the cronies and donors of the UK parties.
“With its lords, ladies, baronets and earls, it can only be described as the most absurd and ridiculous legislature anywhere in the world. Even though it currently dwarves the elected chamber, David Cameron seems hell-bent on increasing this bizarre bloated institution even further, stuffing it even more full of Tory placemen and donors.” Mr Wishart added that the Lords should be replaced by “a fit-for-purpose 21st-century democratic House free of 17th-century forelock-tugging and deference”.
The Conservative leader in the Lords, Baroness Stowell, said: “I welcome Lord Sewel’s decision to resign permanently.
“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.”
The Sun newspaper has now alleged that Lord Sewel boasted to prostitutes about sleeping with a BBC presenter – something the woman involved has emphatically denied.
Sewel is said to have admitted that he committed adultery with 13 women over 17 years.