July 28, 2015 / 7:33 AM / 2 years ago

Cavorting, snorting British peer quits House of Lords

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior British peer said on Tuesday he was leaving the House of Lords, Britain’s unelected upper parliamentary chamber, after a newspaper published a video which it said showed him using cocaine and cavorting with prostitutes.

John Buttifant Sewel had already quit as deputy speaker of the House of Lords after The Sun on Sunday released footage showing him semi-naked and snorting powder through a banknote while partying with two women.

In a statement, Sewel said his behavior might not have breached the Lord’s code of conduct.

“The bigger questions are whether my behavior is compatible with membership of the House of Lords and whether my continued membership would damage and undermine public confidence in the House of Lords,” he said.

“I believe the answer to both these questions means that I can best serve the House by leaving it.”

Sewel, 69, who is married, was in charge of standards and discipline in the upper chamber.

“His position wasn’t tenable,” EU Commissioner and former House of Lords leader Jonathan Hill told BBC Radio.

“If you are responsible for the setting of standards you yourself have to make sure that you deliver on that ... he has done the right thing and I am relieved that has happened.”

The case has spurred calls to overhaul the House of Lords, a chamber which with over 800 members critics say is becoming too big because of the sitting prime minister’s right to regularly swell its ranks with political appointees.

“Now Get Rid Of The Lot Of Them”, the left-leaning Mirror newspaper said on its front page on Tuesday.

“The discredited House of Lords should be consigned to history where it belongs,” it said in its editorial.

House of Lords leader Tina Stowell welcomed Sewel’s decision, which came less than 24 hours after he had said he would only stand aside while investigations were ongoing.

“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,” she said.

Less than two weeks ago, Sewel had written an article boasting how the Lords had taken steps to protect its image, saying only a small number broke the rules and that most understood personal honor came first.

“I hope my decision will limit and help repair the damage I have done to an institution I hold dear,” he said in his Tuesday statement. “I want to apologize for the pain and embarrassment I have caused.”

Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan Editing by Louise Ireland

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