SENIOR Labour MP Keith Vaz is reportedly standing down as chairman of the influential Commons Home Affairs select committee following allegations published in the media that he paid for the services of male escorts.

The married father-of-two and former government minister paid for the men to visit him one evening last month at a flat he owns in London, it was claimed in a media report.

However, Vaz, who is the longstanding chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee which monitors crime and drugs policy, said he was referring the claims to his solicitor and would be seeking advice.

Vaz, who allegedly met the men at his flat in north west London on August 27, was yesterday reported to be stepping down as chairman of the Commons committee, but Vaz said he will tell the committee his plans tomorrow.

A minister for Europe in Tony Blair’s first Labour government, and an MP for nearly 30 years, Vaz is a high profile figure at Westminster.

Vaz is also seen as one of the senior voices on justice and policing-related issues as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee – a post he has held since 2007.

Vaz said: “It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way. I have referred these allegations to my solicitor Mark Stephens of Howard Kennedy, who will consider them carefully and advise me accordingly.”

In a separate statement he said: “I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions, in particular to my wife and children. I will be informing the Committee on Tuesday of my intention to stand aside from chairing the sessions of the Committee with immediate effect.

“At this time I do not want there to be any distraction from the important work the Committee undertakes so well.”

Naz Shah, a Labour colleague on the Home Affairs Committee, told Sky News she had spoken to Vaz, adding “he has done the right thing” by standing aside.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party said that Vaz’s status as committee chairman was a matter for the MP himself and the Commons.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: “Keith Vaz has issued a statement on this matter.

“As with all departmental select committees, Keith was elected to the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee by the House of Commons, and his position is a matter for him and the House.”

Former Tory Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said that Vaz’s reported resignation seemed “sensible”.

“I haven’t read the whole of the allegations and therefore it’s difficult to comment on them,” he told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme.

“But Keith Vaz, as I understand it, will stand aside from the chair- manship of the select committee.

“Given the areas of which the committee is responsible, that does seem to me to be a sensible course of action. I wouldn’t want to comment beyond that.”

Labour shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said this was a “dreadful” experience for Mr Vaz, and his wife and children.

“I have known Keith for over 30 years, I think this must be a dreadful time for him, and his family – his wife and his two children. And I would rather not comment,” she told Sky News.

Vaz’s 29-year Commons career has not been without controversy.

He has faced two parliamentary inquiries, had to resign as a minister, been suspended from Parliament, and faced accusations over his expenses.