MEP resigns over drugs and pornography


A Conservative MEP, Mr Tom Spencer, said last night he was standing down as a Tory party candidate in the next European elections.

Mr Spencer, caught smuggling cocaine, cannabis and gay pornography into Britain, said in a statement: "It is in the best interests of all concerned that I should withdraw from the party's list for the next European elections."

The Chairman of the Conservative Party, Mr Michael Ancram, said: "I welcome his decision to resign from the Conservative list, which I believe is in the best interests of himself, his family and the party. I would like to pay tribute to him for the important work he has done on behalf of the party in Europe over the years. I hope he may now be given the space to rebuild his life."

Earlier, the Tory party announced it was withdrawing the whip from Mr Spencer, MEP for Surrey.

The MEP, who says he is gay, paid a £500 penalty in an out-of-court settlement after Customs officers found pornographic magazines, a video, one gram of cocaine and two cannabis joints in his luggage at Heathrow airport on January 20th.

It is believed that Mr Spencer's decision to step down came after a man he was with in Amsterdam was traced by the press.

His decision means the Tory Party's ethics and integrity committee will no longer have to sit. The three-member group, which could expel Mr Spencer from the party, was due to meet today to consider his future.

Mr Spencer's case was to be the first one examined by the committee, which was founded in 1997 when Mr William Hague took over as party leader. It was launched in an effort to clean up the party's image following a number of damaging "sleaze" scandals.

Even though Mr Spencer has decided not to stand at the June elections it is thought he will still be excluded from all Conservative group activities at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg in the meantime.

The former Chancellor, Mr Kenneth Clarke, said Mr Spencer had been one of the best British MEPs for a number of years. He said: "I like Tom, he is a friend of mine, he is an extremely good member of the European Parliament and I am rather shocked and surprised by the news. He is a good politician and I think the British have got to sort out how far someone's private life interferes with their ability to be a member of the European Parliament, and Tom is one of the best British members of the European Parliament for some years now."