By Katherine Haddon
A British peer who had been in charge of parliamentary ethics has quit the House of Lords after allegedly snorting cocaine off a prostitute's breasts, fuelling calls for reform of the unelected upper chamber.
Lord John Sewel, 69, apologised for the "pain and embarrassment" caused after the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper published pictures of him apparently taking drugs and wearing an orange bra and studded leather jacket as he chatted to two sex workers.
The images also showed him calling Prime Minister David Cameron "facile" and "superficial" and insulting several other senior politicians.
Scotland Yard has launched an investigation and raided Sewel's home at an exclusive block of flats near the Houses of Parliament on Monday night (local time).
While reforming the House of Lords is not a priority for Cameron's centre-right government, the case has sparked calls in the media for the chamber - the world's largest legislative assembly outside China - to be slimmed down.
"I have today written to the clerk of the parliaments terminating my membership of the House of Lords," Sewel, who had been in charge of overseeing the conduct of peers before the scandal broke, said in a statement.
"I want to apologise for the pain and embarrassment I have caused."
The Sun on Tuesday quoted the escorts saying he snorted up to eight lines of cocaine and described one of their sessions.
"He slipped into a woman's blue dress and applied lipstick and eyeliner to engage in depraved sex games too obscene to report in a family newspaper," the tabloid said.
On Monday, Cameron had questioned whether it would be "appropriate" for Sewel to continue approving laws amid the "very serious allegations" against him.
The married 69-year-old, dubbed "Lord Sewer" by The Sun, left his £82,525 a year post as Lords deputy speaker after the scandal first broke on Sunday.
He then announced on Monday that he would take a leave of absence from the Lords but faced growing pressure to step down entirely.
Several British newspapers said on Tuesday that changes were needed to the House of Lords, made up of 783 peers who can claim a 300 daily attendance allowance, in the wake of the case.
Most members are former ministers appointed by their own political parties and Cameron is reportedly set to create a string of new peers from his Conservative party to give him a majority in the upper chamber, which scrutinises and rubber stamps legislation.
The Daily Mirror, The Sun's main tabloid rival, launched a campaign on Tuesday to get rid of all unelected peers.
Meanwhile, The Times said the House of Lords was "bloated" and its numbers should be reduced.
Sewel is a former academic and local politician in northeast Scotland who was appointed as a junior agriculture minister in Tony Blair's centre-left Labour government in 1997.
He gave up the Labour whip in 2012 when he took on the job of overseeing the conduct of peers.
Ironically, Sewel oversaw the introduction of a new system under which peers can be ejected from the House of Lords for breaching a code of conduct.
Previously, only the monarch could eject them.