The chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee stood down today while he is investigated over lobbying claims.
Members on the Energy and Climate Change Committee unanimously accepted Conservative MP Tim Yeo’s offer to step down temporarily while the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner carries out his inquiry.
The former minister said in a statement last night that he was taking this action to ensure the "smooth running" of the committee, after coming under fire when an undercover Sunday Times investigation appeared to show him claiming he could exert influence behind the scenes for private companies.
After meeting fellow committee members behind closed doors at the House of Commons, Yeo left before the meeting moved into open session with Liberal Democrat MP Sir Robert Smith becoming interim chair for the duration of the inquiry into Yeo.
Yeo said: "They have unanimously accepted my offer to stand aside for the duration of the inquiry."
In a statement, the committee said of Yeo: "The committee has unanimously accepted the chair's recommendation that he absent himself from committee business for the duration of the investigation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, following his self-referral at the weekend.
"The committee expressed confidence in Mr Yeo's chairmanship of the committee, but accepted the recommendation in order to ensure the continued effective and evidence-based work of the committee.
"It the interim period, the committee has unanimously agreed that Sir Robert Smith acts as the interim chair. Mr Tim Yeo will not be drawing a chair's salary during this time."
Last night’s announcement came less than two hours after Labour called on him to stand aside. Shadow cabinet office minister Gareth Thomas said it was "difficult to see how he can continue" while he was under investigation.
Yeo said in the statement: “I firmly believe that I have not breached the MPs' Code of Conduct in any respect and therefore await the outcome of the commissioner's investigation with confidence.
“In particular I absolutely and unreservedly deny the allegation that I coached a witness with whom I have a business connection before that person gave evidence to the committee.
"I do not wish the commissioner's investigation to be a distraction from the committee's important work. I believe that during the past three years the committee has been extremely effective and I want this to continue."
The political blogger Paul Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes website, has also reported the MP to the Metropolitan Police and asked them to investigate.
Earlier yesterday, in an interview on BBC Radio Wales, he insisted he would not quit the committee chairmanship while the allegations were investigated.
Yeo referred himself to parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson after the Sunday Times sting.