MIKE Hancock’s decision to step down from a powerful parliamentary committee has been backed by the leader of Portsmouth City Council.
Mr Hancock has decided to temporarily give up his role on the Defence Select Committee while the deportation appeal made by his former aide and alleged mistress Katia Zatuliveter continues.
City leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is a colleague of Mr Hancock on the council, said: ‘He’s done the right thing to say if there’s a question about his work on the defence select committee he should stand down.
‘But there has never been any question of him not being an excellent constituency MP, so the matter doesn’t arise there.
‘His private life is down to him. It’s none of my business or anyone else’s.’
Mr Hancock is refusing to comment on his decision, as he says he believes to do so could prejudice the outcome of Ms Zatuliveter’s attempts to remain in the country.
In a letter sent to his party’s chief whip, Alistair Carmichael, he wrote: ‘I am writing to tender my resignation as a member of the Defence Select Committee with immediate effect. I have made this decision to allow the select committee to continue with its work unimpaired by current events. At no time did I pass on material to Ms Zatuliveter which was not in the public domain or was classified.’
Mr Carmichael replied: ‘I understand your reasons. Your concern in acting to protect the work of the committee is exactly what I would have expected of you. Needless to say should it ever be possible for you to return to a role of this sort, I would be keen that you should do so.’
Ms Zatuliveter, 26, who was employed as Mr Hancock’s parliamentary assistant from mid-2008 to the end of last year, is accused of being a spy for the Russian government.
In December, she was ordered to leave the UK by the Home Office, after an MI5 investigation. She denies the allegations, and is appealing against the decision at a Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearing in London.
On Tuesday, the first day of the hearing, she said she had been involved in a four-year sexual relationship with Mr Hancock, and that she had opened letters addressed to him and marked ‘private and confidential’.
Mr Hancock has been a committee member for 12 years. For his suspension to become permanent, the House of Commons must vote to find a replacement committee member.
But his letter said he hoped to return to the committee at the end of Ms Zatuliveter’s case, expected to continue until Wednesday.