Lord Steel quit the Lib Dems after an inquiry slammed his failure to report child sex abuse claims against the late MP Cyril Smith.
The former Liberal Party leader, 81, said he will also retire from the House of Lords.
He said he was quitting to avoid “turmoil” in his party.
But he added: “Knowing all I know now, I condemn Cyril Smith’s actions towards children.”
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse savaged “decades of failure” that saw Westminster’s establishment turn a “blind eye” to allegations.
The inquiry heard that claims about Smith abusing boys were investigated by the police in the 1960s, while he was serving as a Labour councillor.
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He was elected as a Liberal MP in 1972, and Lord Steel said he had discussed the allegations with him in 1979 after an article appeared in Private Eye.
Steel told the inquiry that he "assumed" that Smith had committed the offences, but took no further action because "it was before he was an MP, before he was even a member of my party – it had nothing to do with me".
The inquiry's report said that "this failure to recognise the risk that Cyril Smith potentially posed to children was an abdication of responsibility by a political leader".
But the politician claimed that "at no point did Cyril Smith admit to me the truth of the allegations in the Private Eye report", and reiterated that he was "never a friend of mine".
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The inquiry found there was no evidence of an organised “paedophile ring” at Westminster, following claims by fantasist Carl Beech.
But it said several MPs in the 1970s and 1980s were “known or rumoured to be active in their sexual interest in children”.
Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, said: “It is clear to see that Westminster institutions have repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse, from turning a blind eye to actively shielding abusers.”
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