The 76-year-old singer said his life was shattered after being publicly “named and shamed” in a “TV circus” over baseless claims of historic sex abuse.
He told how he “collapsed” after discovering an investigation was being launched, when the BBC filmed live coverage of his home being raided by police.
Sir Cliff revealed he suffered “distress, humiliation, anxiety and illness” as a South Yorkshire police investigation dragged on for 22 months before he was finally cleared of wrongdoing. The investigation centred on accusations dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men.
Sir Cliff was never arrested and prosecutors finally announced in June that no charges were to be brought.
Today Sir Cliff addressed MPs and peers at a meeting at the House of Lords and delivered a heartfelt plea to end police “witch-hunts” against public figures.
Explaining why he was speaking out, Sir Cliff said: “I have spent 75 years living as honourable and as honest a life as I can, but I am all too conscious that some of the mud will stick.”
He is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over coverage of the swoop. The veteran entertainer called for a change in the law to stop police “fishing expeditions” and protect a suspect’s anonymity unless they are charged.
“On August 14, 2014, everything in my life changed,” he said in a written statement.
“The situation was made more distressing by the fact that I had to sit by and helplessly watch police officers go through my possessions. I just collapsed.
“The raid, the false insinuation that I was guilty, knowing that I was innocent, and of course the worldwide press coverage… caused me a long period of distress, humiliation, anxiety and illness.”
His family and friends had suffered too, he added.
The veteran entertainer joined forces with Leon Brittan’s widow, Lady Diana, and BBC2 presenter Paul Gambaccini, who also addressed the meeting.
The late Lord Brittan and Mr Gambaccini, 67, were both falsely accused of historic abuse.
The group are backing a proposal to amend the Policing and Crime Bill which would make it illegal for anyone to publicly name someone unless they are formally accused of a crime.