Examination of Witness (Questions 440
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
440. Could we ask, Chairman, whether this could
be provided to the Commissioner?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes.
441. Some people at some stage asked Mr Keith
Vaz not to interfere in the affairs of the Council. Is that true?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, they did. In answer to an
earlier question, I indicated they quickly withdrew them. They
very publicly and very angrily objected to the extent to which
he was deciding who would be Deputy Leader, which they were particularly
concerned about. A few days later the same people said it was
all a terrible mistakeor words to that effect.
442. Those were councillors who subscribed to
(Sir Peter Soulsby) No, leading members of the Asian
443. Do we have a copy of that?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I have got the press cuttings
from that period.
444. The genesis of that communication to Mr
Vaz, did it start the meeting? Were you there? Someone said it
was you who started it.
(Sir Peter Soulsby) A somewhat distorted version of
events. I was invited in to a meeting that was being held along
the corridor. I think one other councillor was actually presentit
may be more. I was invited in towards the end to give an account
of what I understood to be the current situation, particularly
in relation to Keith. I left before the conclusion. Certainly
I neither called the meeting, nor was present during the whole
445. The influence you have told us aboutwhich
Mr Keith Vaz MP had over who would stand for Councilthat
was in the Leicester East constituency rather than West?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) The Leicester East constituency.
446. Can you tell us for how long the constituency
party was run from one of his homes, or do you know if they had
(Sir Peter Soulsby) It was difficult to tell which
was his home and which was the constituency office. He bought
a property on Uppingham Road, and then bought the one next door
to it. This is one of the confusions that came out with the auditors;
they were not quite sure who owned it; in whose names they were;
and who was paying which bills. Then of course I had difficulty
and embarrassment as Council Leader because he was claiming to
live at one of them (when it was said to me there was not a bed
there), and he was on the electoral register from that office,
(when everybody said he actually lived, when he was in Leicester,
with his mother). It was all very messy around who owned what
and who lived where.
447. Essentially, as far as you are aware, the
constituency Party did not have separate offices elsewhere?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) No, they did not. Certainly they
used one of his homes as a base.
448. It is also fair to say, it is not, that
many constituency Labour parties do not have offices either?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, that is right.
Mr Bottomley: They are run from a suitcase.
449. Sir Peter, might Keith Vaz feel you have
a vendetta against him?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I am sure he would suggest to
you I have a vendetta against him. I think the reality is, as
I described earlier, we have a very different view about what
is proper in public life, and how one ought to behave, and a different
attitude as to what is true and what is not. That has inevitably
led to us falling out a number of times over the years. That is
not a vendetta; that is a difference in personality and attitude.
450. Was there any other financial matter involving
Keith Vaz which caused you concern, apart from the request for
(Sir Peter Soulsby) None which I can claim to have
any direct knowledge of.
451. The properties we are talking about in
Leicester, are they of substantial value? Give us an idea of what
they might be worth?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) The two properties on Uppingham
Road (and one paper described it about £30,000) they are
semidetached and I would guess about £45,000 each. The property
his mother or the family own I would guess is substantially moreprobably
well over £100,000.
452. I have one final question, and this concerns
Beaumont Leys. Mr Price-Jones' file refers to an alleged corruption
re Beaumont Leys, but the application was related to Hamilton.
Are these the same place or different?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Very different parts of the City.
453. Could you explain?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Beaumont Leys is in the extreme
north-west of the City. I have not seen the file notes so I do
not know what it says. They are both development areas in the
City, but it was quite distinctly Hamilton. That was the only
area of the City where places of worship were being considered.
454. Do you know anything about the oath that
Mr Kapasi would have taken? It strikes me as curious that what
he says now is at variance with what he said to you some years
ago. If he were to change it on oath, do you think that would
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I obviously do not know what Mr
Kapasi has now said. I would be very surprised if Mr Kapasi were
to have changed what he originally said.
455. Let me be frankhe has completely
withdrawn all that he said to The Sunday Times. He has
admitted to this Committee he told a lie. He has apologised. We
are talking about the credibility of evidence given to Sir Peter
which is clearly influencing him in his judgment, for reasons
I perfectly understand.
(Sir Peter Soulsby) As I have said, Chairman, I have
known Mr Kapasi for many years. He is a man who has always struck
me as a very devout Muslim; he is very straightforward; very approachable;
and very respected within the communityboth the business
community and the religious community of the City. I would be
very surprisedI would be astonishedif he changed
the view in those circumstances. He is a man absolutely devoted
to his religious community, and a leading member of it. I do not
understand. If he has changed, I cannot contribute any reason
456. If he told two different stories, given
your knowledge of him, one on oath and one not on oath, which
would you suggest we should take account of?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) That is an impossible question,
Chairman. You must make your own judgment on which is the more
457. Based on your knowledge of him?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) With my knowledge of him, Chairman,
I can only offer to you the explanation, as I did earlier on,
the extent to which members of communities in Leicester (particularly
the Asian communities in Leicester) can find themselves under
pressure. It is something which is very difficult for outsiders
to understand, me included. I have been a councillor in Leicester
since the early 1970s and the ways in which people respond to
pressure from communities is something that outsiders cannot fully
458. He is very committed to his faith.
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes.
459. He took the oath.
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes. It may be there are conflicting
pressures. I really do not know.