Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report



(i)   Payments from Mr Kamal

48. The Commissioner reported that she was unable to complete her inquiries satisfactorily in relation to the complaint —

49. The Commissioner has established from Mr Kamal's bank that he made payments by standing order in favour of Leicester East Labour Party.[71] In view of the relatively small sums of money involved we have not thought it necessary to inquire into this any further. We do not uphold the complaint.

(ii)  The 50 Club

50. The Commissioner reported that she was unable to complete her inquiries satisfactorily in relation to the complaint that —

51. We are satisfied that the responsibility for running the 50 Club lay with the CLP rather than with Mr Vaz personally. For that reason we do not have to consider whether or not Mr Vaz complied with the Code of Conduct in respect of the 50 Club. The sums of money involved are in any event not large enough to warrant further inquiry on our part. We do not uphold the complaint.


52. The Commissioner reported that she was unable to complete her inquiries satisfactorily in relation to the complaint —

53. We drew Mr Vaz's attention to the rules relating to the registration of land and property and invited him to register any property which he had not registered but which was nonetheless registrable. Mr Vaz has now registered the property in Leicester which he uses as his constituency office. We regard this rectification of his Register entry as a sufficient outcome.


54. The Commissioner reported that she was unable to complete her inquiries satisfactorily into the complaint —

55. Mr Vaz told the former Commissioner that the original purpose of Mapesbury Communications was to receive his earnings from outside Parliament and to provide funds to be spent in support of his personal staff or on the purchase of office equipment. The present directors of the company are his wife (Ms Fernandes) and his mother. The sole shareholder in the company is his wife. Mr Vaz failed to provide the Commissioner with information to enable her to establish whether his office had in fact derived any benefit from the company but he has stated that it did not do so.[75]

56. Both the Commissioner and the Committee asked Ms Fernandes for information about the company, including details of payments into and out of the company.[76] Ms Fernandes replied that Mr Vaz had never been a shareholder or director of the company, had never attended a board meeting, had had nothing to do with the management of the company and had received no benefit from it; and that none of his earnings had been paid into it.[77] She explained in evidence to us that after the failure of Mr Vaz's Asian community calendar project she had decided to do something with the company on her own account.[78] She said that the company did not provide anything of advantage to Mr Vaz and that the company was in no way connected with him.[79] Ms Fernandes provided the Committee with letters from the two accountants who had acted for the company to the effect that no payments had been made to Mr Vaz personally or to his Parliamentary office.[80] Ms Fernandes also informed us that no payments had been made between the company and Mr Zaiwalla:

    It is a matter of fact that in 1995 an advertisement appeared in the Asian Community calendar by Zaiwalla & Co. I am unable to confirm that payment was received by Mapesbury Communications Ltd for this.

    Neither Zaiwalla and Co nor Mr Zaiwalla in his personal capacity have acted for or been retained by Mapesbury Communications Ltd or by myself in any capacity.

    I can confirm that payments were neither received nor made to Mr Zaiwalla or his firm Zaiwalla & Co to Mapesbury Communications Ltd.[81]

57. At our request Ms Fernandes showed the Chairman and the Clerk a list showing the sources of payments of £1000 or more into the company and the recipients of payments of £1000 or more from the company, which she said was complete. This information was provided by the company, rather than by its solicitors or accountants, as we had requested.[82] It is not evident that this information was based on the accounts of the company. We were told that it was not possible to provide us with the details of payments into and out of the company for which we had asked: the person who had dealt with the filing of accounting records had died in November last year and his widow had said she did not think there were any papers, although there might be some in her garage.[83] The company's accountants did not have this information because they had returned all financial records to the company on completing their work on each year's accounts.[84]

58. The information which has been provided to us does not lead us to uphold the complaint. The full accounts and underlying records of the company were not provided. Ms Fernandes refused to provide the information she had to the Committee as a whole or to the Commissioner. No evidence has been provided to the Commissioner or the Committee that establishes the absence or the existence of a Mapesbury link with Mr Zaiwalla or other significant contacts of Mr Vaz.


59. Mr Vaz's entry in the Register of Members' Interests as at 31 October 1997 included the following:

60. While our inquiry was under way, allegations were made in the press that these donations, which were reported to amount to £17,500 in total, had not reached Mr Vaz's constituency party.[85] In view of the amount of money involved, and the possibility that this might develop into a formal complaint requiring investigation, we took the view that it was in the public interest that we should attempt to establish the facts.

61. The Labour Party has made a public statement in the following terms:

    The Leicester East campaign fund has been thoroughly examined. There is no evidence of any missing money.

    All money paid into the fund, including the donations of Mrs U Mittal, Mr Mathrani, Lord Paul, Charles Riachi and Mr Verma, is fully accounted for. No donation was in excess of £5,000.

    Of the £17,500 donated by these individuals, properly declared by Keith Vaz in the Register of Members' Interests, a proportion was spent on the 1997 election campaign, in accordance with the statutory election campaign limits. The total spent on promoting Keith Vaz's candidature in the 1997 election campaign was £6,521.99.

    In the course of the 1997 election campaign the Leicester East campaign fund made three donations to the Labour Party nationally, totalling £8,700.

    Following the election, the balance was kept in the Leicester East campaign fund. Some has since been spent on ongoing campaigning and some remains in the fund account.

62. The Labour Party's election agent for Leicester East at the 1997 general election has produced for inspection by the Chairman an affidavit relating to payments into the campaign fund together with copies of bank statements and other relevant documents.

63. We are satisfied that Mr Vaz's registration of contributions to his election campaign does not require any further consideration by us.


64. The Commissioner did not uphold the complaints —

We agree with the Commissioner in not upholding these complaints.


65. In her memorandum the Commissioner drew attention to "the failure on the part of Mr Vaz to provide full and accurate answers to certain of [her] questions (in some cases, throughout the inquiry, in others until evidence was produced from other sources)", and she said she had found it necessary, even where she had not upheld a complaint, to express some criticism of Mr Vaz's approach to her inquiry.[87]

66. Mr Vaz was wrong to say to the Commissioner last December that he was not prepared to answer further questions from her. All Members have a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner and to assist her with her inquiries. We consider that in this respect Mr Vaz's behaviour was not in accordance with his duty of accountability under the Code of Conduct. Mr Vaz claimed that the allegations against him and the evidence on which they were based were imprecise.

67. In dealing with the inquiries from both the Commissioner and the Committee Mr Vaz relied extensively on his solicitor, Mr Geoffrey Bindman, whose dealings with us were courteous and efficient. We would prefer Members to communicate with us directly rather than through an intermediary, but we understand that Members facing a complaint may wish to seek legal advice.

68. Mr Colin Hall, Chairman of the Leicester East CLP, threatened a witness with possible disciplinary and legal action because of allegations the witness had made to the Commissioner.[88] We took the view that in putting improper pressure on a witness Mr Hall had committed a serious contempt, and asked him to appear before us to explain his actions. Mr Hall apologised unreservedly for any contempt that had been committed and undertook not to commit any further such actions in the future.[89]

69. Intimidation that comes to our attention will be dealt with severely.

70. Both Councillor John Thomas and Councillor Piara Singh Clair, officers of the CLP, refused to provide the Commissioner with information that she needed.[90] We experienced delay in getting information from Councillor Singh Clair, and he declined our invitation to appear before us.[91] We conclude that the consistently unhelpful attitude displayed by officers of the CLP was intended to frustrate the Commissioner's investigation.

71. The Commissioner's report makes clear the significant delay which was caused to her inquiry by Mr Kapasi's failure to provide her with information and the extraordinary lengths to which he went to avoid a meeting with her.[92]

72. We were both surprised and concerned by the extent to which witnesses engaged solicitors to represent them when the Commissioner asked them to provide her with information. We ask only that witnesses tell the truth. Solicitors are not required for that purpose. Witnesses' solicitors have on occasion proceeded from the assumption that their client was being accused of some form of misconduct and have demanded to see evidence. This attitude has hampered the Commissioner in her task of gathering information in a non-adversarial way. Witnesses are not entitled to be provided with information which the Commissioner provides as a matter of course to a Member complained against. We regard the tone of the correspondence from Mr Kapasi's solicitor, Mr Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent, to the Commissioner as unacceptable.[93]

73. The actions of the press have caused concern in recent weeks. We are aware that Mr Vaz has been the subject of considerable media speculation. We deplore the leaking of evidence given to the Commissioner and the speculation about her conclusions. We repeat what we said in our last Report:

    It is not helpful and it is wrong for anyone to try to whip up media interest in a case which is still under investigation. Media stories about a current case which may be based on incomplete or inaccurate information, or on speculation masquerading as fact, can be unfair to Members who are the subject of a complaint or to witnesses assisting the Committee or Commissioner.[94]

70  Appendix 1, para. 505. Back

71  ibid, para. 184. Back

72  ibid, para. 505. Back

73  ibidBack

74  Appendix 1, para. 505. Back

75  ibid, paras. 330-1, 449-52. Back

76  Appendix 2, Annex 8. Back

77  Appendix 3, Annex 2. Back

78  Q905. Back

79  Qs 987 and 994. Back

80  Appendices 31 and 35 to the Minutes of Evidence. Back

81  Appendix 34 to the Minutes of Evidence. Back

82  Appendix 33 to the Minutes of Evidence. Back

83  Q906; Appendix 32 to the Minutes of Evidence Back

84  Appendix 35 to the Minutes of Evidence. Back

85  The Sunday Telegraph, 4 February 2001. Back

86  Appendix 1, para. 504. Back

87  ibid, paras. 405 and 408. Back

88  ibid, Annex 82. Back

89  Q3. Back

90  Appendix 1, para. 470. Back

91  Appendices 20-26 to the Minutes of Evidence. Back

92  Appendix 1, paras. 147-56. Back

93  Appendix 1, Annexes 137-145 and 147-59. Back

94  Second Report, Session 2000-01, HC 89, para. 8. Back

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