Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Other evidence relating to the allegations involving payments to Mr Vaz by Mr Kapasi

157.  As indicated previously, I had received information from three different sources (Sir Peter Soulsby, Mr Kapasi as tape-recorded by The Sunday Telegraph, and Mr Kapasi on tape talking to The Sunday Times) that Mr Kapasi gave money to Mr Vaz in return for help in acquiring land for a religious building. In addition, Mr Kapasi had told The Sunday Times that of the three cheques paid to Mr Vaz for this purpose, one was drawn on the account of the Dawoodi community.

158.  I therefore wrote to the secretary and treasurer of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat on 29 June 2000 (Annex 180), to ask whether the Dawoodi community had ever provided cash or a cheque to Mr Vaz in connection with a site for a religious building in the Hamilton area of Leicester. Shk H Jafferji, the secretary, and Shk M Abdulali replied on 22 July (Annex 181) that Dawoodi had never made any payment to Mr Vaz or anyone connected with Mr Vaz.

159.  I also wrote, on 12 July 2000, to another of the religious groups in Leicester, the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission, putting the same question to them. In a letter, dated 28 July 2000 (Annex 182), Mr V H Patel replied on behalf of the Mission:

    "Our organisation has not made any donation to Mr Vaz or Mrs Vaz (senior) or any charitable organisation at his request. There are thousands of followers of The Mission in Britain and we cannot comment on their behalf.

    To our knowledge, The Mission or any of its members have not given any payment to Mr Vaz for planning permission or site acquisition at Hamilton, Leicester. We deeply resent such a suggestion."

160.  I asked for and received from Mr Jewar Dhesi of the Development Plans Group of Leicester City Council, a set of background documents (Annex 122)[142] relating to the proposal to allocate land at Hamilton for religious purposes including:—

    —   minutes of the relevant council committees

    —   extracts from the City of Leicester Local Plan

    —   the Inspector's report on the Local Plan Inquiry.

Mr Vaz's response

161.  On 14 March 2000, I put to Mr Vaz the allegation concerning payments to him by Mr Kapasi (but without, at that stage, disclosing the supporting evidence). In a letter dated 19 March (Annex 19), Mr Vaz replied:

162.  In a letter from Bindmans dated 5 July 2000 (Annex 36), Mr Vaz replied to a series of questions about Mr Kapasi, which formed part of a questionnaire I had sent to Mr Vaz in preparation for a meeting with him in my office on 3 July.[143] In his responses Mr Vaz made the following statements:

    —   that he had known Mr Kapasi for fifteen years;

    —   that he had never asked Mr Kapasi for any payment to him personally, for the Labour Party, or as a contribution to his office expenses;

    —   that he had not checked whether Mr Kapasi's donation of £52 to the Sahara Trust, established after the death of Mr Vaz's child, had actually reached the charity—which was administered by Mr Vaz's mother-in-law;

    —   that the transcript of Mr Kapasi's conversation with The Sunday Telegraph was "not evidence" and it was not for him to explain Mr Kapasi's remarks about alleged payments to Mr Vaz;[144]

    —   that he had no personal connection with the Dawoodi community;

    —   that Sir Peter Soulsby had "spent his entire career in Leicester" attacking Mr Vaz and his mother and that, because Sir Peter had been defeated by Mr Vaz for the Labour Party nomination in Leicester East, Sir Peter "thus had an interest in denigrating me".

163.  Asked in the questionnaire whether he had ever solicited or received any other payment or benefit from Mr Kapasi, whether for himself personally, the Labour Party, his constituency office or any charity or other organisation which he supported, or with which he had any association or interest, Mr Vaz replied: "If you have any evidence you should put it before me and I will comment on it".

164.  On 10 July, Bindmans wrote to me (Annex 37) repeating Mr Vaz's previous comments concerning Sir Peter's alleged hostility towards Mr Vaz and enclosing a copy of a report, dated 31 July 1994, to the Executive Committee of Leicester East Constituency Labour Party concerning allegations against certain officers of the Party, including Sir Peter. The letter also drew attention to the fact that Sir Peter and I were both members of the Audit Commission at the same time and claimed that this "could, however unintentionally, predispose you to giving credibility to his complaint".[145]

165.  I wrote again to Bindmans on 11 July 2000 (Annex 38), following up Mr Vaz's replies to two of my written questions concerning Mr Kapasi. The two further sets of questions I put to Mr Vaz were:

    —   what was the purpose of the Sahara Trust; who, if anyone (apart from Mr Vaz's mother in law), was a signatory to the Trust's accounts; and whether Mr Vaz could supply me with any documents relating to the Trust;

    —   whether, for any purpose, Mr Vaz had ever received any payment or other form of support from the Dawoodi community, either personally or through his mother and whether Mr Vaz had had any connection with the community in any way and at any time.

166.  In a letter dated 17 July 2000 (Annex 39), Bindmans replied to these questions on Mr Vaz's behalf, as follows:

    —   in relation to the Sahara Trust, Mr Vaz had never been a signatory to the charity's accounts and did not know who the signatories were; he had never asked his mother-in-law for sight of any documentation "as all the donations were in the public domain", and the Trust had "not given donations for a number of years";

    —   so far as the Dawoodi community was concerned, Mr Vaz did not routinely "ask constituents what their community affiliation or religion is"; if the community had asked him for assistance as a Member of Parliament he or his office would have "written on his behalf"; and in view of the "35,000 files collected over 15 years" it would be impossible to trace "any particular letter on behalf of any member of this community".

167.  On 18 July 2000, I sent Mr Vaz copies of the complete transcripts of the conversations between Mr Kapasi and The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph (Annex 40).

168.  On 22 August 2000 (Annex 43), Bindmans wrote again to deny, on Mr Vaz's behalf, the complaints against Mr Vaz which involved alleged payments to him by Mr Kapasi. The letter (which had presumably crossed with mine of 18 July to Bindmans) requested that I supply Mr Vaz with the transcripts and original tapes of Mr Kapasi's conversations with The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph.

169.  On 3 October 2000 (Annex 45), I wrote to Bindmans to ascertain whether, since I had by then received no response from Mr Vaz to the transcripts of Mr Kapasi's conversations with The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph sent to Bindmans on 18 July, Mr Vaz wished to make any observations on those documents.

170.  In a letter from Bindmans, dated 2 November 2000 (Annex 50), Mr Vaz replied: "... the transcripts are mere hearsay and of no evidential value. You have failed to respond to my request for the tape recordings, or to provide any evidence to support Mr Kapasi's allegations, which have been categorically denied."

171.  I responded to this last point in a letter to Bindman's dated 9 November 2000 (Annex 51), as follows:

    "I have already provided Mr Vaz with all the relevant transcripts of tape-recorded conversations. As I have said, Mr Vaz and/or you, are welcome to hear the tapes in my office at your convenience. It is not my practice to supply original tapes but if Mr Vaz wishes to have any tape checked forensically I can arrange for this to be done."

Evidence from Claire Ward MP relating to the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party

172.  I received evidence from a separate source, Ms Claire Ward, the Member for Watford, which echoed Sir Peter Soulsby's account of problems which had arisen with the running of the Labour Party in Leicester East.

173.  I had been informed by several witnesses, including Sir Peter himself that Ms Ward had, prior to her election as a Member of Parliament, served as a member of a Labour Party inquiry team in 1994 which had been set up by the Party's National Executive Committee to consider complaints about alleged irregularities in the Leicester City Labour Party. I invited Ms Ward to see me (Annexes 102, 103 and 105) to enable her to explain the background to the inquiry and to provide me with any information which might be relevant to my investigation of the complaints concerning Mr Vaz. I met Ms Ward on three occasions (22 March, 5 April and 8 May 2000).

174.  Ms Ward said that the inquiry had been publicised and any Party member who wished to do so was able to give evidence in person on a specified day, or to write to the inquiry team. The range of irregularities reported to the team on the day set aside for receiving submissions was such that they decided they needed to meet again to complete their work. They arranged a further day's hearing, but came to no immediate conclusions and made no report. Ms Ward told me she was surprised when, the next day, the Party's regional secretary issued a press release announcing that the inquiry was complete and that the membership's concerns were being dealt with. The press release said:

175.  Ms Ward expressed her concern to the regional secretary about this purported summary of the inquiry's conclusions. Thereafter, when she was adopted as prospective Parliamentary candidate for Watford, she wrote to the regional secretary to say that she could take no further part in matters relating to Leicester Labour Party nor receive any further correspondence from Party members in Leicester East.

176.  Having consulted the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, Ms Ward provided me with some documents which had been received by the Labour Party's inquiry team including:—

    —  a Labour Party press release;

    —   correspondence relating to the affairs of Leicester City Council between Mr Vaz and Sir Peter Soulsby (the then Leader of Leicester City Council), Councillor Brian Shore and all members of the Leicester City Council Labour Group;

    —   newspaper articles concerning the dispute between Sir Peter Soulsby and Mr Vaz and a transcript of a Newsnight programme shown in September 1994 about alleged membership irregularities in Leicester East constituency party;

    —   a letter and attachments from Mr Paul Gosling, dated 20 August 1994, to the inquiry team;

    —   Ms Ward's notes of the evidence from Councillor Ned Newitt, Chief Whip of the Labour Group Leicester City Council, Mr D Thomas, a Labour Party member, and Councillor Sir Peter Soulsby;

    —   a letter to the inquiry team from Councillor Newitt alleging improper interference by Mr Vaz in City Council business, together with enclosures.

177.  These documents were supplied to me in confidence and I have not therefore thought it appropriate to attach them as annexes to this memorandum. They do, however, provide some background information about disagreements and disquiet in Leicester East Constituency Labour Party, in which at least some of those giving evidence to the inquiry team believed Mr Vaz to have had some part. Since the inquiry was brought to a premature conclusion and took no decisions on who, if anyone, was responsible for the alleged irregularities in the membership or about the other issues raised by Party members, I have not taken a view as to its evidential value for the purposes of my inquiry. In any case, the concerns put to the inquiry related for the most part to internal party organisation rather than to matters which, if true, would constitute breaches of the rules or the Code of Conduct of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, I am bound to record the anxiety which Ms Ward expressed to me (Annex 106) that if the matters raised with the inquiry team by members of the Labour Party were not dealt with they were likely to resurface. She said she believed that, in part, the allegations which have emerged during the course of my investigation of the original complaint from Mr Milne have been raised because the internal Labour Party inquiry was not fully completed.

The single document annexed to this memorandum is the Report of the Director of Environment and Development to the Environment and Development Committee of Leicester City Council, dated 9 June 1998 (extract). Back

143  The original purpose of this meeting was to enable me to put questions to Mr Vaz and for him to give his account. In the event, the meeting (at which Mr Vaz was accompanied by his solicitor) was devoted largely to practical and procedural issues. Back

144   I had at this stage supplied Mr Vaz only with relevant extracts of the transcripts of the taped conversations between Mr Kapasi and The Sunday Times and The Sunday TelegraphBack

145   I had already pointed out on several occasions both to Mr Vaz and to Bindmans that Sir Peter was not a complainant, but a witness. See also my correspondence with Finers Stephens Innocent in relation to Mr Kapasi (paragraph 150). Back

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