Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


    (iii)  Complaint upheld

Mr Zaiwalla

Mr Vaz's recommendation of a peerage for Mr Zaiwalla

443.  The two donations of £250 and £200 by Mr Zaiwalla for purposes which constituted a benefit to Mr Vaz (namely a payment to his office account in 1993 and a contribution towards the cost of producing a calendar associated with him in 1994) created a financial relationship between Mr Vaz and Mr Zaiwalla. This ought to have been declared by Mr Vaz when recommending Mr Zaiwalla for an honour. I have received no evidence to indicate that Mr Vaz did so.

444.  Mr Vaz, in his response paper (paragraph 22), argues that the two payments cannot reasonably be seen as constituting a financial relationship between him and Mr Zaiwalla and that he does not consider that such a relationship existed. He points to the fact that, on the basis of the advice he received from the then Registrar, neither payment was registrable.

445.  I cannot agree with this analysis. Even if the payments were not individually registrable, they amounted together to a benefit worth £450 over a period of twenty months. The second payment was received less than two years before Mr Vaz's first recommendation on Mr Zaiwalla's behalf.

446.  This was information which the authorities scrutinising honours were entitled to be aware of, to give such weight as they thought fit in evaluating Mr Vaz's recommendations concerning Mr Zaiwalla.

447.  For his part, Mr Vaz had a duty under the Code of Conduct to "bear in mind the need to be open and frank with Ministers, Members and officials" about a financial relationship with any person or organisation on behalf of whom he was making representations.

448.  A number of issues arising from my inquiry into the complaints against Mr Vaz remain unresolved, either because of the failure over a long period by witnesses to provide information, or because of incomplete answers from Mr Vaz. These are set out in turn below.

(a)  Mapesbury Communications

449.  Mr Vaz told the then Commissioner in 1996 that the purpose of Mapesbury Communications—which Mr Vaz was then setting up— was to receive his earnings from outside Parliament and to devote the resulting income towards expenditure in support of his Parliamentary office.

450.  Mr Vaz has not, despite my repeated requests, provided me with any information to enable me to establish the precise sources of the company's income or where it goes to (and, in particular, whether Mr Vaz's office derives, or has derived, any benefit from it—as he originally indicated was the intention).

451.  Throughout my inquiry, Mr Vaz has sought to distance himself from the company, although with one exception its officers are members of his immediate family.

452.  In his response paper (paragraph 31) Mr Vaz has given some details about the structure of the company and he says, without giving any reason, that none of his outside earnings were in fact paid into it. He again states that he has received no benefit from the company. And he speculates that the turnover of the company relates to publishing activities pursued after the calendar project was abandoned.

453.  Mr Vaz suggests that I should approach the officers of the company for any information of assistance to my inquiry. I have accordingly written to Ms Maria Fernandes, Mr Vaz's wife.[200]

454.  I remain of the view that Mr Vaz could, and should, have been more candid and forthcoming in answering my questions about Mapesbury Communications. This is a company originally established by him with the express purpose of receiving his non-Parliamentary income and for using the proceeds to support his office. Given the role of Mr Vaz's wife as a director and sole shareholder it appears beyond doubt that Mr Vaz had direct access to the relevant information and could have provided it to me himself if he had wished to do so.

(b)  The calendars

455.  I have already referred[201] to the difficulty I have experienced in assessing the evidence relating to the calendars associated with Mr Vaz, as a result of the uncertainty over their purpose and sources of funding (particularly whether this included advertising) and, indeed, whether there was in fact more than one kind of calendar.

456.  In his response paper (paragraphs 26 to 28), Mr Vaz maintains that his evidence on this point has always been clear and he refers in particular to the letter of 17 July from Bindmans. In that letter, according to Mr Vaz, it was explained that the constituency calendar had never carried any advertising, implying presumably that those calendars which Mr Vaz had acknowledged as being funded through advertisements must have been produced for a different purpose.

457.  I am bound to observe that it would have been helpful to have had at a much earlier stage of the inquiry the explanation of the two kinds of calendar—"annual" and "constituency"—which Mr Vaz has given in his response paper. It is not at all clear from the letter of 17 July that two different types of calendar are being described. The term "annual calendar" is not defined in that letter. In any case, since all calendars are, by definition, annual in nature it is difficult to see how such a description would have served to distinguish one of the two categories of calendar from the other in the absence of the detailed explanation which Mr Vaz has now provided.

458.  Of especial concern in this context—and illustrative of the more general problems I have encountered in obtaining information from Mr Vaz—is the fact that I wrote on 27 November 2000 to Bindmans to ask for clarification as to whether there were in fact two kinds of calendar. In a letter from Bindman's dated 4 December Mr Vaz refused to answer this question.[202]

(c)  Mr Kapasi

459.  The allegations made against Mr Vaz by Mr Kapasi are serious: that Mr Vaz solicited and accepted payments from religious groups in return for exercising influence over land allocation decisions by Leicester City Council.

460.  Mr Kapasi's allegations were made not on one, but on four different occasions to journalists from The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph.

461.  Mr Kapasi has since made two statutory declarations denying in the strongest terms the allegations he had previously made to the newspapers.

462.  This action by Mr Kapasi must be weighed carefully. Knowingly making a false statutory declaration amounts to perjury in law and is punishable accordingly.

463.  Mr Vaz, in his response paper, attached great importance to Mr Kapasi's decision to make the statutory declarations in buttressing his own categorical denial of the allegations that he accepted payment from religious groups.

464.  Against that, Mr Kapasi's explanation for his actions in telling the journalists what he now claims, in effect, to have been lies about Mr Vaz—namely that he was saying what they wanted to hear in the hope that they would leave him alone—lacks plausibility, especially given the fact that the allegations were the subject of four separate conversations.

465.  In addition, there is important corroboration for Mr Kapasi's original allegations from Sir Peter Soulsby, both in the form of his own current account of what Mr Kapasi said to him in 1994 and of Sir Peter's contemporaneous notes recording the concerns which led him to write to the then Town Clerk of Leicester.

466.  My attempts to interview Mr Kapasi were met with a protracted series of procedural and other obstacles which led me finally to conclude that he was unwilling to give me his account.

467.  The conflict of evidence in relation to these allegations can therefore only be resolved by the Committee taking evidence on oath from Mr Kapasi and preferably also from Sir Peter Soulsby.

(d)  Mr Kamal

468.  The evidence I have received supports the conclusion that Mr Kamal made a series of monthly payments to a Labour Party account which he believed would be used to support Mr Vaz's Parliamentary office.

469.  But I have been provided with no evidence that any of Mr Kamal's payments found their way into any account, or were otherwise re-directed to any purpose, from which Mr Vaz benefited in his capacity as a Member.

470.  I have not, however, been able to obtain all the information I needed in order to dispose fully of this allegation. Councillor Thomas has, over a long period, failed to supply the details I sought from him about the identity of the Labour Party accounts into which Mr Kamal's monthly standing orders were paid; and Councillor Piara Singh Clair has declined point-blank to provide the same information.

471.  In the light of the refusals by Councillors Thomas and Singh Clair to answer my legitimate questions, Mr Vaz's assertion that I should obtain the information from the Labour Party rather than from him rings hollow. In any case, I should have expected Mr Vaz, as the subject of the complaint and enjoying direct contacts with the Party locally, to have taken steps to provide me with the necessary details himself.

472.  The Committee may wish to consider using its powers to send for the relevant Labour Party accounts in order to resolve the uncertainty which persists over the purpose of Mr Kamal's monthly payments, given Mr Kamal's stated belief that they were intended to support Mr Vaz's office.

Improper Pressure on Witnesses

473.  As the Committee is aware, an attempt was made by Mr Colin Hall, Chairman of Leicester East Labour Party to place pressure on Mr Kamal not to cooperate with my inquiry. The Committee took action at the time by summoning Mr Hall to explain his actions.[203]

474.  Mr Vaz has denied being the source of the copy of Mr Kamal's letter to me of 17 April 2000 which came into Mr Hall's possession. In the response paper (paragraphs 44 and 45), Mr Vaz's solicitor says that I have overlooked the fact that, according to Councillor Piara Singh Clair, Mr Kamal handed to him on 11 May a copy of his (Mr Kamal's) letter to me of 17 April. Mr Bindman argues that this shows that Mr Kamal "was handing out copies of his letter" and that, by implication, he was the likely route by which the letter reached Mr Hall.

475.  The chronology of events does not support Mr Bindman's case. Mr Hall had already been sent a copy of Mr Kamal's letter to me by 8 May, the date on which he wrote to Mr Kamal. It is very likely, therefore, that Mr Kamal had received Mr Hall's letter before he handed a copy of his letter to me of 17 April to Councillor Singh Clair on 11 May and that, indeed, he did so in reaction to the discovery that the letter had already been leaked. In this context, I draw attention again to the fact that as soon as he knew that I had sent Mr Vaz a copy of the letter of 17 April for his comments, Mr Kamal became agitated and that he e-mailed to me his fears over some form of retaliation against him.[204]

(e)  Registration of Property

476.  Mr Vaz owns a home in London and two adjoining properties in Leicester, one of which is used as a second residence and the other as a constituency office.

477.  Under Category 8 of the Register, a Member is required to register "any land or property, other than any home used for the personal residential purposes of the Member or the Member's spouse,[205] which has a substantial value or from which a substantial income is derived."

478.  This means that Mr Vaz was entitled not to register both his London house and the house in Leicester which is used as a second residence, but that the other property in Leicester ought to have been registered.

479.  In my earlier analysis[206] I suggested that, of the two Leicester properties owned by Mr Vaz, it was No. 146 Uppingham Road which should have been registered since it was my understanding that it was this property which Mr Vaz used as his constituency office.

480.  In his response paper, Mr Vaz points out that the reverse is, in fact, the case—that is to say No. 144 Uppingham Road is Mr Vaz's office and No. 146 his residence.

481.  I am, of course, happy to accept this correction. I would, however, point out that I sought information on this precise point in my letter to Bindman's of 19 October 2000, when I asked for confirmation that No. 144 was Mr Vaz's office and No. 146 his residence, only to be told in their reply, dated 2 November 2000, that I had transposed the addresses.

482.  Naturally errors occur during as long and complicated an inquiry as this has been—indeed, I have made some corrections to this memorandum which were suggested to me by Mr Vaz. But it is unfortunate that when I requested clarification on a specific matter I was given, however inadvertently, a response which was not only misleading but which contradicted my own correct statement of the position regarding Mr Vaz's two houses in Leicester.

483.  The fact remains that of Mr Vaz's three properties, one (No. 144 Uppingham Road) fell to be registered under Category 8 from the point at which Mr Vaz started to use it as an office rather than as a personal residence (which may or may not be the date on which he first acquired it).

484.  My attempt to establish from Mr Vaz when he purchased the two properties in Leicester were thwarted by his refusal, in a letter dated 2 November 2000, to provide the information on the grounds that it was irrelevant to my inquiry.

485.  In his response paper Mr Vaz draws attention to the fact (which I have acknowledged earlier in my memorandum)[207] that Mr Vaz sought advice on the registrability of No. 144 Uppingham Road by including in his 1994 registration form a reference to the property, together with a handwritten query as to the need to record it in the Register.

486.  In the event, no reference to property was included in Mr Vaz's Register entry. I am unclear why this should have been so, since a house which is used as an office plainly falls outside the categories which are exempted from registration under Category 8. It may be that the then Registrar assumed, or had been informed, that, although described as an office, the house was also used for residential purposes. But there is nothing in the Registry files to confirm this.

487.  In any case, if at the time Mr Vaz sought advice in relation to No 144 he also owned No 146 (which Mr Vaz has refused to confirm or otherwise), this information might have altered the then Registrar's view in assuming that he had been given the full picture by Mr Vaz.

200   See my further memorandum of 15 January 2001, incorporating my letter of 10 January 2001 to Ms Fernandes, to which a reply has not yet been received. Back

201   See paragraphs 330 to 338. Back

202   Mr Vaz said that he would answer any question put to him by the Committee. Back

203   On 13 June 2000. Back

204   See paragraphs 212. Back

205   Emphasis added. Back

206   See paragraph 372. Back

207   See paragraph 246. Back

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