Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to Mr Richard Arthur, Thompsons, Solicitors, from the Clerk of the Committee on Standards and Privileges


I am grateful to you for coming to the House this afternoon with Mr Bennett to resolve the outstanding questions relating to the Leicester East campaign fund.

I indicated that I would need to return to the question of Councilor Singh Clair and to reply to your further letter of 12 February, in which you asked about the Committee's procedures for disclosure of documents belonging to a third party and the basis of the Committee's authority to require disclosure of documents.

The House of Commons has given the Committee power to send for persons, papers and records, which means that it may require witnesses to attend to give evidence, and it may also require the production of documents. Normally the Committee is able to proceed by requesting information rather than by using its formal powers, but it can use these powers in the last resort. The Committee inquires into matters relating to the conduct of Members but it may seek information from other people who may be able to assist it with relevant information. In the present case the Committee requires certain information from the Constituency Labour Party in order to dispose of a complaint against a Member. No allegation has been made of any wrongdoing on the part of the Constituency Labour Party, and if such an allegation had been made it would not be for the Committee to deal with it.

As you probably know, I wrote to Councillor Singh Clair on 23 January to ask for information about a payment from B S Attwall & Co in January 1993. If it can be established that the payment was received by the Constituency Labour Party then the complaint that the money was received by Mr Vaz can be shown to be unfounded. If the CLP did not receive the payment the Committee will have to make inquiries elsewhere, but it will have no further interest in the CLP's finances.

The Committee does not need to see the CLP's accounts and it has no wish to make public any information which should properly remain confidential; but in order to deal fairly with a complaint against Mr Vaz it needs to know whether or not the payment in question was received by the Party.

It would be acceptable to the Committee if this matter could be resolved in the same way as the question of the campaign fund. Perhaps Councillor Singh Clair could show the Chairman, in confidence, the entry in the CLP's accounts which demonstrates that the payment in question was received. As you know, the Chairman of the Committee is a member of the Labour Party. If the receipt of the payment can be demonstrated in this way the Chairman will report accordingly to the Committee and the Committee can bring its inquiries to a conclusion.

I would be grateful if you could discuss this possibility with your client.

15 February 2001

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