Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 105

File Note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


  I said that I was enquiring into allegations about Keith Vaz which she may have seen mentioned in the press. She had seen The Sunday Telegraph article. I said I had been informed by several of the people that I was making enquiries with that she had been on a Labour Party panel which made an enquiry into matters in Leicester relating to the Labour Party. I asked her if she would tell me about these matters.

  She began by saying that she wished this conversation to be completely confidential and that she did not in any way want to be seen to be initiating these enquiries or to be taking action against a minister. I explained that I would endeavour to keep the matters confidential but that if I had to report matters to the Committee, although I could ask them to keep matters confidential, they might not do so.

  She told me that she had been a member of the NEC of the Labour Party and she had been on the Central Region Executive. She had been invited by the regional secretary of the Labour Party Roy Maddox (not now regional secretary). He said that the Labour Party had received complaints from Members of the Party in Leicestershire and they were setting up a day enquiry to listen to any Members who wished to give evidence.

  The panel was to be Claire Ward, Roy Lake and Sandy Feather. The panel was widely publicised and any Member was invited to come and speak to it. On the day a stream of Members with a list of complaints came and talked widely about irregularities in the Leicester Labour Party.

  Some of these concerns related to Keith Vaz but the enquiry was much wider based than that. At the end of the day the panel Members felt they had had so much information they must agree to meet again and they fixed a meeting. The have come to no conclusions and made no report.

  Claire Ward was amazed the next day when a press release was issued by the regional secretary saying the enquiry was completed and that they were dealing with the Membership concerns raised. Claire Ward complained to the regional secretary that the enquiry had not been completed and that the complaints were much wider than Membership and that it was not true to say that the enquiry was over. However, she received no adequate response. Shortly afterwards Newsnight did a piece on this enquiry focusing on the concerns about Keith Vaz. Keith Vaz reported Newsnight to the Press Complaints Commission. Keith Vaz was under the impression that it was Claire Ward who had briefed Newsnight—but it was not. Claire Ward continued to press her concerns. In 1995 she was adopted as a parliamentary candidate and she wrote to the regional secretary to say that she could not take any further part in these matters and she could not receive further complaints from Labour Party Members. She had received endless additional comments and complaints over the year previously. In October/November 1995 Despatches ran a programme and The Guardian had an article on these matters.

  I asked her whether she had other people to suggest who might have other information to give and she said that Sir Peter Soulsby had given evidence to the enquiry and was a source of evidence.

  We agreed that she would look at her records of the enquiry and she told me she had hand written notes on all the complaints that were given and her notes on what she thought of the evidence given. She would then bring that information to me.

  I said I was sorry I had to now give her heavy information and she should not take it in any way as a threat but as information. I informed her about the powers of the Select Committee and I told her that any attempt to destroy evidence that related to this investigation could be seen as a contempt. I warned her that she was not to destroy any of the information from the Labour Party enquiry but that she should let me see it. She agreed she would do so and that she would see me again.

  I agreed to write to her to tell her what I needed to see.

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