Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 30

Letter to Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman & Partners, Solicitors, from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

  Thank you for your letter of 15 June.

  Members are required to uphold the Code of Conduct and Rules in general. The purpose of the Code is described as "to assist Members in the discharge of their obligations to the House, their constituents and the public at large", and the main purpose of the Register of Members' Interests is set out in paragraph 9, page 8 of the Guide to the Rules as "to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member receives which might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament."

  To turn to the specific items you mention:

  Q15  Members are required to make specific and accurate entries in the Register and this is described in paragraph 12, page 8 of the Guide to the Rules.

    "Members are responsible for making a full disclosure of their interests. And if they have relevant interests which do not fall clearly into one or other of the specified categories, they are nonetheless expected to register them."

  Q16  Code of Conduct, page 4.

    "Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest."

  Q20  Code of Conduct, page 3


    Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office."

  and page 5:

    "No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed."

  You refer to paragraph 2 of my memorandum to the Committee on the Investigation Process. The key words here are "some substance". I must emphasise that having some substance is not the same as "substantiated". The test is set out more fully at paragraph 69 of the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules, which states:

    "If the Commissioner is satisfied that sufficient evidence has been tendered in support of the complaint to justify his taking the matter further, he will ask the Member to respond to the complaint and will then conduct a preliminary investigation."

  I have not yet taken a view on whether any individual complaint has been substantiated and will only do so after I receive Mr Vaz's response to any matters which might appear to be at variance with his account.

  Part of my responsibility is to give the Committee my view on whether a complaint should be upheld or not upheld. The decision as to whether a complaint is upheld is a matter for the Committee alone. I share your view that the highest standards of fairness should apply to my investigations. I have made no report to the Committee on these complaints to date, and will only do so after Mr Vaz has had the opportunity to comment on my draft report.

  I make no comment on the article you attached. I can only confirm that no decision has been taken by me or the Committee, to date, as to whether the complaint by Mr Milne against Mr Vaz is unsubstantiated.

  I share your concern at the length of time taken on this enquiry. I still await evidence from key witnesses and until it is forthcoming I cannot conclude my enquiry. I trust they will provide it shortly and that will allow me if necessary to raise matters with Mr Vaz.

21 June 2000

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