Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 38

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

  I have received your letter of 5 July with enclosures relating to Sir Peter Soulsby and have today received your fax of 10 July.

  In the light of your comments in both your letters I repeat that the process in which I am engaged is a fact finding investigation designed to enable me to make a full and accurate report to the Standards and Privileges Committee. It is not a judicial process nor an adversarial one.

  As you are aware, Members have duties placed on them by the Code of Conduct which is the framework within which the Standards and Privileges Committee is required to judge the conduct of a Member where a complaint is received.

  The Code of Conduct places Members under obligations in respect of their conduct. Members are required to be open and accountable and thus are expected to provide me with accurate and complete information so that I may make a fully informed report to the Committee.

  Members are also responsible for making a full disclosure of their interests in the Register of Members' Interests. The main purpose of the Register is "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".

  When a complaint is received it is my duty to assess whether it has any substance and it is for the Member to provide accurate information as part of this procedure. A refusal to fully answer questions which have arisen from information received during the course of an investigation is not appropriate nor is it in a Member's own interest.

  As the Committee said in their 5th Report 1999-2000, published 16 February 2000,

  "Members have a duty of accountability under the Code of Conduct and "must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office". The Commissioner can only perform her duty, which is to investigate complaints against Members thoroughly and impartially, if she is in possession of a full and frank explanation of the relevant circumstances. This may involve the disclosure in confidence to the Commissioner of relevant details of a Member's personal and financial arrangements which the Member in question would prefer to remain private.

  Members should not seek to mislead by keeping information from the Commissioner on the ground that they do not themselves consider the interest to which it relates to be registrable."

  Having said that, I am pleased to have received Mr Vaz's responses to some of my questions though I note several are unanswered. I would be glad to receive his answers to the others without delay and assure him again that they are all necessary to complete my enquiry. In particular I require his answers to Questions 7, 24, 26, 31, 45.

  As I feared, to enable me to be clear about the facts, I need to ask Mr Vaz some follow-up questions. These questions are as follows, numbered as in my original list;

  13.  Please would Mr Vaz let me know the purposes of the Trust, whether his mother-in-law is the sole signatory on the Trust's accounts. If she is not the sole signatory, who are the other signatories to all the Trust's accounts. I would be grateful for sight of any documents relating to it.

  15.  Has Mr Vaz ever received payment or support from the Dawoodi community organisation for any purpose either personally or through Mrs Vaz senior? Has Mr Vaz been connected with this organisation in any way, at any time?

  43.  Please would Mr Vaz let me have the name and address of the Mr H Patel who made the donation for his office costs which Mr Vaz registered.

  I look forward to receiving the note of the meeting and any additional information which Mr Vaz wishes to provide.

  I trust that the above allows Mr Vaz to deal with my questions.

  I have today received further information from Mr Zaiwalla. He has provided extracts from his office cash books showing payments to Mr Vaz:

  January 1993 £250

  September 1994 £200 to publishers Wildberry for advertising in a calendar connected to Mr Vaz (recorded as K Vaz Calendar).

  Mr Vaz may wish to provide me with comment on this information.

  May I finally trouble you for one further piece of information? Mr Vaz has three Register entries (31 January 1995, 31 March 1996 and 31 January 1997) which refer to "Annual Calendars", from which income was used to support projects in which Mr Vaz was involved. Could he please explain what Annual Calendars was, how its income was generated, and who, apart from Mr Zaiwalla, made donations to the cost of producing "Annual Calendars". Mr Vaz's entry for 31 January 1999 refers to a contribution from Mr A P Patel towards the cost of "constituency calendars" for 1999. Could you please explain what these calendars were, what Mr Vaz's personal involvement was with them and how they differed, if at all, from "Annual Calendars"? What was the purpose of the company called Mapesbury Communications Ltd which Mr Vaz established in 1996 and can you please provide me with the company's accounts for each year since its establishment? What projects was the income from Mapesbury Communications Ltd used to support?

  In answer to your question about full copies of information provided to me, as I have said, I will make sure that Mr Vaz sees any relevant information which I am considering putting to the Committee so that he may comment on it or challenge it before I come to my conclusions or report to the Committee.

11 July 2000

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