Letter to Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman &
Partners, Solicitors, from the Parliamentary Commissioner for
Thank you for your letter of 2 November 2000.
I am grateful for Mr Vaz's responses to various
points raised in my letters of 11 and 18 of July and 3, 12 and
19 of October, the contents of which I have noted.
I now turn to the points you have made in your
letters. I am sorry to see that you have repeated your comments
on the procedure followed in investigations which I am required
to undertake. It seems to me that we have a difference of opinion
on this matter and that further correspondence on this point is
unlikely to be helpful. However I assure you that I have considered
your views very carefully. I take it that your sentence "I
am sure you will agree that this is a most unsatisfactory and
an improper way to conduct an investigation," was said tongue
in cheek but for the record I certainly do not agree.
I can only repeat what I have endeavoured to
explain on many occasions, namely that this investigation is a
fact finding exercise not a judicial process with a prosecution
and defence. My duty is to enable Mr Vaz to make a full response
to all the matters raised and to obtain information from others
which may support or otherwise both the substance of the complaints
and Mr Vaz's responses. Only when I have such a picture can I
take a view on whether any of the complaints have any basis whatsoever.
I have throughout this investigation put any
allegations which were sufficiently precise to Mr Vaz for his
comments and, where necessary, I have asked Mr Vaz for specific
pieces of information which would enable me to build up a complete
and accurate picture on which I can eventually make my report
to the Standards and Privileges Committee. The purpose in each
case is to enable Mr Vaz to give his account of any matters of
which he has personal knowledge which are relevant to the complaints.
That explains why it has been necessary for me to write frequently
to Mr Vaz although I must point out that some of the questions
dealt with in your latest letter have been outstanding since July.
I am afraid I do have to ask some questions
"for the sake of completeness." The reasons for this
are so that I may assure the Standards and Privileges Committee
that no other matters which have come to light during an investigation
indicated breaches of the Code of Conduct or Rules and in addition
to protect the Member from additional complaints being triggered
when the report is published. To take the example you use, you
are aware that Members are required to make register entries for
some property interest. Therefore when I became aware that Mr
Vaz owned two houses in Leicester I had to seek clear information
about them from him and to give him the opportunity to inform
me if he owned other property elsewhere.
I now turn to the questions you raise in your
separate letter of 2 November concerning information sent to me
by the Sunday Telegraph.
Throughout my investigation, I have been completely
open with Mr Vaz about the role of The Sunday Telegraph
in relation to the complaints against him and from my telephone
conversations with Mr Vaz I believe he was clear about the information
they had forwarded to me. In addition, in response to your letter
of 24 October, I set out the position in some detail in my letter
of 26 October. The newspaper is not an "informant" in
the sense in which you appear to use the term.
Turning to your specific questions and numbering
1. The document you have is in the form in which
it was sent to The Sunday Telegraph. I am not aware of
any other accompanying document.
2. I have written to each of the people named
in the document (except where as I explained in my letter of 26
October 2000, the allegation was too vague to warrant my pursuing
it.) I have followed my usual practice, in relation to these allegations,
of both putting the original allegation to Mr Vaz and any information
subsequently received which might be at variance with his account.
3. I do not regard these pieces of information,
which were sent to the Sunday Telegraph after they had published
articles about the complaints against Mr Vaz, as new complaints.
I regard this list as information having a possible bearing on
the complaint that Mr Vaz had failed to register some financial
interests, which is the matter under investigation. I made sure
Mr Vaz was informed of this list when I received it.
4. I have already provided Mr Vaz with all the
relevant transcripts of tape recorded conversations. As I have
said Mr Vaz and/or you, are welcome to hear the tapes in my office
at your convenience. It is not my practice to supply original
tapes but if Mr Vaz wishes to have any tape checked forensically
I can arrange for this to be done. I must correct several misconceptions
in your letter. Neither The Sunday Telegraph (nor any other
newspaper) has "access", as you put it, to information
about my inquiry, beyond factual answers to questions about its
The role of Sir Peter Soulsby in my investigations,
as I have repeatedly explained, is as a witness. If by the term
"with whom you have contact" you are referring to the
period during which our membership of the Audit Commission overlapped,
the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee is fully
aware of this fact and has expressed the view that no conflict
of interest arises. You are right in assuming that I will inform
the Committee of this fact when I report to them.
I can assure you and Mr Vaz that I shall make
a full report on all relevant matters to the Standards and Privileges
Committee including Mr Vaz's view that there has been a "deliberate
campaign against him."
You raised the matter of the publication of
material gathered during the course of my inquiries. I can assure
Mr Vaz that I will append to my memorandum to the Committee only
such information as is necessary in order to enable the Committee
to understand my memorandum. It will then be for the Committee
to decide what, if anything, should be published. If Mr Vaz has
a particular concern about any item of information please let
Finally may I once again invite Mr Vaz to provide
me with any other information he wishes me to consider. Otherwise
I shall assume that Mr Vaz has completed his replies to me. For
my part I should make it clear that some witnesses have not, to
date, provided me with the information which I have requested.
If it is forthcoming I will, of course, put it to Mr Vaz if it
might be at variance with his account.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can
provide Mr Vaz with further information. (Having drafted this
letter I have received your letter of 6 November 2000 with corrected
copy of your letter of 2 November 2000 which I have noted.)
9 November 2000