Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex ii66

Letter to Mr Keith Vaz MP from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Thank you for your letter of 21 September 2001.

Following the paragraph numbering in your letter:

25.  I am afraid I have never received a letter from you dated 6 August. I received a letter from you dated 5 August and when you referred to a letter of 6 August in your letter of 13 August I replied in my letter of 23 August that I assumed that your reference to the 6 August letter referred to your letter of 5 August. You did not correct this. If you do have a letter of 6 August for me, please send me a copy. I see from the sequence of your numbered paragraphs, which began in your letter of 1 July 2001, that 5 August letter contains paragraph 15 and your letter of 13 August begins with paragraph 17 therefore paragraph 16 may be in the missing letter.

But to turn to your question. You may of course make whatever comment you wish on your employment by Richmond Council at the time when my husband was also Chief Executive but from our discussion I thought that we had agreed that this was an inaccurate and irrelevant story. Moreover, when we met you told me that you had not given this inaccurate information to the press and I accepted this.

When I said you should consider dealing with the allegations raised in the media this was a general invitation to provide me with accurate information for the public record to set to rest matters raised in the media.

26.  Members of the public often engage in correspondence and discussion with me before deciding whether they wish me to look into a matter. Mr Peene confirmed to me on 15 May 2001 that he wished to pursue this complaint.

27.  This is a misinterpretation on your part. I am not making any enquiries into how you have dealt with any of your casework related to Mr Peene or Mr Peene's personal matters. The matter I have asked you about is Mr Peene's allegation that you improperly intervened in a matter with which he was dealing as a civil servant. As I understand it, Mr Peene had not raised this matter with you in any way.

You kindly allowed me to check your casework file. I found no mention of this matter. I returned your case file to you on 7 August saying "However, as far as I can see the matters referred to in these case file papers do not relate to the complaint Mr Peene has raised with me and on which I asked for your comments." Your response on this matter remains outstanding.

28.  The complaint is that you misled the Committee during the last inquiry. Mr Robathan drew attention to a matter which had been raised by a witness to that inquiry and which was published in the report. I asked you for the facts so that this matter could be concluded.

The advice you quote is correct. The Committee does not normally entertain complaints which are more than 7 years old unless they consider a matter serious. An allegation that a Member has misled the Committee during a previous inquiry is potentially serious. In such cases I review a complaint against all the information provided during a previous inquiry. I therefore need to have an accurate account of the facts from the Member. I then report the information provided by the Member to the Committee which allows the Committee to decide whether a matter is serious. The Committee may of course decide not to come to a conclusion on any particular matter when they are fully informed. Your response on this matter remains outstanding.

29.  Sir Peter Soulsby is not a witness in this inquiry.

30.  I am sure that the information about your agent's conversation would be helpful to the solicitor dealing with the matter.

31.  I know nothing of Ms Eggington's meeting with the Mail on Sunday.

32.  I know nothing of any payments to any people from newspapers but you are welcome to include any information from your knowledge when you respond to me about any allegation.

33.  The health of complainant, in so far as I am aware of it, does not disqualify a complaint from being considered by me so long as the information provided by the complainant appears to warrant an enquiry. My response in any case therefore depends entirely on the substance of the complaint. Many complaints, regardless of the health of the complainant, are dismissed when I receive the facts from the Member concerned.

34.  I am somewhat surprised by this question as I have provided you with information given to me by journalists. As I have explained previously my office provides members of the public and journalists with factual information about the Code of Conduct and Rules for Members and the registration and complaints processes. We also receive complaints and information from journalists. I treat any such complaints and information exactly as I treat complaints or information from any member of the public. We never provide information to journalists about complaints under investigation.

I hope this is of assistance but may I remind you that I requested your response to the first of these complaints on 20 March 2001 and will need to report to the Committee on the progress of my inquiry at their meeting on 23rd October 2001. On 7 September I provided your solicitor with a complete list of the letters in which I had asked you for a response or information and at his request provided copies of some of the letters which I had sent to you over the last six months.

27 September 2001

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