Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Analysis (vi)

(vi)  Complaint against Mr Vaz alleging that, during a meeting with Mr G H Peene, an employee of the Intervention Board, he failed to declare an interest when dealing with a civil servant; and that he inappropriately inquired about an investigation by the Intervention Board into the Russian Butter Export Refund

626.  The Code of Conduct requires Members of Parliament to:—

    "always draw attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, or in any communications with Ministers, Government Departments or Executive Agencies."

and it adds:

    "In any activities with, or on behalf of, an organisation with which a Member has a financial relationship, including activities which may not be a matter of public record such as informal meetings and functions, he or she must always bear in mind the need to be open and frank with Ministers, Members and officials."

627.  Mr Peene and his wife attended Mr Vaz's constituency office on 17 April 1999 in response to a letter from Mr Vaz inviting Mr Peene to a meeting. Mr Peene had previously consulted Mr Vaz, as his Member of Parliament, about some personal issues.

628.  According to Mr Peene, Mr Vaz asked him about the Russian Butter Export Refund investigation at the M company on which he was engaged. As this investigation was highly confidential Mr Peene was concerned and withdrew from the meeting. Mr Peene wrote a report on the meeting for his superiors at the Intervention Board Anti-Fraud Unit.

629.  Mr Peene alleged that Mr Vaz was connected to a director of M as they had previously been directors of another company, Skillshare Africa at the same time.

630.  Mr Vaz denied that there was a 'meeting' on 17 April 1999, saying it was a normal constituency surgery following a routine letter to a constituent who had asked how a case was progressing.

631.  Mr Vaz said he only knew of the investigation from the information given to him by Mr Peene or from correspondence concerning Mr Peene's personal issues. This correspondence was not apparent in the file provided by Mr Vaz.

632.  Mr Vaz said that Mr Peene had ceased to be a civil servant before 17 April 1999 and reiterated this view in his letter of 3 November 2001.

633.  Mr Peene responded in his letter of 16 October 2001 to my inquiries about his employment status by saying that he was appalled that Mr Vaz had sought to mislead me by alleging that he, Mr Peene, was no longer a civil servant on 17 April 1999. He confirmed that he was still a serving civil servant. Mr Peene's description is confirmed by his employers.

634.  It appeared that Mr Vaz was seeking to undermine Mr Peene's reliability as a witness by challenging his description of his employment status as a civil servant.

635.  I therefore have an account of a conversation in Mr Vaz's constituency office from a constituent, Mr Peene, which according to him is confirmed by his wife—the only other person present apart from Mr Vaz. Mr Peene made a written report of this conversation, at the time, and gave it to his superiors. I also have Mr Vaz's account which is quite different. Mr Vaz denies that he raised this investigation at the meeting and says he only knew of it through Mr Peene. Mr Vaz has not been able to provide any documentary information which predates 17 April 1999 which would support his account.

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