Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Analysis (viii)

(viii)  Complaint relating to Mr Vaz's alleged failure to register a donation from a company owned by Lord Paul

707.  Mr Robathan alleged that Mr Vaz had failed until 1995 to register a donation received from Lord Paul in 1993 (the first of a series of such gifts) and that, as a result, his financial relationship with Lord Paul was concealed for two years. Mr Robathan further contended that Mr Vaz's explanation for the timing of the registration of the first donation from Lord Paul—namely that no annual printed Register was published in 1994—was untenable since the document was issued in February 1994.

708.  The facts are that:

    —  the first cheque from Caparo, for £3,000, made out to "The Office of Keith Vaz", was dated March 1993;

    —  the second cheque from Caparo, for £8,777.25, made out to "Advance Systems (Computer for Keith Vaz)" was dated 17 August 1994;

    —  Mr Vaz first notified the Registrar of any donation from Caparo on 28 October 1994, using the description "Computer equipment donated by the Caparo Group";

    —  the first reference in any annual printed Register to a donation from Caparo to Mr Vaz was in January 1995 (such a reference had, however, appeared in one of the regular intermediate updated print-outs dated 21 November 1994, which was available for public inspection).

709.  Mr Vaz explained that the two payments, of £3,000 in March 1993 and of £8,777.25 in August 1994 were intended for the same purpose—the purchase of computer and electronic equipment for his office. He further stated that the "total donation was registered in 1995", although in the same letter he had referred to the payments as "two donations". He added: "If there was an unreasonable delay in registering the first part of the payment I cannot explain it after this length of time, but I did register it and the purpose of it".

710.  Mr Vaz also said that he had consulted the Registrar about the registration of donations to him or his office by Caparo and/or Lord Paul. This statement is correct in so far as it refers to a meeting with the Registrar in March 2001 and to the subsequent correspondence between him and Mr Vaz. It is clear, however, that the Registrar's advice was couched in general terms and that he was careful not to be drawn into retrospectively validating Mr Vaz's Register entries relating to Caparo and Lord Paul—not least because he did not, at that stage, have the information about the precise timing of the various donations and of their subsequent registration.

711.  Mr Vaz was late in registering the first donation. It should have been registered within four weeks of its receipt—not some 19 months later. Mr Vaz has implied that he regarded the first and second donations as, in effect, a single gift made in two instalments. This explanation is difficult to accept given the 17 month gap between them. Unless Mr Vaz was expecting the second donation to follow within four weeks of the first, the latter should have been separately, and promptly, registered.

712.  It is irrelevant for this purpose whether or not a printed Register was published in 1994. It is the date on which a benefit is notified to my office which determines whether it has been registered in a timely fashion. The second donation was also registered after the four week grace period had expired, though in this case the delay only amounted to a few weeks.

713.  I also agree with the Registrar's comment (in his letter to Mr Vaz of 1 May 2001) that, so far as the last of the four donations in 1997 was concerned, it would have been better if Mr Vaz had continued to describe the source as "the Caparo Group" rather than amending it to "Lord Paul". But there is no evidence that in using this description Mr Vaz had any intention to mislead the House and I do not therefore regard it as a matter of great importance.

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