Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex I5

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, from Mr Keith Vaz MP

As you know Elizabeth Filkin started a further investigation of Andrew Lansley's allegations against me after the publication of the Third Report of the Committee published on 9 March 2001. In accordance with her usual practice she has now supplied me and my solicitor in confidence with copies of her draft memorandum which she proposes to submit to your Committee in order to enable me to make suggested corrections and any further comments I wish to make.

On the previous occasion Mrs Filkin provided me with her draft on 20th December 2000 and allowed me until 8th January 2001 to make my submissions. The draft and its appendices ran to several hundred pages and contained a vast quantity of material on which I had been given no previous opportunity to comment. For example it included allegations by Peter Soulsby about my employment at the North Leicester Advice Center at the time of my election to Parliament 14 years ago. Because in the short time available I could not possibly deal adequately with this new information, a complaint was then made by Andrew Rowbothan and Mrs Filkin has pursued the matter in her current investigation.

Her latest draft memorandum was delivered to me and Geoffrey Bindman my solicitor, in the late evening of Friday 30th November. I had previously been told that it would be ready for collection at 8 am on Friday morning. The draft memorandum itself is 238 pages long and in addition there are annexes of approximately 800 pages. There are a number of interviews with witnesses (8) some of which run to 30 pages each. I have not seen these before. I have not seen before 136 of the annexes. In the previous investigation I was offered the opportunity to listen to the tapes of the interviews with witnesses.

The memorandum makes new allegations based on press reports. If these allegations are put into the public domain without my having a fair opportunity to rebut them (which given time I can certainly do) I will be caused irreparable damage, as I was on the previous occasion. And if this is not dealt with now there may be further complaints in the future that I have mislead the Committee or the Commissioner.

Yesterday I was sent additional material dating back to March 2001. I have also had to obtain copies of Annexes which were missing from the bundle, I do not blame anyone for his, it is just the sheer volume of material which the press has provided her with all of which needs to be answered.

Elementary justice demands that I should be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to all of this new material and the allegations against me so the Committee can see my response at the same time as they see the case against me and to assist Mrs Filkin in reaching her conclusions I also want to gather all the additional information that Mrs Filkin needs so that this can be concluded once and for all. She said to me she wanted to "draw a line under all this." This will not happen if the memorandum is submitted without my considered response and the additional information.

Even before I saw the draft memorandum I knew from my experience that 5 working days would be insufficient and asked Mrs Filkin to extend the time but she has done so from only Midnight to 8 am on the morning of Monday 8 December 2001.

It is very important to me that I should clear up these matters finally. The current spate of media comments concerning the reasons why Mrs Filkin is not reapplying for the Commissioner's post has also brought out more information which needs to be answered.

Yesterday I spoke to the Clerk of the Committee. I asked if the time from draft to memorandum to Committee was set down anywhere and he said if the Member and the Commissioner could not agree on the time then it was a matter for the Committee.

I would be grateful therefore if you could place my letter before the next meeting of the Committee. I would be happy to explain my position in person if you so wish.

For my part I shall go as planned to see Mrs Filkin at 8 am on Monday 10th December 2001.

PS: In your last letter to me you said that Mrs Filkin said that I had asked her to "blank out" certain things from letters. This is not correct. The blanked out bits relate to Mr XY who has a complaint against Mrs Filkin not me. Mrs Filkin has given me the background to this as has her solicitor.

7 December 2001

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