Examination of Witness (Questions 420
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
420. Leicester East is Keith Vaz's constituency?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Indeed, yes.
421. For the record, how many of these constituencies
have you tried to be parliamentary candidate for?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I was invited to two branches
at the time when Keith was selected. It came straight after the
rate-capping crisis, when Leicester refused to follow the lead
of Liverpool and Lambeth. Consequently, I was surprised even to
get two invitations since obviously there was considerable anger
towards what were portrayed as moderates at the time. I certainly
was not at all surprised not to get any nominations. I subsequently
was in the running for Leicester West, and I felt I would probably
get selection for that but pulled out when the Council got unitary
status. Frankly, the challenge of being Leader of a unitary authority,
establishing from scratch a unitary authority, appealed to me
rather more than the back benches here in Westminster.
422. That was in 1992?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) No, that was later. That was 1996,
just before the last election. Patricia Hewitt was selected to
423. Were you ever interested in Leicester South?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, once back in the 1970s. I
had been Jim Marshall's election agent. I rather looked on it
badly and it was quickly squashed.
424. Your difficulty at the time of the Leicester
East selection, you would say had something to do with you being
a moderate and that was not necessarily flavour of the month?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Somebody who had just set a legal
rate was not likely to be very popular with Party branches during
that particular period. My surprise was being invited to two branches.
425. Moving on from parliamentary involvement,
or non-involvementwhich is your constituency; which constituency
do you live in?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I am a member of Leicester South.
426. Is that where you live as well?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes.
427. In terms of the accounts of constituency
Labour parties, on which I am not the greatest expert, would you
normally expect the officers to know about all the accounts that
the constituency Labour Party ran?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, absolutely. The Treasurer
in most constituencies, and Labour members will no doubt be able
to confirm, would normally give a monthly report on the overall
state of the constituency's finances; and certainly every year
would give a full report, which I think most constituencies arrange
to have audited in some way with other members to check it over.
Yes, there would be no way that members of a constituencya
general committee, a central committee of a constituencycould
be unaware of significant sums coming and going from the Party's
428. Is there anything you happen to know about
each or any of the constituencies in Leicester about whether large
sums were going into their accounts or not?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) As far as I know, the three constituencies
in Leicester are as poor as most constituency parties are. They
are pretty much hand to mouth, hoping they will manage to scrape
together enough to put up a decent campaign at the next election.
429. If you were to believe that many thousands
of pounds had been contributed to a fighting fund of some kind
that would be expected, in your view, to go to a constituency
Labour Party rather than perhaps go off to Millbank or central
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes. Constituency funds would
be booked in by the Treasurer. Obviously at election time the
Agent gets much more actively involved; but after the election
a full report would be given as to what had been spent, where
it had come from and what deficit or surplus remainednormally
430. If, for example, a group of people said
they had given £10,000 at election time, and if the election
expenses had been, say, £6,000 that would lead to a surplus
which people would expect to see accounted for in constituency
Labour Party accounts and reported to the GMC?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, I assume so.
431. Can I come back to the suggestion by Mr
Kapasi that campaign contributions had been asked for at about
the time, or one of the many times, when the question of land
at Hamilton was around. How directly do you recollect those two
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I distinctly recall Mr Kapasi
saying Keith and Merlyn had said to him, "You can afford
all that money for the land, you can certainly afford to make
this level of contribution to us".
432. That is not saying, "To get something
particular, you should make a contribution"?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) No.
433. It is an association of words?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Exactly. There was no suggestion
that Mr Kapasi was saying to me, "You will pay this money
if you want to get the purchase of the land and get planning permission".
It was, "If you can afford to do that, you can certainly
afford to give us a contribution".
434. As a matter of fact, has the land yet been
made available to the religious communities?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I think it has very recently.
435. Not until very recently?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) Not until very recently, no. Although
the planing issues were dealt with some time ago.
436. A number of local authorities (let us say,
a small number of local authorities) have had real problems of
proprietary and misbehaviour by councillors or by Council officials.
What level of problems have there been apparent in Leicester over
this sort of period? No real problems? Minor ones? Major ones?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) There have been problems with
a few individuals. When I was able to as Leader, I dealt with
those that were really quite blatant very harshly indeed. I either
reshuffled people or, in one case, quite publicly criticised a
member who had received money for his business while failing to
declare the fact that he was on the committee responsible for
437. The suggestion you have reported to us
that Keith Vaz and Keith Vaz's mother were asking for campaign
contributionswas there any reason for you or anybody else
to believe this was a general habit?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I have no knowledge of other requests.
I have to say that from what I know of Keith's behaviour, what
I have described to the Commissioner and what I have said here
today, I was not entirely surprised.
438. The simple answer to the question is: you
cannot quote another specific example
(Sir Peter Soulsby) No, I certainly cannot.
439.whether it is in relation to land
allocation or any other activity. I think I am right in saying
that at one point you said it was not possible to distinguish
between constituency finances and the personal finances of Keith
Vaz; and objection was made that payments were made in a way,
and constituency finances were being operated in a way, that was
not transparent. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
(Sir Peter Soulsby) I mentioned earlier the way in
which treasurers report the state of the constituency's accounts
to the constituency, and obviously give a full report and the
annual meeting. I base that particularly on a report of one of
the people who had been Treasurer. He gave some statement at some
stage, which I have got, about the way in which the accounts were
being operated; and also on a report that two members, who were
asked to audit the accounts, had written about the way in which
they were operated, and in fact they refused to sign them off
on the grounds it really was not clear whose money it was. Again,
I have got copies of both the statements of the previous Treasurer
and the so-called auditors' report, which I have not given to