Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 420 - 439)



  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 that seat.

  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-involvement—which 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 constituency—a general committee, a central committee of a constituency—could be unaware of significant sums coming and going from the Party's accounts.

  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 treasuries?
  (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 remained—normally deficit.

  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 things?
  (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 that money.

  437. The suggestion you have reported to us that Keith Vaz and Keith Vaz's mother were asking for campaign contributions—was 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 the Commissioner.

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