Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 440 - 459)



  440. Could we ask, Chairman, whether this could be provided to the Commissioner?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes.

  441. Some people at some stage asked Mr Keith Vaz not to interfere in the affairs of the Council. Is that true?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, they did. In answer to an earlier question, I indicated they quickly withdrew them. They very publicly and very angrily objected to the extent to which he was deciding who would be Deputy Leader, which they were particularly concerned about. A few days later the same people said it was all a terrible mistake—or words to that effect.

  442. Those were councillors who subscribed to this communication?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) No, leading members of the Asian community.

  443. Do we have a copy of that?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) I have got the press cuttings from that period.

  444. The genesis of that communication to Mr Vaz, did it start the meeting? Were you there? Someone said it was you who started it.
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) A somewhat distorted version of events. I was invited in to a meeting that was being held along the corridor. I think one other councillor was actually present—it may be more. I was invited in towards the end to give an account of what I understood to be the current situation, particularly in relation to Keith. I left before the conclusion. Certainly I neither called the meeting, nor was present during the whole of it.

  445. The influence you have told us about—which Mr Keith Vaz MP had over who would stand for Council—that was in the Leicester East constituency rather than West?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) The Leicester East constituency.

  446. Can you tell us for how long the constituency party was run from one of his homes, or do you know if they had separate offices?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) It was difficult to tell which was his home and which was the constituency office. He bought a property on Uppingham Road, and then bought the one next door to it. This is one of the confusions that came out with the auditors; they were not quite sure who owned it; in whose names they were; and who was paying which bills. Then of course I had difficulty and embarrassment as Council Leader because he was claiming to live at one of them (when it was said to me there was not a bed there), and he was on the electoral register from that office, (when everybody said he actually lived, when he was in Leicester, with his mother). It was all very messy around who owned what and who lived where.

  447. Essentially, as far as you are aware, the constituency Party did not have separate offices elsewhere?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) No, they did not. Certainly they used one of his homes as a base.

  448. It is also fair to say, it is not, that many constituency Labour parties do not have offices either?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes, that is right.

  Mr Bottomley: They are run from a suitcase.

Mr Bell

  449. Sir Peter, might Keith Vaz feel you have a vendetta against him?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) I am sure he would suggest to you I have a vendetta against him. I think the reality is, as I described earlier, we have a very different view about what is proper in public life, and how one ought to behave, and a different attitude as to what is true and what is not. That has inevitably led to us falling out a number of times over the years. That is not a vendetta; that is a difference in personality and attitude.

  450. Was there any other financial matter involving Keith Vaz which caused you concern, apart from the request for campaign donations?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) None which I can claim to have any direct knowledge of.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  451. The properties we are talking about in Leicester, are they of substantial value? Give us an idea of what they might be worth?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) The two properties on Uppingham Road (and one paper described it about £30,000) they are semidetached and I would guess about £45,000 each. The property his mother or the family own I would guess is substantially more—probably well over £100,000.


  452. I have one final question, and this concerns Beaumont Leys. Mr Price-Jones' file refers to an alleged corruption re Beaumont Leys, but the application was related to Hamilton. Are these the same place or different?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Very different parts of the City.

  453. Could you explain?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Beaumont Leys is in the extreme north-west of the City. I have not seen the file notes so I do not know what it says. They are both development areas in the City, but it was quite distinctly Hamilton. That was the only area of the City where places of worship were being considered.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  454. Do you know anything about the oath that Mr Kapasi would have taken? It strikes me as curious that what he says now is at variance with what he said to you some years ago. If he were to change it on oath, do you think that would be unprecedented?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) I obviously do not know what Mr Kapasi has now said. I would be very surprised if Mr Kapasi were to have changed what he originally said.

  455. Let me be frank—he has completely withdrawn all that he said to The Sunday Times. He has admitted to this Committee he told a lie. He has apologised. We are talking about the credibility of evidence given to Sir Peter which is clearly influencing him in his judgment, for reasons I perfectly understand.
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) As I have said, Chairman, I have known Mr Kapasi for many years. He is a man who has always struck me as a very devout Muslim; he is very straightforward; very approachable; and very respected within the community—both the business community and the religious community of the City. I would be very surprised—I would be astonished—if he changed the view in those circumstances. He is a man absolutely devoted to his religious community, and a leading member of it. I do not understand. If he has changed, I cannot contribute any reason for that.

Mr Foster

  456. If he told two different stories, given your knowledge of him, one on oath and one not on oath, which would you suggest we should take account of?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) That is an impossible question, Chairman. You must make your own judgment on which is the more credible version.

  457. Based on your knowledge of him?
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) With my knowledge of him, Chairman, I can only offer to you the explanation, as I did earlier on, the extent to which members of communities in Leicester (particularly the Asian communities in Leicester) can find themselves under pressure. It is something which is very difficult for outsiders to understand, me included. I have been a councillor in Leicester since the early 1970s and the ways in which people respond to pressure from communities is something that outsiders cannot fully understand.

  458. He is very committed to his faith.
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes.

  459. He took the oath.
  (Sir Peter Soulsby) Yes. It may be there are conflicting pressures. I really do not know.

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