Examination of witness (Questions 840
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
840. We are trying to trace this. It came into
what I think the Labour Party called the Leicester East campaign
fund, did it not?
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
841. Obviously that is not the name of the account,
I imagine, so what would the name of the account have been?
(Mr Vaz) I do not know. I have no idea. I would imagine
it would be that name or it would be another name. I am reluctant
to discuss my party's finances, unless I have a complaint from
842. Keith, you do appreciate that new rules
coming in shortly on campaign donations means this stuff will
eventually become public for all MPs?
(Mr Vaz) Indeed, but not for what was done in 1997.
I am not going to be raising any funds for my election campaign.
I do not mind writing it down and passing it round, if you want.
843. Could I suggest that the Commissioner sees
the document on the basis that you have suggested, that is what
you have in front of you now. It would mean this matter could
then be settled.
(Mr Vaz) I do not have the document, I just have the
names of the people and how much they have given me and when they
were paid in.
844. Does it tell you what account? I am just
making that suggestion because it might be very easily dealt with,
that is all.
(Mr Vaz) My party will not want me to pass this information
to anyone who is not a member of the Labour Party and entitled
to receive it. If there is a complaint, other than from Mr Syal
and Mr HastingsCan I just explain to the Committee how
this could happen to any one of you? Mr Campbell-Savours has in
his entry in the registerjust to give you an example of
what has happened and how this is a non-issuefor the 1997
election, "A proportion of the salary of the constituency
organisation met by UNISON", okay? Somebody rings your present
treasurer on a Saturday night and says, "Do you know that
money is coming in from UNISON? Do you know which account it goes
to? Do you know how much it is?" Or they might ring the present
vice-chairman, not the vice-chairman when it was done in 1997.
I do not know about your party but my officers change every year
or every two years, the officers are completely different from
the ones they were in 1997. This chap says, "I am sorry,
I do not know, I have not seen the transcript, I know there is
a transcript, I do not know." None of these people ever gave
any money, but he was not the treasurer then. The campaign accounts
and the election accounts are handled by the election agent and,
as you know, when an election is called what happens in the Labour
Party is that all funds of the party vest in the election agent.
There is no party then, the party is dissolved. The election agent,
not even the treasurer, has the right to spend party funds. Nobody
else can. The issue then became, "Money is missing, Vaz in
deep trouble." So Mr Syal and Mr Hastings faxed a letter
to Mrs Filkin, a letter which I had not seen, dated 5 February
2001. I have not seen this letter. Basically that is where it
goes from there. It is in the fund, it is there, there is no problem.
I am not going to let this information come out. I am happy to
write it down and pass it around so every one of you can see it,
but I am not having it published. What is it you want to see anyway?
845. Let me help. The reason I asked these questionsand
I pre-warn there is no complaintis that I have no doubt
there will be a complaint at some time
(Mr Vaz) Yes, fine.
846. It is almost inevitable.
(Mr Vaz) But what is the complaint?
847. Presumably that the funds have not been
properly accounted for. The fact is, as we do not have the complaint,
we do not know what it will be.
(Mr Vaz) That is easily done. If that is the situation,
the party accounts can go to an independent accountantwhich
we are funding extremely well; accountants and lawyers, with the
exception of Mr Bindman! Can I say, I am not going to have my
campaignNone of you would want to do this, I do not know
when the election is going to be but none of you would want to
do this. Why should I be put at a disadvantage because this has
taken a year?
848. Can I say that I think you are absolutely
right and therefore you do not need to answer any questions about
this, but it may be in everyone's interest to
(Mr Vaz) We will get it done for you but
Mr Foster: Let me say in any event we
are only talking about an historic position as opposed to any
current dealings with the campaign fund. Perhaps to short-cut
it, can I suggest this? Would you be prepared to show those documents
not to all of us but the Commissioner so she can satisfy
849. Perhaps to me too as a member of the Labour
(Mr Vaz) I would be prepared to give them to the Chairman.
850. And let's include the clerk, so that that
group alone have access to them and can advise whether we should
pursue it in any way further should a complaint ever arise in
the future about it. It seems to me sensible we try and deal with
it, would you agree?
(Mr Vaz) No. The Labour Party has issued a statement
and I have said it has gone into this account. Clearly my word
is not good enough and neither is the General Secretary's of the
Labour Party. I am happy to let an accountant certify this, give
it to the Chairman, whatever.
851. Chairman, if Mr Vaz is referring to the
five paragraphs we have
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
852.there is no reference to an account.
(Mr Vaz) Yes, there is, "All money was paid into
the fund", it says.
853. There is no reference to an account.
(Mr Vaz) The issue for Members is this, Mr Bottomley,
did the Member get this money? That is the issue for the Member.
It is, "Did the Member, having put into his register or her
register that they had received a donation from Mrs Mittal, Lord
Paul and others, then take that money and spend it on his house?"
The issue is that for the Member; what happens to this money.
In an election it is a matter for the party and the party must
decide. I do not even sign the election returns, Mr Bottomley,
and I am quite happy to get all this certified if necessary. I
have no problem with that. But I do not think it is fair to me
to have this published in these circumstances.
854. We have not asked for certification. You
are offering it but we have not asked for it.
(Mr Vaz) I am happy for the Chairman to see a letter
from a solicitor, the Labour Party solicitor, in which this information
is given and the names of the accounts are given and all the details,
if that ends the matter. If it then results in, "Did you
spend any money on this? Did you spend money on that?" that
is a matter for the party. I am more than happy to let him see
this letter in my presence. It is here, it is from a firm of solicitors
855. I think Mr Vaz may want to reconsider whether
or not he signed his election expenses return. I think it is likely
(Mr Vaz) I probably did.
856. Just to avoid confusion. I cannot guarantee
it but I am pretty certain he did. Let's work on the assumption
(Mr Vaz) Did you?
857. I did.
(Mr Vaz) Then I am sure I did. I cannot remember,
I am sorry.
Mr Bottomley: The second thing is, and
I do not want to pursue it, but when Mr Vaz says that none of
us would want to do this, speaking for myself I would. Thirdly,
I think I am right in saying, and I put this in an interrogative
way, when an election starts and a candidate has been lawfully
nominated and the nomination has been accepted, I think I am right
in saying that only the agent is authorised to spend money. I
ask the question, did these sums of money which have been discussed
of about £17,500 go into the election account or into a different
Mr Campbell-Savours: Fund.
858. No, account.
(Mr Vaz) I am sorry, I do not know because I am not
going to answer questions on electoral law. I do not know, Mr
859. It is not a question of law, it is a question
(Mr Vaz) I do not know. I do not know the answer.
He is asking a question on electoral law and I do not know. Mr
Bottomley, it would be quite wrong of me to even comment on what
happened during an election campaign in 1997. I do not know. I
do not know if anyone sat around this table apart from you will
know what happened during an election campaign. I can tell you
this, the accounts were properly done and the accounts were properly
declared, and that is what the issue is.
2 Note by witness: My agent signed the return
as is the correct procedure. A Member is only required to sign
the return when he does not employ an agent. Back