Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 840 - 859)



  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 Mrs Filkin.

Shona McIsaac

  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.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  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 Hastings—Can I just explain to the Committee how this could happen to any one of you? Mr Campbell-Savours has in his entry in the register—just to give you an example of what has happened and how this is a non-issue—for 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?

Mr Foster

  845. Let me help. The reason I asked these questions—and I pre-warn there is no complaint—is 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 accountant—which we are funding extremely well; accountants and lawyers, with the exception of Mr Bindman! Can I say, I am not going to have my campaign—None 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 Party.
  (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.

Mr Bottomley

  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.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  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 certifying this.

Mr Bottomley

  855. I think Mr Vaz may want to reconsider whether or not he signed his election expenses return. I think it is likely he did.
  (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 he did.
  (Mr Vaz) Did you?

  857. I did.
  (Mr Vaz) Then I am sure I did. I cannot remember, I am sorry.[2]

  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 account?

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Fund.

Mr Bottomley

  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 Bottomley.

  859. It is not a question of law, it is a question of—
  (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

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