Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report



248.  Amongst the names supplied to me by The Sunday Telegraph[159] of people they had interviewed in Leicester about allegations of payments to Mr Vaz was that of Mr Bakshish Attwal, a businessman from the city.

249.  Having been assured by The Sunday Telegraph that Mr Attwal had information which might lead me to conduct further investigations I wrote to him on 14 March 2000 (Annex 160) to ask whether he had ever made payments or provided other support to Mr Vaz in his capacity as a Member, or whether he knew of any other person who had done so. Also on 14 March 2000 I wrote to Mr Vaz putting the same allegation to him.[160]

250.  Mr Attwal replied on 20 March 2000 (Annex 161), stating that his company, B S Attwall[161] & Co Ltd, had donated "a sum of £1,000 by cheque, to the Labour Party through Mr Keith Vaz MP on 31 December 1992."

251.  After I had written to both Mr Attwal and Mr Vaz I received from The Sunday Telegraph a copy of the transcript of two telephone conversations with Mr Attwal, recorded on 18 March 2000 (Annex 4B). The newspaper explained that these conversations, and others, with Mr Attwal were followed by a face to face meeting with him in Leicester on 2 March 2000. During that meeting (which was not taped), Mr Attwal allegedly told The Sunday Telegraph journalists, Mr Chris Hastings and Mr Rajeev Syal, that he had made a series of payments by cheque to Mr Vaz, made out in his name, which were collected by his mother. According to the newspaper Mr Attwal had repeatedly asked for this information to be kept out of any article it might publish and he had added that he would deny the payments if he was approached about them.

252.  In the first recorded conversation Mr Attwal maintained that he had made only one payment to Mr Vaz, which was intended for the Labour Party and which was collected by Mr Vaz's mother. But he later added that he had "given out four or five cheques" to Mrs Vaz senior. The relevant passages of the conversation were as follows:—

"BA Actually I have checked my records. That payment I made was one cheque and it was made to the Labour Party through Mr Vaz.
CHYou told me that you had written the cheque to Mr Vaz?
BAIt was given to Mr Vaz. But it was for the Labour Party. It is written in the books. It was a donation to the Labour Party.
CHSir, you told us you made a number of payments. I am willing to accept your memory may have changed and you now remember it's one. But you were adamant those payments were to Mr Vaz. You actually said yourself his mother came around to the factory.
BAShe picked up the cheque, that's it.
CHI have a written note of the conversation. You said 'Don't speak to me about that bloody man. His mother used to come around to the factory all the time begging for money. I must have given out four or five cheques. One for a thousand pounds others for other amounts. I can show you the records. We keep records. They were for Vaz personally. I remember once she came into the office, knelt down in front of me and said thank you. I said what are you doing. I am not a God or anything like that. She said thank you for getting Keith elected; we owe it to you.'
BAChris, I have got in the records and one payment was for a cheque and issued on that stub that this was a donation to the Labour Party and the cheque was I think, was in the name of Mr Vaz.
CHThe cheque was made out to Mr Vaz but you understood it was going to the Labour Party?
BA It was written there on the stub. We have got a record.
CHYou told Rajeev and I that the cheques were written to Mr Vaz.
BANot cheques, one cheque. This is seven or eight years ago— how can I remember?
CHThere is nothing wrong with writing a cheque out to Mr Vaz. The argument is whether Mr Vaz should have registered it in the Register of Members' Interests. That is not your problem.
CHI just want to be absolutely sure there was only one cheque.
BA One cheque only.
CHAnd that was written to Mr Vaz?
BAYes it was written to Mr Vaz but on the counterfoil it's already written that it was a donation to the Labour Party.
CHYes I know, but you wrote it to Mr Vaz.
BA Yes.
CH It was actually written to Mr Vaz, although you understood it was a donation for the Labour Party.
CH And you understand his mother came to collect it?
BA Yes.
CHIt was for a thousand pounds, no more than that?
BAIt was a thousand pounds."

253.  On 2 June 2000 Mr Attwal, in response to my request, provided me with a photocopy of a cheque stub No. 003086, dated 31 December 1992, for £1,000 (Annex 163). In the space for the payee there appeared "Keith Vaz" and underneath "Donation to the Labour Party."

254.  On 28 June I again wrote to Mr Attwal (Annex 164) asking whether the donation to which he had referred in his letter of 20 March was the only such payment he had made to or on behalf of Mr Vaz and whether that cheque was collected personally by Mr Vaz.

255.  In his reply, dated 30 June 2000 (Annex 165), Mr Attwal confirmed that he had made only one payment to the Labour Party and that, as he had said in his conversation with The Sunday Telegraph, the cheque had been collected in person by Mr Vaz's mother from Mr Attwal's office.

256.  I pursued the matter further in a letter, dated 5 July 2000 (Annex 166), asking Mr Attwal to whom the cheque itself had been made out (I had seen only a photocopy of the stub); whether the donation had been acknowledged; who had originally requested it; and why, if the donation was to the Labour Party, the cheque stub named Mr Vaz.

257.  Mr Attwal replied on 12 July 2000 (Annex 167) that:

    —   the cheque was made out to Mr Vaz, as demonstrated by the stub;

    —   no acknowledgement of the donation had been received;

    —   the donation had been requested orally by Mr Vaz.

258.  In reply to my question as to why the cheque was made out to Mr Vaz if it was intended as a donation to the Labour Party, Mr Attwal referred me to his answer to my first question. Mr Attwal included with his letter a copy of his bank statement showing that the cheque for £1,000 for which he had provided me with a copy of the stub was transferred to the payee's account on 8 January 1993.

259.  I also received evidence of a payment by Mr Attwal other than the cheque for £1,000. In a telephone call on 11 July 2000 (Annex 99), Mr Allan Gratrix, a former chairman of Leicester East Constituency Labour Party, told me that, on searching his records, he had found that a cheque for £250 had been donated by Mr Attwal towards "the [constituency] premises fund".

260.  The reference to the premises fund was explained in documents, copies of which were provided to me by Mr Gratrix (Annex 100). In a circular letter to Party members, dated June 1993, Mr Vaz announced the establishment in Leicester East of a new "100 Club Lottery",[162] the purpose of which was to "raise funds on a regular basis in order to obtain premises and to finance a permanent local organiser's post in the constituency".

261.  I wrote to Mr Attwal on 23 October 2000 (Annex 168) seeking his comments on Mr Gratrix's statement concerning an alleged donation of £250 by Mr Attwal to a premises fund. Mr Attwal, in a letter, dated 26 October 2000 (Annex 169), replied: "I do not remember making any such donation, nor do I know anyone by the name of Mr A A Gratrix".

262.  I wrote again to Mr Attwal on 8 November 2000 (Annex 170), enclosing copies of documents provided to me by Mr Gratrix consisting of :—

    —   an extract from Mr Gratrix's diary for 1995 showing for 9 January an entry "Visit Mr Attwal" and for 10 January an entry "Banked £260";

    —   a letter dated 10 January 1995 from Mr Thomas to Mr Attwal containing the following sentence:

    "Can I express our gratitude for your generous donation of £250 to our Constituency Premises Fund, as well as your agreement to become a patron of our 50 Club?"

263.  In a further letter to me, dated 21 November 2000 (Annex 171), Mr Attwal explained that the information I had provided to him about the date of the £250 payment had enabled him to trace in his records a photocopy of the relevant cheque stub, a copy of which he enclosed. The stub, numbered 007435 and dated 9 January 1995, read:

    "Leicester East CLP Premises Account
     Charity L740

    Mr Attwal did not indicate what was meant by the reference on the cheque stub to "charity L740." He added, however, that he had never been a member either of the 50 Club or the premises fund and had no idea about their activities or functions.

264.  Mr Gratrix had informed me that the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party treasurer at or around the time when the premises fund was established was Councillor Piara Singh Clair. I accordingly wrote to Councillor Singh Clair on 6 December 2001 asking him for details of the premises fund and, in particular, for copies of the relevant accounts. In his reply, dated 10 January 2001, Councillor Singh Clair refused to provide me with those documents, stating that they were available only to members of the constituency party.[163]

Mr Vaz's Response

265.  In his response, dated 19 March 2000 (Annex 19), to my letter of 14 March Mr Vaz told me:

266.  I put the latter point to Mr Attwal who, in a letter of 30 June 2000 (Annex 165), said:

"The question of any payment to him [Mr Thomas] does not arise."

267.  I followed up this apparent discrepancy between the evidence of Mr Vaz and Mr Attwal as part of the questionnaire I sent to Mr Vaz's solicitors in preparation for our meeting[164] on 3 July. Mr Vaz's replies to that question and to the others relating to Mr Attwal contained in the questionnaire, were as follows (Annex 36):—

    "Q27.  You have denied receiving a cheque from Mr Attwal made out in your name. How do you explain the fact that Mr Attwal has provided me with evidence of this payment in the form of a cheque stub, dated 31 December 1992, indicating that it was made out to you and was intended to be a donation to the Labour Party?

    A.  I have not seen the cheque stub and I cannot be expected to explain its contents. In any event your question admits that Mr Attwal was making a donation to the Labour Party. Your original question 10 from your letter of 14 March[165] refers to the 1997 General Election.

    Q28.  Can you provide me with evidence of what account that payment was paid into? Will you please provide me with the statements for the first six months of 1993 for all bank or building society accounts which you held during those months, or your authorisation so that I can obtain them direct from the bank or building society?

    A.  No. This was not a payment to me. According to your question 27 and the transcript in question 29 Mr Attwal confirms this.
    Q29.  Mr Attwal has told journalists from the Sunday Telegraph[166] that he made a £1,000 payment to you in the form of a cheque collected by your mother.

    His actual words on the tape were:

    "Actually I have checked my records. That payment I made was one cheque and it was made to the Labour Party through Mr Vaz."

    Later the journalist asks Mr Attwal:

    "... And you understand his mother came to collect it?"

    Mr Attwal:     "Yes".

    Sunday Telegraph:  "... It was for a thousand pounds, no more than that?"

    Mr Attwal:  "... It was a thousand pounds."

    Why should he say this if it is not true?

    A.  His actual words on tape (as quoted by you and not seen by me) are:

    "The payment made was one cheque and it was made to the Labour Party through Mr Vaz."

    Mr Thomas says he collected the cheque in his letter of 24 March.

    Q30.  You say that the Labour Party has confirmed that it received a donation from Mr Attwal in 1991-92 and that this was collected by Mr John Thomas, Secretary of the Leicester East party. For what sum was the payment and was it made in cash or by cheque? Please provide the evidence which supports this.

    A.  See my letter of 19 March point 10.[167] Mr Attwal had made only one donation. You have this evidence and refer to it in paragraph 27 above.

    Q31.  Did you either solicit or receive any other payment or benefit from Mr Attwal, whether for yourself personally, the Labour Party, your constituency offices or any charity or other organisation which you support or with which you have any association or interest?

    A.  If you have any evidence then you should put it before me and I will comment."

268.  The answers given by Mr Vaz to my written questions were contained in a letter from Bindmans, dated 5 July. On 4 July (Annex 35) I had informed Bindmans that Mr Attwal had appeared to deny having handed the cheque for £1,000 (or any other payment) to Mr Thomas.

269.  I invited Mr Vaz in letters dated 18 July 2000 (Annex 40), and 3 October 2000 (Annex 45), to comment on the copy of Mr Attwal's bank statement showing that the cheque for £1,000, for which he had previously provided a copy of the stub, was cashed on 7 July 1993.

270.  In his reply, contained in a letter from Bindmans dated 2 November 2000 (Annex 50), Mr Vaz said:—

    "As you are well aware, Mr Attwal has stated that he made a payment of £1,000.00 to the Labour Party. You have confirmation that this payment was received by the Labour Party. Mr Vaz has received no personal payment or benefit from Mr Attwal ... ... .

    There is no dispute that the payment by Mr Attwal was for and received by the Labour Party. Is there any evidence that the cheque was paid personally to Mr Vaz or that it was paid into a personal bank account of Mr Vaz?"

271.  In the same letter, Mr Vaz, responding to my invitation to him (Annex 45), to comment on Mr Gratrix's statement concerning an alleged donation of £250 by Mr Attwal to the Leicester East constituency premises fund, said that he was "aware of no payment made by Mr Attwal other than that referred to [ie the cheque for £1,000]."

159   See paragraphs 113 and 114. Back

160   See paragraph 265. Back

161   The spelling of Mr Attwal's surname differs from that of the name of the company. Back

162   This was the lottery referred to by Mr Kamal as "Club 200" (see paragraph 231 (iv)). Back

163   See my further memorandum of 15 January 2001 for copies of this correspondence. Back

164   See paragraph 19. Back

165   See paragraph 249. Back

166   See paragraph 252. Back

167   See paragraph 265. Back

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