Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


(2)  The complaints against Mr Vaz involving Mr Jaffer Kapasi

339.  There are three sources of evidence that payments were made by Mr Kapasi to Mr Vaz. These are: Mr Kapasi himself talking in taped conversations with The Sunday Telegraph; Mr Kapasi speaking under similar circumstances to The Sunday Times; and Sir Peter Soulsby, the former leader of Leicester City Council.

340.  A common thread in Mr Kapasi's conversations with both newspapers is the explanation he gives for the payments he says were made by him (and representatives of other religious groups in Leicester), namely that they were in return for assistance with land allocation, and possibly planning issues, in connection with proposals for the construction of a complex of religious buildings in the Hamilton area of Leicester. For some of the relevant period, Mr Vaz's mother, Mrs Merlyn Vaz, was chairman of the relevant Council committee, the Property Services Committee.[180]

341.  Mr Kapasi's remarks to the two newspapers are, however, less consistent so far as the amounts of the alleged payments and their method of delivery are concerned. To The Sunday Telegraph Mr Kapasi speaks of a £500 cash donation to Mr Vaz's election fund in 1991-1992, delivered in an envelope to Mr Vaz's office. To The Sunday Times Mr Kapasi describes three cheques totalling, he thinks, £1,500 during the period 1992-1996, two of which were drawn on Mr Kapasi's own account and one on the account of the Dawoodi community. Of the three cheques, which were either posted to Mr Vaz or handed to him, two were made payable to Mr Vaz personally and one to a charity nominated by him, according to Mr Kapasi.

342.  Sir Peter Soulsby's evidence during my interview with him is that Mr Kapasi told him he was asked to pay £1,000 by both Mr Vaz and his mother in return for a favourable decision on land allocation by the Council committee chaired by Mrs Vaz senior. Again according to Sir Peter, Mr Kapasi told him that in the event only £500 was paid—and to Mrs Vaz senior, rather than to Mr Vaz himself.

343.  Sir Peter's evidence to me is corroborated by his own contemporaneous note of a telephone conversation he had with Mr Kapasi in April 1994 in which Mr Kapasi had indicated his willingness to speak on the record about payments allegedly made to Mr Vaz by religious groups in Leicester. Sir Peter was so concerned by what Mr Kapasi had told him that he wrote to the then Town Clerk, Mr Price Jones. Mr Price Jones confirms that he received Sir Peter's letter but says that a reference to the police was not considered appropriate in the absence of any person willing to come forward to make a formal complaint.

344.  All the allegations relating to payments by Mr Kapasi to Mr Vaz are rejected both by Mr Vaz and two of the religious groups, including the Dawoodi community.

345.  For his part, Mr Kapasi—despite what he is recorded on tape as saying to the two newspapers—now vehemently denies making any payments to Mr Vaz, with the exception of a donation of £52 to the Sahara Trust, a charity associated with Mr Vaz. Mr Kapasi has gone to the length of incorporating his denial into two sworn statutory declarations.

346.  I have found extremely difficult the task of assessing Mr Kapasi's evidence and, in particular, of deciding what weight to attach to his conflicting statements to The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph, on the one hand, and to me, on the other. Mr Kapasi's justification for making allegations to the two newspapers which he now categorically states to be untrue is that he was put under pressure by the journalists on different occasions and that, in order to get rid of them, he told them what he thought they wanted to hear.

347.  I find this explanation unconvincing, for a number of reasons.

348.  First, there is no indication from the transcripts of excessive pressure being applied to Mr Kapasi—beyond what one would expect of journalists seeking to obtain a story. Certainly there is no evidence of any inducement, financial or otherwise, to Mr Kapasi to make false allegations.

349.  Second, whilst Mr Kapasi's purported motive for telling the journalists lies (for such, in effect, he now claims them to have been) might carry plausibility in relation to one occasion, he kept up the same pretence, if his account is to be believed, over the course of several separate conversations with the two newspapers. It might have been expected, following the first conversation when he knew what the journalists were after, that he would have refused to talk to them any further if he was concerned about the possible consequences of co-operating with them.

350.  Third, Mr Kapasi's claim that he was, in effect, humouring the two newspapers will not do as a response to Sir Peter Soulsby's evidence to me. On its own, this evidence might be challenged as being merely Sir Peter's account of what others had said to him about payments allegedly demanded by Mr Vaz in return for decisions on the allocation of council land. However, it is corroborated by contemporaneous documentary evidence in the form both of Sir Peter's file note of his telephone conversation with Mr Kapasi and of his letter to the then Town Clerk. It is true that no further action was taken because none of those allegedly involved in making payments to Mr Vaz was willing to come forward. But this does not, in my view, undermine the evidential importance of Sir Peter's contemporaneous note and letter as expressions of his own concern both over what he had been told by Mr Kapasi directly and what he had heard from others about the alleged payments.

351.  Mr Vaz has sought to challenge Sir Peter's credibility as a witness by claiming that he was engaged in a long running feud with Mr Vaz, and in particular, that he was embittered by Mr Vaz's success in defeating him for the Labour Party nomination in Leicester East for the 1987 general election. I have, indeed, received a variety of evidence which suggests that of the many personal rivalries endemic in the Leicester East Constituency Party at that time a clash between Sir Peter and Mr Vaz was undoubtedly one. On the other hand, Sir Peter has not sought to disguise this fact—quite the reverse. He has gone out of his way to ensure that I was not in any doubt about the difficulties in his relationship with Mr Vaz over many years. This, in my view, in not the action of someone who is actuated by malice or revenge and I have seen no sign of such motivation in any of Sir Peter's dealings with me during this inquiry.

352.  A further reason for treating Mr Kapasi's current position with some scepticism is the manner in which he tells The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph journalists that he will publicly deny the allegations he has just made to them concerning Mr Vaz. He will do this, he says, not because the allegations are untrue, but because he does not wish to let himself in for any further trouble. For example, Mr Syal of The Sunday Telegraph, referring to the fact that as part of my investigation I had already put certain written questions to Mr Kapasi, asks him:

    "She's written to you and asked you to respond; are you going to lie?"

    Mr Kapasi replies:

    "Well, I'll have to make that decision later, but you see, as I said, I don't want to get involved at all in any of this."

353.  I have received no direct evidence that Mr Vaz actively took steps to influence the allocation of land for religious purposes. However, a number of witnesses have suggested that his mother's chairmanship of the Property Services Committee provided a ready vehicle for this purpose.[181] Neither Sir Peter Soulsby nor Mr Kapasi (in his original remarks to the two newspapers) is alone in maintaining that Mrs Vaz senior expected to be paid in return for favourable decisions by her committee and that, with this in mind, she frequently made approaches to the various religious groups. The evidence of Mr Attwal,[182] for example, supports these claims. And Mr Asmal says that Mrs Vaz was also in the habit of approaching members of the business community for contributions towards Mr Vaz's election expenses.

354.  Mr Kapasi's credibility has not been enhanced by the approach adopted by him and his legal advisers toward my inquiry. As I have already set out at some length,[183] my attempts to put written questions to Mr Kapasi or, if he preferred, to arrange a meeting with him, were met with a constant stream of objections and obstacles—some logistical, some procedural. Even the intervention of the Committee, in the form of a letter to Mr Kapasi from its Chairman, did not appear to have any effect on Mr Kapasi's approach. After more than two months of fruitless exchanges, I was obliged to conclude that Mr Kapasi was unwilling to come to see me. When I wrote to him to give him a final opportunity to comment on the evidence and information at variance with his own (revised) account, he merely sent me a second statutory declaration reaffirming the first.

355.  The inconsistencies in Mr Kapasi's evidence, the unconvincing nature of his explanation for making untrue allegations to the two newspapers, and the damage to his credibility caused by his conduct towards the inquiry all have to be set against the fact that he has made two statutory declarations denying that he ever made payments to Mr Vaz.[184] This cannot have been a decision taken lightly by Mr Kapasi, who holds high public office as Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire: the penalty for knowingly signing such a declaration containing a falsehood can be a term of imprisonment.[185]

356.  For this reason, and others to which I have already alluded, I have been unable to reach a conclusion on the allegations against Mr Vaz which relate to Mr Kapasi. I would therefore recommend the Committee to take evidence from Mr Kapasi on oath and to consider using its powers to order the production of his bank statements and other records, including those of the Dawoodi community.

(3)  The allegations against Mr Vaz involving Mr Mustapha Kamal

(a)  The alleged payments of £8 per month to Mr Vaz

357.  In his original statement Mr Kamal says that for four years, starting in either 1987 or 1988, he made monthly payments of £8 by standing order in response to a request by Mr Vaz, directed to all sitting Labour councillors, to contribute towards the costs of running "his office from 144 Uppingham Road, Leicester." Mr Kamal adds that he is unsure whether every Labour councillor "issued similar instructions to their banks or building societies."

358.  The documentary evidence subsequently provided by Mr Kamal's bank, broadly confirms Mr Kamal's evidence, although the payments lasted for less than two years and were initially set at £16 rather than £8 a month. The standing order was in favour of Leicester East Labour Party; but unfortunately the records which would have enabled more details of the payee's account to be established have been destroyed.

359.  Mr Kamal's account is also partly supported by the evidence of Mr and Mrs Stuttard, who at the relevant time were officers of the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party. Mr Stuttard says he attended a Labour party meeting at which serving councillors were asked to make a contribution of, he believes, £8 a month, although he thinks these payments were intended as contributions to Mr Vaz's election fighting fund rather than for his constituency office. Mr Stuttard adds that a similar request was made by Mr Vaz in person at several other meetings, that he [Mr Stuttard] refused to make a payment and that Mr Vaz subsequently visited him at his home to complain that he was the only councillor who "wouldn't do what he was told." There is, however, one important difference of timing between the evidence of Mr Kamal and Mr Stuttard, in that the latter says that Mr Vaz made his demands during 1997 or 1998.

360.  Mrs Stuttard endorses her husband's reference to frequent requests—some by Mr Vaz personally—for councillors to make regular contributions to a fighting fund associated with Mr Vaz. She also states that she was unable to carry out her duties as auditor of the Constituency Party's accounts because they were of such poor quality. And asked whether that problem in any way related to Mr Vaz, she says: "Well, he does always tend to be tied up with the officers of the constituency, but I can't say any more than that."

361.  The evidence of both Mr Kamal and Mr and Mrs Stuttard on this point is supported by Sir Peter Soulsby, who maintains that he heard councillors complaining about having to contribute to Mr Vaz's office expenses.

362.  Although Mr Kamal's standing order was set up in favour of the Labour Party as a body, there is no doubt that he believed the purpose of his contributions to be helping Mr Vaz to meet the running costs of his office. Moreover, Mr Kamal is clear that it was Mr Vaz's personal (ie Parliamentary) office, established at his house at 144 Uppingham Road, Leicester, which he was supporting—not the Labour Party constituency office, which for a time was housed in the adjoining property owned by Mr Vaz, at 146 Uppingham Road.

363.  Mr Vaz has strongly denied ever receiving personally any payments from Mr Kamal and ever making any request to Labour councillors for such regular contributions. Other Labour councillors to whom I wrote also deny making any payments to Mr Vaz.

364.  There is no doubt that over a period of about two years in the late 1980s Mr Kamal committed himself, at Mr Vaz's request, to make regular monthly payments to a Labour Party account which he believed would be used to support Mr Vaz's personal office. But, in the absence of a detailed examination of the Leicester East Labour Party's accounts, I am unable to conclude that Mr Kamal's donations were actually transferred from the constituency Party's general funds into Mr Vaz's office account or that they were otherwise applied to the support of Mr Vaz in his capacity as a Member of Parliament. On the basis of the evidence before me, therefore, there is no issue of registration on which I am required to reach a judgment. The Committee may, however, wish to consider using its powers to send for the relevant Labour Party accounts, since they have not been provided to me.

b)  Improper pressure on witnesses

365.  The Standards and Privileges Committee is already aware of my concern over attempts to apply improper pressure on Mr Kamal during my inquiry. I reported to the Committee in May that Mr Kamal had received a letter from Mr Colin Hall, Chairman of Leicester East Constituency Labour Party, enclosing a copy of Mr Kamal's letter to me of 17 April 2000 and threatening him with disciplinary action unless he either provided detailed evidence in support of his allegations or withdrew them. The Committee took immediate action in relation to Mr Hall's conduct both by reassuring Mr Kamal about the protection due to him as a witness to my inquiry and by summoning Mr Hall to appear before them.

366.  This was clearly an attempt, for whatever motive, to discourage Mr Kamal from giving evidence to my inquiry. I make no further comment, save to report that Mr Vaz was the only person to whom I sent a copy of Mr Kamal's letter of 17 April and that it can hardly have been in Mr Kamal's interests for that letter to be disclosed to others without his or my authority.[186]

c)  Mr Kamal's other allegations

367.  In relation to three of the other allegations made by Mr Kamal in his letter to me of 17 April I have received no evidence which would justify my making any further investigations. Those allegations are:

    —   that Councillor Piara Singh Clair (a Leicester City councillor) procured donations of £10,000 to Mr Vaz's election campaign from the Sikh business community

    —   that Bipin Jewellers of Leicester donated a car towards Mr Vaz's election campaign

    —   that in the mid 1990s, Mr John Thomas, the secretary of Leicester East Constituency Labour Party moved into 146 Uppingham Road, Leicester (the property owned by Mr Vaz adjacent to his house at 144 Uppingham Road); and that Mr Thomas was in receipt of housing benefit and jobseeker's allowance (the implication being that some of that money was paid in rent to Mr Vaz).

The 50 Club

368.  The Club[187] was a raffle, variously named after the number of members, whose purpose was to raise funds for Leicester East Constituency Labour Party and, in particular, to finance premises and a local organiser's post. I have received no evidence to support Mr Kamal's central allegation concerning the 50 Club, namely that the money left after distributing the prizes was, in effect, missing. But my investigation of Mr Kamal's allegation has, nevertheless, raised some concerns about Mr Vaz's role in the 50 Club.

369.  Mr Vaz denies any involvement in the Club's financial management and says that any questions on that subject should be addressed to the Treasurer. He adds that he has never received any payment from the Labour Party. I have no reason to doubt this statement, in so far as it applies to Mr Vaz personally. Nevertheless Mr Vaz's association with the 50 Club in the minds of Mr Kamal, Mr Gratrix (the then Constituency Labour Party chairman) and others has echoes of the concerns expressed in relation to other issues over the difficulty of distinguishing Mr Vaz's own finances from those of the Party—as Mr Gratrix himself put it. It is not surprising that Mr Vaz is identified with the 50 Club since it was he who first wrote to Party members about it and he seemed, from the wording of the letter for which he sought Mr Gratrix's approval, that he was happy to take credit for the lottery's launch.

370.  I was therefore concerned by Mr Vaz's attempt to distance himself from the scheme when I sought information about it and by his lack of co-operation in supplying me with the relevant accounts, or alternatively in telling me from whom I could obtain them.

371.  One of the twin purposes of the 50 Club was to raise money to fund premises for the constituency offices. Up to that point the offices had been based in Mr Vaz's house at 146 Uppingham Road.[188] For that reason I wished to be sure that no money from the premises fund had been spent on improvements at 146 Uppingham Road which, although ostensibly intended to assist the Party, could have constituted a benefit to Mr Vaz through, for example, the enhancement of the value of the property or the payment of rent. As with the 50 Club, my attempts to gain a sight of the accounts of the premises fund met a series of obstacles and the passing of responsibility from one person to another.

372.  Irrespective of the premises fund and the location of the constituency office, there is, an issue of registration which arises in connection with Mr Vaz's properties and which, although not the subject of a specific complaint, I cannot overlook. Mr Vaz has a home in Middlesex which, I understand, is his main residence, as well as the two adjoining houses in Leicester. Under Category 8 of the Register (Land and Property) a Member is required to register "any land or property, other than any home used for the personal residential purposes of the Member or the Member's spouse, which has a substantial value or from which a substantial income is derived." This means that, of the three properties Mr Vaz owns, he was entitled not to register his London house and one of the two houses in Leicester (144 Uppingham Road) since they are both used for his "personal residential purposes". In fact Mr Vaz sought advice in 1994 as to whether he needed to register number 144 and decided, reasonably, not to do so. But the third property, 146 Uppingham Road, Leicester, does not fulfil the criterion for exemption and should therefore have been registered, assuming (which I have no reason to doubt) that it has "a substantial value".

(4)  The complaints against Mr Vaz involving Mr Bakshish Attwal

373.  Mr Attwal acknowledges having made two payments to Mr Vaz, or for purposes linked with him. These are a payment of £1,000 in 1992 and a further one of £250 in January 1995.

374.  The payment of £1,000 is substantiated by a photocopy of the relevant cheque stub, dated 31 December 1992 on which Mr Vaz is recorded as the payee. A copy of Mr Attwal's bank statement shows that the cheque was transferred to the payee's account on 8 January 1993. Mr Attwal says this money was intended as a donation by his company to the Labour Party. He further states that the donation was requested by Mr Vaz and collected by Mrs Vaz senior, although no acknowledgement of its receipt was apparently made by the Party.

375.  When asked why, if the cheque for £1,000 was intended for the Labour Party, it was made out to Mr Vaz, Mr Attwal offers no explanation but simply repeats his original statement regarding the purpose of the donation. Mr Vaz denies receiving the payment himself and says that the Labour Party has confirmed its acceptance of a donation collected by Mr Thomas from Mr Attwal in 1991-92. Mr Attwal challenges Mr Vaz's account, claiming that there is "no question" of any such payment having been made to the Labour Party through Mr Thomas.

376.  The tape-recorded conversation between Mr Attwal and The Sunday Telegraph, corroborates Mr Attwal's evidence to me that the £1,000 payment was intended as a donation to the Labour Party and that the cheque was collected from his office by Mr Vaz's mother. But according to The Sunday Telegraph Mr Attwal had changed his story compared with what he had told the newspaper's journalists during an earlier, unrecorded meeting with them in Leicester. Originally, if The Sunday Telegraph is to be believed, Mr Attwal alleged that he made a series of payments by cheque to Mr Vaz personally, which were collected by Mr Vaz's mother, but he made it clear that he did not wish that information to be published and would deny the payments if he was approached about them.

377.  There is some support for the newspaper's version of events in the transcript of the tape-recorded conversation with Mr Attwal during which Mr Hastings[189] puts to him a purported written note of part of their previous meeting when Mr Attwal allegedly said: "Don't speak to me about that bloody man [Mr Vaz]. 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." Mr Attwal sidesteps this challenge from Mr Hastings, but later in the exchanges he states with some certainty that "there was only one cheque."

378.  The words attributed to Mr Attwal by Mr Hastings are of concern in so far as they echo a pattern evident from Mr Kapasi's dealings with both The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times—namely the making of allegations during a supposedly private conversation coupled with a statement that they will be denied in public. There is a difference between the two cases, however. The more wide-ranging allegations against Mr Vaz which Mr Attwal is claimed to have made were not tape-recorded by the newspaper. The only evidence for them is Mr Hastings's notes. But Mr Attwal neither repeats nor endorses those allegations during his taped conversation with Mr Hastings. Whether Mr Attwal did, in fact, admit to making a series of payments to Mr Vaz must, on that basis, remain unresolved.

379.  Although Mr Attwal says the cheque for £1,000 was made out to Mr Vaz, and the stub indicates as much, without access to the cheque itself (or to the records of the account into which it was paid) there can be no certainty that this is the case. Mr Attwal insists that Mr Vaz was the payee, but it is possible that, in saying this, he is simply making the connection in his mind between the purpose of the donation and the fact that it was solicited by Mr Vaz. This could also explain why Mr Vaz's name appears on the counterfoil.

380.  Although the likelihood is that the cheque was intended by Mr Attwal as a donation to the Labour Party rather than Mr Vaz personally, I remain puzzled by a number of aspects of the payment, notably:

    —   why, assuming the cheque was indeed made out to Mr Vaz, should this have been the case if the intended recipient was the Labour Party?

    —   why does Mr Vaz claim that a donation from Mr Attwal was received by the Labour Party in the financial year 1991-1992[190] when Mr Attwal's cheque is dated 31 December 1992?

    —   why does Mr Vaz maintain that this payment was collected from Mr Attwal by Councillor Thomas when Mr Attwal denies that this was the case?

381.  In the absence of answers to these questions, which the Committee may wish to pursue, I am not in a position to reach a firm conclusion on this aspect of the complaint, although the benefit of any doubt must be given to Mr Vaz.

382.  For several months of my inquiry Mr Attwal persistently denied having made any payment either directly to Mr Vaz or for any purpose associated with him, other than the £1,000 donation to the Labour Party. It was only when I sent him a copy of the letter of thanks for the £250 donation to the premises fund written to him by Councillor Thomas in January 1995 that Mr Attwal acknowledged that he had made such a payment. But he continues to maintain that he has no knowledge of the purposes of, or activities funded by, the premises fund, or that he was ever a member or patron of the fund (or the 50 Club). The latter statement by Mr Attwal is odd given the letter dated 10 January 1995 from Councillor Thomas to Mr Attwal thanking him for agreeing to become a patron of the 50 Club.

383.  Councillor Thomas says the Premises Fund was set up in 1995 by the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party "to enable it to run offices". This decision was taken in order to rectify the unsatisfactory arrangement whereby Councillor Thomas, following his election as Leicester East Constituency Labour Party secretary in February 1992, had in effect run the constituency office from his bedroom. It was in order to raise money for the premises fund that the 50 Club was established. The surplus left after prizes had been paid out was used to finance the Constituency Party's running expenses. Mr Vaz had agreed to make available, free of charge, office space in the ground floor of his otherwise unoccupied house at 146 Uppingham Road—next door to his Parliamentary Office which he operated from his home at number 144. Councillor Thomas adds that all the expenses of the Constituency Party office, including utility bills, were settled directly by the Party, rather than by payment to Mr Vaz.

384.  Councillor Thomas further states that the premises fund was closed in mid 1996 as a result of a combination of his wife's illness and a falling off in members, and thus in income from the 50 Club. And Councillor Thomas says that, as far as he is aware, the Constituency Labour Party has never contributed to the running of Mr Vaz's Parliamentary office.

385.  I have received no evidence which would justify a conclusion on my part that there was any overlap or blurring of the line between the funding of the Constituency Labour Party office through the 50 Club and expenditure on Mr Vaz's own Parliamentary office, even though for a time they were housed in adjacent premises. Nor has any evidence been provided to me that Mr Vaz received any registrable benefit from the Premises Fund or the 50 Club. I remain concerned, however, that those officers and members of the Constituency Labour Party who have given evidence about the operation of the Club appear to have found difficulty in gaining access to accounts and other records and in disentangling Mr Vaz's personal finances from those of the Party and that neither Mr Vaz nor the current officers of the Constituency Labour Party have provided records of the relevant accounts in order to set the matter to rest.

(5)  The complaint against Mr Vaz by Mr Paul Gosling

386.  The complaint made by Mr Gosling against Mr Vaz centres on the donation of £5,000 made to Mr Vaz by Control Securities Ltd (a shareholder and landlord of the failed bank, BCCI, according to Mr Gosling) during the financial year ending on 31 March 1992.

387.  The three prongs of Mr Gosling's complaint are:

a)  Mr Vaz's Register Entries

388.  Mr Vaz registered the fact that he had received a donation from Control Securities Ltd[191] in 1991. There are, however, a number of aspects of the relevant Register entry, including those raised specifically by Mr Gosling, which are unusual and for which I sought an explanation.

389.  The first relates to the timing of Mr Vaz's initial Register entry. The donation was made by Control Securities in the financial year ending 31 March 1992—Mr Vaz himself places it in 1991. Yet the first reference to the benefit in the Register did not appear until March 1993, a minimum of 15 months later. Members are, of course, required to notify any new interest within four weeks of its acquisition. I have not received any explanation for this delay from Mr Vaz.

390.  The second unusual feature is Mr Vaz's description of the purpose of the donation. In their annual report and accounts Control Securities record this payment as being a donation to Mr Vaz's election fund. Mr Vaz, by contrast, states in his Register entry that the donation was used as a contribution towards the cost of producing a report and bulletin for the Asian Community on the work of the Immigration and Nationality Department. The two descriptions are not necessarily mutually incompatible. Mr Vaz may have regarded it as consistent with the purpose of a donation to his election fund that the money was directed to any project which he saw as furthering his electoral prospects. On the other hand, the words "K Vaz—Election Fund" are specific and the donation of £5,000 represented a very high percentage of Mr Vaz's eventual declared expenditure for the 1992 General Election.[192] Although his Register entry did not reflect this fact, it is not clear what Mr Vaz stood to gain by using the description he did. The source of the donation was clearly stated and thus, in keeping with the underlying purpose of the Register, the provider of a benefit which "might reasonably be thought by others" to influence Mr Vaz's conduct as a Member.

391.  The third unorthodox feature of Mr Vaz's registration of Control Securities is the precise wording used to refer to the company in his entry. When he first registered the donation in March 1993 under "Control Securities" it was in an unpublished (but publicly accessible) print-out. By the time the entry appeared in the next printed edition of the Register in January 1994 Mr Vaz had changed the name to "Control Ltd".

392.  Mr Gosling sees a sinister motive for the change. He claims that Mr Vaz was attempting to obscure the real identity of the donor because of Control Securities' links with BCCI, with which Mr Vaz was involved through the campaign to obtain a fair settlement for the bank's creditors and former employees.

393.  Mr Gosling's theory is credible only to the extent that Mr Vaz's decision to seek the then Registrar's advice in 1995 about the correctness of his Register entry[193] roughly coincided with inquiries by journalists, including Mr Gosling, into Mr Vaz's links with Control Securities. By then, of course, the Register entry was spent, since it related to a one-off benefit acquired four years earlier, which did not require continuous registration.

394.  Although I have received no adequate explanation from Mr Vaz as to why he changed his entry from "Control Securities" to "Control", I find Mr Gosling's argument unpersuasive. In the first place, the change in the company's name was so marginal as to defeat its purpose—if that was to obscure the connection with Control Securities. Second, the shortened version of the name appears to have been in common use, certainly within the company, as evidenced by the letter from Mr Qayyum of the BCCI Campaign. Mr Gosling may therefore be mistaken in thinking that the company would not have been recognised as Control Ltd. Finally, although Mr Vaz's entry using the full name did not appear in a printed Register, it had been recorded in a print-out which was available for public inspection, so Mr Vaz cannot be accused of hiding his association with Control Securities Ltd.

395.  In my view, Mr Vaz fulfilled the registration requirements by recording in the Register a financial interest with Control Securities Ltd/Control. The various unusual features of the way in which he carried out the registration do not alter that conclusion.

b)  The alleged conflict of interest

396.  Mr Gosling alleges that by virtue of his financial interest in Control Securities and his role in the BCCI campaign Mr Vaz acquired a conflict of interest. He bases this claim on the proposition that Mr Vaz could not realistically keep separate in his mind—and therefore in his dealings with Ministers, fellow Members and others—his promotion of the cause of BCCI creditors and his receipt of a benefit in the form of a donation from a shareholder and landlord of the bank.

397.  In my view, Mr Gosling is straining the definition of a conflict of interest beyond the point where it is meaningful. There has to be some doubt as to whether Control Securities had any direct financial link with BCCI, other than that of landlord. Mr Qayyum of the BCCI Campaign Committee says Control Securities was "never a shareholder or director" of the bank. He adds that, in any case, the campaign "did not exist to benefit shareholders but to make them responsible for their actions". Mr Qayyum also points out that Control Securities was never a net creditor of BCCI and had no involvement in, or contact with, the campaign.

398.  On the basis of Mr Qayyum's evidence, which I have no reason to question, I agree with him that "there was no conflict of interest between Mr Vaz's support for the creditors and former employees of BCCI and any support they [Control Securities Ltd] may have given to any project associated with Mr Vaz".

399.  Commenting on Mr Qayyum's letter, Mr Gosling claims that an improper financial relationship between Control Securities Ltd and BCCI had been demonstrated by the conviction of Mr Virani, the chairman and chief executive of Control Securities Ltd, for false accounting in relation to transactions between the two companies. In so far as Mr Gosling has established that Mr Virani was involved with both BCCI and Control Securities Ltd he has not shown how this creates a conflict of interest for Mr Vaz. No evidence of any financial relationship between Mr Vaz and Mr Virani has been produced.

400.  On this basis I am satisfied that no conflict of interest of Mr Vaz's part arose from his relationship with BCCI and Control Securities.

c)  Declaration of Interest

401.  The question whether Mr Vaz ought to have declared his interest with Control Securities when raising BCCI-related issues in the House or with Ministers and officials was first brought up by Mr Gosling when responding to the letter from Mr Qayyum.[194]

402.  The fact that Mr Vaz had received a donation from Control Securities Ltd was registered (although I have expressed some concern about the timing and form of the Register entry). The test for declaration is, of course, somewhat broader than that for registration. Because there was a landlord and tenant relationship between Control Securities Ltd and BCCI there was perhaps a marginal case for Mr Vaz to disclose his financial interest in Control Securities Ltd when taking part in debates or delegations on BCCI-related issues.[195] But Mr Vaz's failure to do so was not, in these circumstances, a serious omission.

180   See paragraph 353. Back

181   Mrs Vaz was elected as a councillor in 1989 and was chairman of the Property Services Committee in 1991-92 and 1992-93. In his response paper, Mr Vaz maintains that since the relevant land allocation decisions were not taken until January 1994, Mrs Vaz could not have influenced them since she ceased to be chairman of the Property Services Committee in May 1993. Back

182   See paragraphs 251 and 252. Back

183   See paragraphs 150 and 151.  Back

184   With the exception of the £52 payment to the Sahara Trust (see paragraph 117 (ii)).  Back

185   Under the Perjury Act 1911. Back

186   For Mr Vaz's comments on this paragraph, see paragraphs 44 and 45 of his response to this memorandum in draft (Annex 56A). See also paragraphs 473 to 475 of this memorandum. Back

187   Mr Kamal refers to a "Club 200". The lottery was never known by that name, but it is clear that Mr Kamal is referring to the 50 Club. One witness has spoken of a "100 Club". Back

188   As a result of inaccurate information supplied by Mr Vaz's solicitors, on the basis of which this part of my memorandum was drafted, the references in paragraphs 371 and 372 to the uses of the two properties were wrongly transposed. For a more detailed explanation see paragraphs 244 and 479 to 482. Back

189   One of The Sunday Telegraph's journalists. Back

190   Mr Vaz challenges my interpretation of his evidence on this point (see Annex 56A, paragraph 51). See also paragraphs 492 and 493 of this memorandum. Back

191   In this Register entry the company was actually referred to as Control Securities plc Back

192   £6,180.81 (Source: Return of the Expenses of each Candidate at the General Election of April 1992, House of Commons Paper No. 603 of Session 1992-93).  Back

193   The specific point on which Mr Vaz sought advice was whether his entry needed to reflect the fact that Control Securities was now trading under the name Ascot. Back

194   See paragraph 281. Back

195   See paragraph 283. Back

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