(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
(a) that Mr Vaz's Register entry was inaccurate
in that (i) after he first submitted it, he altered the entry
in order to disguise the "sensitive issue" of the donor's
identity and connections with BCCI and (ii) he did not properly
record the purposes of the donation
(b) that Mr Vaz's position as a leader of the
campaign to secure a settlement of the claims against BCCI by
its creditors and former employees created a conflict of interest
because of his financial relationship with Control Securities
(c) that Mr Vaz ought to have declared an interest
in Control Securities Ltd when raising BCCI-related issues in
the House or in dealings with Government departments.
a) Mr Vaz's Register Entries
388. Mr Vaz registered the fact that he had received
a donation from Control Securities Ltd
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 1992Mr 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 VazElection 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
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
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
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
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 purposeif 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
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
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 mindand therefore in his dealings with
Ministers, fellow Members and othershis 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
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.
But Mr Vaz's failure to do so was not, in these circumstances,
a serious omission.