Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report



403.  In accordance with the procedure agreed by the Committee, I provided Mr Vaz and his legal advisers with a copy of my memorandum in draft (sections I to VII together with the Annexes). Mr Vaz has, through his solicitor, submitted a formal response which is appended at Annex 56A. In his response Mr Vaz has pointed out some factual errors and has either commented upon, or has asked me to reconsider, certain matters in the memorandum.

404.  I have made the factual corrections suggested by Mr Vaz and I have taken fully into account his other observations in completing my memorandum and in drafting these conclusions.

405.  This has been a particularly unusual case in terms of: the difficulty I have experienced in obtaining information; the contradictory statements made by some witnesses; and the failure on the part of Mr Vaz to provide full and accurate answers to certain of my questions (in some cases, throughout the inquiry, in others until evidence was produced from other sources).

406.  As a result, my memorandum is, in a number of respects, not as complete as the Committee would expect, and as I would wish it to be. I have therefore drawn to the Committee's attention, as part of my conclusions, those areas in which, in my view, they should consider using their powers to summon witnesses and to call for papers in order to resolve any outstanding uncertainties or fill any remaining gaps in the evidence.

407.  For convenience, therefore, I deal with the complaints and allegations against Mr Vaz under the following three heading: complaints not upheld; complaints upheld; inquiries not completed.

408.  For the reasons given above, I have found it necessary, even where I have not upheld a complaint, to express some criticism of Mr Vaz's approach to my inquiry.

Mr Zaiwalla

(a)  Cash payments in 1993 or 1994

409.  The evidence of Mr Milne and Mr Brown that Mr Vaz received from Mr Zaiwalla payments in cash of £1,000 or £2,000 during 1993 or 1994 is inconclusive, given, in particular, its contradictory nature and its lack of corroboration.

410.  In the response paper (paragraph 13) Mr Vaz's solicitor, Mr Bindman, invites me to go further and to conclude instead that there is "no credible evidence" of any such payments. He points, in particular, to Mr Zaiwalla's letter of 10 July 2000 which, according to Mr Bindman, states that a thorough search of Mr Zaiwalla's records revealed no evidence of any payments to Mr Vaz other than those specifically mentioned in this memorandum.

411.  I cannot accept Mr Bindman's proposition. In view of the fact that at different points of my inquiry relevant information was retrieved from Mr Zaiwalla's records after I had previously been assured that an exhaustive search had drawn a blank, I am unwilling to conclude with the certainty demanded by Mr Bindman that no evidence of payments by Mr Zaiwalla[196] to Mr Vaz exists.[197]

412.  It is probable that Mr Zaiwalla made a donation of £1,000 to an Asian charity nominated by Mr Vaz. But, regrettably, I have not been provided by either Mr Vaz or Mr Zaiwalla with any information which would have enabled me to verify this with the charity concerned.

413.  In paragraph 14 of the response paper Mr Bindman says that "there is not the slightest reason why Mr Vaz should have any knowledge of the circumstances of any payment which was not to him or for his benefit."

414.  But Mr Zaiwalla is sure that the payment was for a purpose—a charity—directly connected in his mind with Mr Vaz (indeed proposed by him). For his part, Mr Vaz has accepted that he probably was the source of the suggested recipient of the donation. Moreover, it is clear from Mr Zaiwalla's oral evidence to me that, contrary to Mr Bindman's assertion, Mr Zaiwalla handed the cash to two people he assumed, on the basis of a telephone call made to him by Mr Vaz, to be either acting with Mr Vaz's authority or to be representing the charity, having been put in touch with him (Mr Zaiwalla) by Mr Vaz.

415.  I therefore remain surprised that neither Mr Zaiwalla nor Mr Vaz (but particularly the latter, as the subject of the complaint), have been able to produce any evidence which would have enabled me to track down the charity concerned.

416.  Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Mr Vaz benefited personally from this payment.

417.  In paragraph 12 of his response paper Mr Vaz's solicitor describes as incorrect my statement in paragraph 70 of this memorandum that Mr Vaz initially declined my offer to comment on Mr Brown's account.

418.  I disagree. The sequence of events is as follows:

    —   in his letter of 16 February 2000 to me (containing his initial response to Mr Milne's complaint, which mentioned Mr Brown only briefly) Mr Vaz denied knowing "anyone called Brown in connection with Mr Zaiwalla";

    —   I wrote to Mr Vaz on 22 February 2000 to give him an opportunity to comment on Mr Brown's detailed statement in his letter of 16 February which Mr Vaz had not previously seen;

    —   in a letter dated 29 February 2000 Mr Vaz told me he had nothing to add to his letter of 16 January;

    —   in a letter dated 13 March 2000 Mr Vaz responded to Mr Brown's specific allegations.

419.  This shows clearly that when first sent by me a copy of Mr Brown's statement of l6 February, Mr Vaz made no substantive response but referred me back to his earlier letter, which was written before he knew the gist of Mr Brown's allegations.

(b)  The Two Gala Dinners

420.  There is no evidence that Mr Vaz received a registrable benefit through Mr Zaiwalla's sponsorship of two gala dinners associated with the Asian business community and which were supported by Mr Vaz.

(c)  The payment of £250 in January 1993 and the payment of £200 in September 1994

421.  I am satisfied that the payment of £250 made by Mr Zaiwalla in January 1993 to Mr Vaz's "office account" was intended to support Mr Vaz's Parliamentary office. It therefore represented a form of sponsorship under Category 4 of the Register.

422.  I am also satisfied that the payment of £200 by Mr Zaiwalla towards the cost of producing a calendar associated with Mr Vaz constituted a benefit under the terms of Category 4 of the Register.

423.  However, Mr Vaz received advice from the Registrar in October 1994—after the second of the two payments by Mr Zaiwalla—that it was not necessary to register individual sponsorships of less than £500 in value. Although this advice related specifically to the placing of advertisements in the calendar, Mr Vaz was entitled to assume that it also applied to other forms of sponsorship and that, accordingly, neither of the two payments from Mr Zaiwalla (of £250 in January 1993 or of £200 in September 1994) was registrable.

424.  I am bound to express my concern, however, that Mr Vaz did not seek advice about the registrability of payments of this sort when the first one was made by Mr Zaiwalla. No doubt the advice he would have been given would have been identical to that which he subsequently received about advertisements in the calendar, so that Mr Vaz cannot reasonably be held to have failed to register a registrable benefit. But in my view he ought to have taken steps to ascertain whether the payment in January 1993 was registrable as soon as it was paid into his office account.

425.  In Mr Vaz's response paper (paragraphs 11, 12, 17 and 18), Mr Bindman maintains that Mr Vaz has been consistent throughout my inquiry in his denial of having received any payments from Mr Zaiwalla and that it is therefore unfair to criticise him either for modifying his evidence on that point, or for acknowledging the two smaller payments from Mr Zaiwalla only when he was provided with documentary evidence in the form of Mr Zaiwalla's cashbook.

426.  I disagree with Mr Bindman. My original question to Mr Vaz following receipt of Mr Milne's complaint was widely drawn. Mr Vaz's response in his letter of 7 February 2000 was expressed in terms of his having received no "cash payments of any kind from Mr Zaiwalla". Even on a narrow interpretation of the expression "cash payments" as meaning a payment in the form of notes or coins (as opposed to a payment in money rather than in kind) I would have expected Mr Vaz to have mentioned, for the sake of completeness and accuracy, any payments made by Mr Zaiwalla either to his office or for purposes, such as calendars, with which he was personally associated.

427.  In this context, I regard as misconceived Mr Bindman's assertion (paragraph 14 of Mr Vaz's response paper) that the contribution by Mr Zaiwalla towards the cost of producing a calendar linked to Mr Vaz did not constitute a benefit to Mr Vaz (and was therefore not worth mentioning in his initial response to my questions) because it was not paid directly to him.

428.  Mr Bindman has also questioned, on Mr Vaz's behalf, my statement in paragraph 305 of this memorandum that Mr Vaz, as my inquiry was drawing to a close, "came close to accepting" that the payment of £250 by Mr Zaiwalla was received by him or his office.

429.  My reason for using that term to describe Mr Vaz's action was straightforward. Having initially denied receiving cash payments of any kind from Mr Zaiwalla, Mr Vaz, when provided with the documentary evidence from Mr Zaiwalla's cashbook, accepted that the £250 payment may have been made for a purpose connected with him. But this acknowledgement was qualified both in its uncertainty and in its reference to possible other purposes for which the payment might have been made.

430.  I remain concerned that Mr Vaz has not felt able, even at this late stage of my inquiry, either to give a clear and unequivocal explanation for a donation which, according to Mr Zaiwalla's records, was paid into his (Mr Vaz's) own office account, or to provide me with a copy of the relevant statements from that account.

431.  I have concluded that the evidence supporting the specific allegations made by Mr Milne and Mr Brown that Mr Vaz received cash payments of £1,000 or £2,000 from Mr Zaiwalla is not of sufficient reliability to enable me to uphold that aspect of the complaint against Mr Vaz. I have also accepted that Mr Vaz was not required to register the payments of £250 and £200 from Mr Zaiwalla.

432.  However, in view of the way in which both Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz responded to my questions about all those payments or alleged payments (and, in particular the fact that donations which were initially denied in absolute terms were subsequently acknowledged—in Mr Vaz's case only when documentary evidence was provided by Mr Zaiwalla), I have been unable so far to satisfy myself fully that no registrable benefit of any kind was received by Mr Vaz from Mr Zaiwalla, whether in the form of cash payments or otherwise.

(d)  The alleged intervention by Mr Vaz with the Inland Revenue on Mr Zaiwalla's behalf

433.  The evidence that Mr Zaiwalla discussed with Mr Vaz the possibility of Mr Vaz intervening with the Inland Revenue on Mr Zaiwalla's tax affairs is inconclusive.

434.  But in any case, there is no evidence that Mr Vaz did, in fact, make any such approach to the Inland Revenue.

(e)  The recommendation by Mr Vaz of an honour for Mr Zaiwalla

435.  It is likely that any exchanges between Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz about honours were casual and jocular in nature. There is no evidence that Mr Vaz offered to recommend Mr Zaiwalla for a peerage, or any other honour, in return for benefits he had received, or expected to receive, from Mr Zaiwalla.

436.  I deal later in these conclusions[198] with the question of Mr Vaz's financial relationship with Mr Zaiwalla and his duty to disclose this when dealing with the authorities over honours.

Mr Kamal

437.  The main allegations against Mr Vaz which relate to Mr Kamal are considered later in these conclusions.[199]

438.  I was provided with no evidence to justify my investigating further the three allegations against Mr Vaz which were made by Mr Kamal, namely:

    —   that Councillor Piara Singh Clair procured from the Asian business community a £10,000 donation to Mr Vaz's election campaign fund;

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

    —   that Councillor John Thomas stayed as a tenant in one of Mr Vaz's two houses in Leicester and that Mr Vaz did not register this rental income.

Mr Gosling

(a)  Alleged failure to register accurately an interest with Control Securities Ltd

439.  Mr Vaz changed from "Control Securities Ltd" to "Control Ltd" the description of the company with which he had an interest (through a donation by it to his election fund of £5,000) and his Register entry showed other unusual features. Nevertheless, Mr Vaz's Register entry was not incomplete or inaccurate in any material respect.

440.  There was, however, a delay of at least 15 months between Mr Vaz's acquisition of the benefit and his registration of it in March 1993. Mr Vaz has provided no explanation for this delay.

(b)  Alleged conflict of interest relating to Control Securities and BCCI

441.  No convincing explanation has been produced as to why Mr Vaz's financial interest in Control Securities Ltd gave him a conflict of interest in his activities relating to BCCI. I am not persuaded that such a conflict existed.

(c)  Alleged failure to declare an interest in relation to Control Securities Ltd

442.  Because of the relationship of landlord and tenant between Control Securities Ltd and BCCI there was a marginal case for Mr Vaz to declare his interest with the former when raising BCCI-related issues either in the House or directly with Ministers and officials. But Mr Vaz's failure to do so cannot fairly be criticised as a serious omission.

196   ie in addition to those dealt with separately in paragraphs 421 to 430. Back

197   See paragraphs 431 and 432. Back

198  See paragraphs 443 to 447. Back

199   See paragraphs 468 to 472. Back

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