Letter to the Clerk of the Committee on
Standards and Privileges from Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman &
1. In the hope of assisting the Committee to
conclude this matter, I am submitting some further observations
on behalf of Mr Vaz to deal with further material which has emerged
since my response of 8 January 2001 to the Commissioner's draft
memorandum. Because time may be short, Mr Vaz has asked me to
send a copy separately to each member of the Committee.
2. Since 8 January the Commissioner's final memorandum
has been delivered to the Committee and the Committee has heard
oral evidence from:
Mr Vaz (twice)
Mr Jaffer Kapasi
Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla
Sir Peter Soulsby
Mr Brian Brown
Ms Maria Fernandes
3. In addition the Chairman and Clerk have met:
Ms Maria Fernandes
Mr Keith Bennett
4. The Committee has also received further documentary
evidence. This will be mentioned in relation to the separate complaints
considered in this letter.
Complaints not upheld by the Commissioner
5. In her memorandum, the Commissioner does not
uphold the complaints referred to in paras. 409 to 442.
6. In relation to the complaints not upheld,
the Committee has referred to only one issue in its subsequent
questioning of witnesses, namely the alleged payment to Mr Vaz
of sums of money by Mr Zaiwalla which were not declared on the
Register. Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Brown were questioned on this issue
as was Mr Vaz himself. Both Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz repeated their
previous evidence that no payments had been made to Mr Vaz for
his personal benefit and they denied explicitly the allegation
by Mr Brown, which he repeated to the Committee, that he had drawn
a cash sum of £1000 at the request of Mr Zaiwalla and handed
an envelope containing this sum to Mr Vaz in Mr Zaiwalla's office.
7. The Commissioner rejected this complaint on
the ground that the evidence was inconclusive, given that it was
contradictory and lacked corroboration (para. 409) Mr Vaz was
able to trace his personal bank statements for the relevant period
and produced them to the Chairman of the Committee and to Mr Sandall.
They demonstrated that no payment of the sum in question was made
into his bank account at that time. No new evidence has supported
the complaint. The Committee should accept the Commissioner's
rejection and Mr Vaz is entitled to be exonerated.
8. The only other comment which has to be made
about paras. 409 to 442 is that they contain unjustified criticisms
of Mr Vaz and prejudicial suggestions that even though complaints
have not been upheld there is possible wrongdoing which the Commissioner
has failed to establish. (see for example para. 432). The Committee
should remove these criticisms from its published report. They
are defamatory allegations which should not be made under the
cloak of Parliamentary privilege. If a complaint is not proved
Mr Vaz is entitled to have it dismissed. There is no room for
a "not proven" verdict which unfairly leaves Mr Vaz
under suspicion notwithstanding that the Commissioner has concluded
in his favour.
Complaint upheld by the Commissioner
9. The Commissioner's conclusion that Mr Vaz
breached a duty to disclose an interest in recommending Mr Zaiwalla
for an honour (paras. 443 to 447) is unsustainable for the reasons
given in my letter of 12 February. To summarise these reasons:
- The evidence that either of the two alleged payments
relied on by the Commissioner was in fact made or was made to
the knowledge of or for the benefit of Mr Vaz is at best inconclusive.
- The Commissioner has accepted that in any event
neither payment was registrable or if one of them was registrable
that Mr Vaz was entitled to assume it was not (paras. 312 and
- The Commissioner accepts that there is no evidence
that Mr Vaz offered to recommend Mr Zaiwalla for an honour in
return for benefits received or expected (para. 435).
- The two payments, even if made as claimed by
the Commissioner, do not amount to a "financial relationship"
or in any case were far too remote in amount (too small
to be registrable), proximity (2 and 3 years), or character
(payments to third parties not for personal benefit) to require
disclosure in the circumstances under consideration.
- The case of Mr Tony Baldry MP is completely different
in that the amount was substantial; the proximity of payment was
only 12 days before the recommendation; and its character was
a formally agreed personal loan.
Inquiries which the Commissioner considers incomplete
10. I comment on the issues listed by the Commissioner
under the heading "Inquiries incomplete" (paras. 448
to 501 and 505).
(a) Mapesbury Communications
11. There was no complaint about this company.
The issue only arose because the Commissioner decided to investigate
it. Mr Vaz discussed the company with two registrars and with
Sir Gordon Downey because he was concerned to act properly (see
Appendix A to Annex 39 to the Commissioner's report). Evidence
from two firms of accountants who audited the company and from
Mr Vaz, as well as Mr Vaz's own evidence, shows positively that
the company made no payments to Mr Vaz or his office.
12. The company provided the Chairman of the
Committee with a list of its clients and payments over £1000.
Ms Fernandes swore an affidavit confirming that Mr Zaiwalla was
neither a client of the company nor the recipient of any payment
from the company. A report on the company was commissioned and
given to the Chairman.
13. Mr Vaz did not use revenue from Mapesbury
to support his Parliamentary office and there is no evidence that
he did so. He is plainly entitled to have any allegation or complaint
that he acted improperly in relation to Mapesbury rejected without
(b) The calendars
14. There is no reference to the calendars among
the "inquiries not completed" in para. 505 of the Commissioner's
report and it is uncertain whether there is any outstanding complaint
or issue relating to them. It is abundantly clear from my letter
to the Commissioner of 17 July 2000 that there were two kinds
of calendar and it is quite plain that Mr Vaz acted correctly
in relation to both of them. Paras. 455 to 458 do not suggest
any outstanding doubt on the part of the Commissioner as to the
propriety of Mr Vaz's conductthey merely complain about
the alleged lack of co-operation which Mr Vaz (and I) utterly
deny. Mr Vaz registered the community calendars from 1995 and
1997and the single donation he received in 1999 for the purpose
of his constituency calendar.
(c) Mr Kapasi
15. The Committee may well be puzzled by the
allegations said to have been made by Mr Kapasi to journalists
and to Sir Peter Soulsby but Mr Kapasi's subsequent retractions
in statutory declarations and in his oral evidence, the categorical
denial by Mr Vaz and two of the three religious organisations,
and the absence of any corroboration, rule out any possibility
of upholding the allegations or giving them any credence whatsoever.
16. Furthermore, the oral evidence of Sir Peter
Soulsby weakens the force of his earlier evidence in his interview
by the Commissioner as quoted in her report (paras. 118 to 131)
because he now says that Mr Kapasi did not claim that Mr Vaz or
his mother asked for money in return for land or a planning permission
(see transcript, paras. 431 to 433). Asking for contributions
to Party funds without any quid pro quo obviously need not involve
any impropriety. Also the memoranda by Mr Price-Jones, which have
now been disclosed, show that the latter considered after consulting
a CID contract informally that there was no real evidence of corruption.
The CID contact also wisely referred to the obscurity of motives
in such cases, an important point where strong political rivalries
17. The Committee will also have in mind that
these allegations are extremely serious because they amount to
criminal offences. Plainly they are not proved at all, let alone
to the criminal standard, and Mr Vaz is entitled to be wholly
(d) Mr Kamal
18. Mr Kamal alleged that he made payments of
£8 a month to Mr Vaz for four years from around 1987/8. Mr
Kamal's own bank has confirmed that payments of £8 a month
(with an initial payment of £16) were made for the period
October 1988 to January 1990 (annex 116 to the Commissioner's
report) by standing order to the Leicester East Labour Party.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr Kamal's payments to the
Labour Party were paid to or otherwise benefited Mr Vaz. The reference
by the Commissioner to the "uncertainty which persists over
the purpose of Mr Kamal's monthly payments" (the last of
which was made more than 11 years ago!) cannot possibly in common
sense reflect adversely on Mr Vaz. The criticism in para. 471
is unwarranted and Mr Vaz is plainly entitled to have this complaint
(e) Improper pressure on witnesses
19. The Commissioner's speculations as to who
sent Mr Kamal's letter to Mr Hall and as to the source of Mr Kamal's
anxiety fail to take account of the evidence that Mr Kamal himself
handed out at least one copy of his letter to a colleague of Mr
Hall. The essential point, however, is that there is not a shred
of evidence that Mr Vaz was implicated in the actions of Mr Hall
and Mr Vaz is therefore entitled to be cleared categorically of
any suggestion of improper pressure.
(f) Registration of property
20. Mr Vaz has plainly acted in good faith in
relation to the properties in question and has already taken steps
to fulfil any registration requirements.
(g) Mr Attwal
21. The Committee will recall that this complaint
did not come from Mr Attwal but was an allegation made by a Sunday
Telegraph journalist. Mr Vaz has done his best to provide independent
verification of the fact that he did not personally receive any
donation from Mr Attwal which he himself has made clear was made
to the Labour Party. Councillor Thomas confirmed in a letter dated
24 March 2000 (appendix 3 to Mr Vaz's response dated 8 January
2001 to the Commissioner's draft report) that Mr Attwal's cheque
in 1992 or 1993 was payable to the Labour Party and was collected
personally by him. I made it clear to the Committee on 13 February
2001 that I did not send the letter to the Commissioner with my
letter of 5 July 2000 because I thought she already had a copy.
The Commissioner in turn agreed that she should have pointed out
that she had not seen Councillor Thomas' letter in July when she
read the reference to it. Mr Vaz has tried to obtain confirmation
that Mr Attwal's donation in 1993 did not go into his bank account
and a letter from his bank is enclosed.
22. In short, there is ample evidence that Mr
Attwal's donations were to the Labour Party and no evidence whatsoever
that Mr Vaz or his Parliamentary office received any benefit from
them. The Commissioner said in para. 381 of her draft report that
Mr Vaz was entitled to be given "the benefit of the doubt"
in relation to this allegation. That is incorrect. He is plainly
entitled to be completely exonerated.
(h) The "50 Club"
23. In para. 505 the Commissioner refers to an
uncompleted inquiry about this constituency fund-raising club
but makes no reference to it in her earlier discussion of these
inquiries in paras. 448 to 501. It is therefore hard to understand
why she has not rejected it. There is no evidence of any kind
that Mr Vaz received any benefit from the fund raising club or
that it was under his control. Indeed he has given evidence that
he was himself a donor to the club. He is once more plainly entitled
to be exonerated of this allegation and the Commissioner has produced
no reason to the contrary.
24. Finally, the Committee is respectfully reminded
of the submissions in Mr Vaz's response of 8 January as to material
in the Commissioner's draft memorandum, for the most part repeated
in her final draft memorandum to the Committee, which is defamatory,
prejudicial, and irrelevant. This material should be removed
from the Committee's published report. It is unfair to Mr Vaz
and perhaps more importantly to third parties including his mother
that such material should be published under the protection of
Parliamentary privilege. The Commissioner did not respond to the
submissions made on 8 January and evidently left the matter for
the Committee to resolve. Mr Vaz is willing to make further submissions
on this issue should the Committee require them and I will myself
gladly go through the text with Mr Sandall to identify the passages
to which objection is taken, if they are not already clear.
22 February 2001