Letter to Mr Richard Arthur, Thompsons,
Solicitors, from the Clerk of the Committee on Standards and Privileges
I am grateful to you for coming to the House this
afternoon with Mr Bennett to resolve the outstanding questions
relating to the Leicester East campaign fund.
I indicated that I would need to return to the question
of Councilor Singh Clair and to reply to your further letter of
12 February, in which you asked about the Committee's procedures
for disclosure of documents belonging to a third party and the
basis of the Committee's authority to require disclosure of documents.
The House of Commons has given the Committee power
to send for persons, papers and records, which means that it may
require witnesses to attend to give evidence, and it may also
require the production of documents. Normally the Committee is
able to proceed by requesting information rather than by using
its formal powers, but it can use these powers in the last resort.
The Committee inquires into matters relating to the conduct of
Members but it may seek information from other people who may
be able to assist it with relevant information. In the present
case the Committee requires certain information from the Constituency
Labour Party in order to dispose of a complaint against a Member.
No allegation has been made of any wrongdoing on the part of the
Constituency Labour Party, and if such an allegation had been
made it would not be for the Committee to deal with it.
As you probably know, I wrote to Councillor Singh
Clair on 23 January to ask for information about a payment from
B S Attwall & Co in January 1993. If it can be established
that the payment was received by the Constituency Labour Party
then the complaint that the money was received by Mr Vaz can be
shown to be unfounded. If the CLP did not receive the payment
the Committee will have to make inquiries elsewhere, but it will
have no further interest in the CLP's finances.
The Committee does not need to see the CLP's accounts
and it has no wish to make public any information which should
properly remain confidential; but in order to deal fairly with
a complaint against Mr Vaz it needs to know whether or not the
payment in question was received by the Party.
It would be acceptable to the Committee if this matter
could be resolved in the same way as the question of the campaign
fund. Perhaps Councillor Singh Clair could show the Chairman,
in confidence, the entry in the CLP's accounts which demonstrates
that the payment in question was received. As you know, the Chairman
of the Committee is a member of the Labour Party. If the receipt
of the payment can be demonstrated in this way the Chairman will
report accordingly to the Committee and the Committee can bring
its inquiries to a conclusion.
I would be grateful if you could discuss this possibility
with your client.
15 February 2001