Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Gerald Shamash, Steel and Shamash, Solicitors
Thank you for your letter of 15 November 2000.
I appreciate that you have wanted as early a
response as possible but I have been away in Nigeria, however
I have now been able to take my clients full instructions on the
matters raised in your letter.
It may be helpful if I set in context my client's
official involvement with the constituency. My client was first
elected Secretary of the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party
in February 1992. At the time of his election there were no minute
books in existence and therefore no records prior to his election
to which he can refer. My client was surprised that there were
no minutes and set about regularising the situation ensuring that
a proper record was kept of both the General Committee and Executive
Committee minutes. My client was re-elected secretary each year
until his resignation in June 2000 for family reasons.
In my letter of 14 November 2000 I requested
an indication of the dates referred to my witnesses so that my
client could save time in his search for the information required.
You say that witnesses have given dates from 1988-1997. You will
immediately appreciate that as no records exist for the period
1988-1992 my client can only verify his responses based on minutes
available to him.
I will deal with your queries in the order set
out in your letter:
1. My client has not found any reference
in the minutes of the CLP General Committee or indeed the Executive
Committee requesting serving councillors to give a percentage
of their allowances either regularly or not to the Labour Party.
My client is from the best of his recollection never been at a
constituency meeting at which such a request has been made.
4. It is worth noting that it is normal for
sitting Labour councillors, to make a contribution to the respective
Labour Groups on their Council. This is recognised under the Local
Government and Housing Act 1989. This money is used to pay for
the administrative and associated costs incurred by the Labour
Group. In addition each Labour Councillor is required to be a
member of the Association of Labour Councillors. This entails
the payment of a subscription, currently between £10£50
per annum dependent on means. This is for the purposes of briefing,
advice, guidance, etc.
In 1995 a Premises Fund was set up by the CLP
to enable it to run offices. Prior to that time following my client's
election in February 1992 he effectively ran the constituency
office from his bedroom. This was most intrusive and inefficient.
After much debate it was thought that the CLP could best raise
funds was by the establishment of a 50 Club. This was structured
on the basis that members of the Party and supporters could contribute
at a rate of £5 per month. At the end of each month a draw
would take place; the winner would receive a prize calculated
on the basis of 50 per cent of the months take. From my client's
memory the 50 Club never exceeded 37 members during its lifetime.
The surplus after the prize had been paid out, was then used to
fund the CLP expenses. These were heating, lighting, telephone,
paper, photocopying etc of the office space. All the invoices
and bills including the utilities were paid directly by the CLP
from its own funds and not by payment to Mr Vaz.
This office space was provided free by Keith
Vaz MP located in the ground floor of 146 Uppingham Road a property
owned by him but which was at all times vacant save for the CLP
office. It was next door to his Parliamentary Constituency Office
The Premises Fund was in fact closed in mid
1996. This was because my client's wife suffered a major stroke
which required him to be at home. The funding then began to taper
off very quickly. In fact even whilst at the office funding became
a problem as members dropped out.
For the sake of clarity my client confirms that
references by witnesses to 100 or 200 Clubs are not correct but
refer to the 50 Club. In respect of the Lottery referred to in
your letter this was run by the Labour Party nationally. Tickets
were sold with the CLP receiving a proportion of the income. This
lottery is available to any Constituency Labour Party that wishes
My client can categorically state that the CLP
has never from his direct knowledge or recollection ever contributed
to the running of the MP's office. It may be that confusion has
arisen in the memories of some of your witnesses in that the MP's
actual parliamentary constituency office is next door at 144 Uppingham
Road as distinct from 146 Uppingham Road where as explained above
for the short period between 95-96 the CLP office was situated.
I trust that I have been able to set out my
client's instructions in such a way that deals with all the questions
that you have raised. My client fully understands that you are
merely trying to establish the factual situation and has indicated
through me that if you require any further information he will
endeavour to assist.
30 November 2000