File Note by the Parliamentary Commissioner
22 MARCH 2000, MEETING
I said that I was enquiring into allegations
about Keith Vaz which she may have seen mentioned in the press.
She had seen The Sunday Telegraph article. I said I had
been informed by several of the people that I was making enquiries
with that she had been on a Labour Party panel which made an enquiry
into matters in Leicester relating to the Labour Party. I asked
her if she would tell me about these matters.
She began by saying that she wished this conversation
to be completely confidential and that she did not in any way
want to be seen to be initiating these enquiries or to be taking
action against a minister. I explained that I would endeavour
to keep the matters confidential but that if I had to report matters
to the Committee, although I could ask them to keep matters confidential,
they might not do so.
She told me that she had been a member of the
NEC of the Labour Party and she had been on the Central Region
Executive. She had been invited by the regional secretary of the
Labour Party Roy Maddox (not now regional secretary). He said
that the Labour Party had received complaints from Members of
the Party in Leicestershire and they were setting up a day enquiry
to listen to any Members who wished to give evidence.
The panel was to be Claire Ward, Roy Lake and
Sandy Feather. The panel was widely publicised and any Member
was invited to come and speak to it. On the day a stream of Members
with a list of complaints came and talked widely about irregularities
in the Leicester Labour Party.
Some of these concerns related to Keith Vaz
but the enquiry was much wider based than that. At the end of
the day the panel Members felt they had had so much information
they must agree to meet again and they fixed a meeting. The have
come to no conclusions and made no report.
Claire Ward was amazed the next day when a press
release was issued by the regional secretary saying the enquiry
was completed and that they were dealing with the Membership concerns
raised. Claire Ward complained to the regional secretary that
the enquiry had not been completed and that the complaints were
much wider than Membership and that it was not true to say that
the enquiry was over. However, she received no adequate response.
Shortly afterwards Newsnight did a piece on this enquiry
focusing on the concerns about Keith Vaz. Keith Vaz reported Newsnight
to the Press Complaints Commission. Keith Vaz was under the impression
that it was Claire Ward who had briefed Newsnightbut
it was not. Claire Ward continued to press her concerns. In 1995
she was adopted as a parliamentary candidate and she wrote to
the regional secretary to say that she could not take any further
part in these matters and she could not receive further complaints
from Labour Party Members. She had received endless additional
comments and complaints over the year previously. In October/November
1995 Despatches ran a programme and The Guardian
had an article on these matters.
I asked her whether she had other people to
suggest who might have other information to give and she said
that Sir Peter Soulsby had given evidence to the enquiry and was
a source of evidence.
We agreed that she would look at her records
of the enquiry and she told me she had hand written notes on all
the complaints that were given and her notes on what she thought
of the evidence given. She would then bring that information to
I said I was sorry I had to now give her heavy
information and she should not take it in any way as a threat
but as information. I informed her about the powers of the Select
Committee and I told her that any attempt to destroy evidence
that related to this investigation could be seen as a contempt.
I warned her that she was not to destroy any of the information
from the Labour Party enquiry but that she should let me see it.
She agreed she would do so and that she would see me again.
I agreed to write to her to tell her what I
needed to see.