Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 28

Letter to Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman & Partners, Solicitors, from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

  Thank you for your letter of 25 May and for confirming that Mr Vaz has asked you to say that he has not passed or shown Mr Kamal's letter to any person other than you.

  First, may I record that Mr Vaz has been helpful in discussing these matters with me and in providing me with written replies and information and you are correct in saying that Mr Vaz has already responded to all the allegations other than informing me whether he had recommended Mr Zaiwalla for an honour.

  I am glad to receive now the response from Mr Vaz on this question to the effect that he recommended Mr Zaiwalla for an honour and confirms the information I have received about it from the Permanent Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, namely that he recommended Mr Zaiwalla for an honour to Mr Major in August 1996 and to Lord Mackay in March 1997.

  In response to your general points and questions and to try to ensure there is no misunderstanding I will set out the allegations concerning Mr Vaz in his role as a Member of Parliament which I am investigating against the Code of Conduct and Rules.

  My task, as you are aware, is to conduct an investigation into these allegations. On the basis of the information I collect during the investigation I report to the Standards and Privileges Committee as to the facts of the matters, my view on whether the Member has breached the Code of Conduct or Rules in any way and therefore whether any of the complaints should be upheld. It is for the Committee to decide whether a complaint is upheld and, if any breaches have occurred, to recommend any penalty to the House of Commons.

  I stress again that at this point the matters under consideration are solely allegations and I shall take no view on whether there is any substance in any of them until Mr Vaz has had every opportunity to comment on or challenge any material I put to him. The intention behind my remark that Mr Vaz might have felt that the replies he had given to date were "not sufficiently comprehensive" was to give him a further opportunity to provide any additional information he wished. I am glad he has now done so with regard to the question on honours.

  As I have informed Mr Vaz, when my enquiries are complete I shall put to him any evidence I have collected which might appear to be at variance with his account. This will give Mr Vaz another opportunity to provide me with any other information he believes to be relevant. Further, when my report is drafted, I shall provide Mr Vaz with a copy in confidence before I come to my conclusions, to give him another chance to comment and to offer corrections of matters of fact before I present my report to the Committee.

  To turn to the points in your letter which I have not dealt with above.

  The complaints which I am investigating and which I have put to Mr Vaz are as follows:

Possible failure to register payments and other benefits in the Register of Members' Interests

  1.  That in April or May 1994, Mr S R Zaiwalla gave Mr Vaz £2,000 and that Mr Zaiwalla made him other cash payments regularly from 1994.

  2.  That on at least one occasion Mr Brown (Mr Zaiwalla's book-keeper) was involved in withdrawing £1,000 from the bank in cash which Mr Brown gave to Mr Vaz. That this payment was thought to be for Mr Vaz's "office fund".

  3.  That Councillor M Kamal made payments to Mr Vaz of £8 per month for four years from around 1987-88 and that he believed that other members of Leicester City Council also made such payments at the request of Mr Vaz.

  4.  That Councillor Piara Singh Clair told Councillor Kamal that he, Councillor Singh Clair, had made the Sikh business community donate £10,000 to Mr Vaz's 1997 election campaign.

  5.  That Bipin Jewellers donated a car to Mr Vaz's 1997 election campaign.

  6.  That Mr Vaz had a tenant (Mr Thomas) in a property which he owned at 146 Uppingham Road. The tenant was receiving housing benefit, the implication being that Mr Vaz may have received this benefit as rent.

  7.  That following Mr Vaz's election Mr Nazmu Virani provided him with computers and other equipment.

  8.  That Mr I K Patel (now deceased) made collections of money on Mr Vaz's behalf.

  9.  That Mr Harish I K Patel sponsored a breakfast meeting for Mr Vaz at the Regency Hotel where Mr Gordon Brown was the guest of honour.

  10.  That an organisation in which Mr Vaz was involved called Indo-British Business was set up to sponsor dinners for Cabinet Ministers but the sources of funding, which benefited Mr Vaz, were not registered.

  11.  That Mr Vaz received from Mr M Mudhavani £10,000 to pay for a visit to the UK of the son of Martin Luther King. Although the trip has not taken place the funds have not been returned.

  12.  That the following business people have made substantial donations to Mr Vaz:

    Mr G K Noon
    Mr Lakshmi Mattal
    Mr T R Sutterwalla
    Mr Raj Loomba
    and the Hinduja Brothers.

  13.  That Mr G K Noon paid for Mr Vaz to travel to Bahrain and for his accommodation during the visit.

  14.  That Mr B Attwal provided Mr Vaz with cheques made out to Mr Vaz prior to the 1997 election.

Possible incorrect Register entry

  15.  That Mr Vaz may have concealed a donation provided by Control Securities Ltd by a Register entry which referred to Control Ltd and that the purpose of that donation may also have been inaccurately registered.

Possible conflict of interest

  16.  That if a misleading entry was made in the Register it might have concealed a conflict of interest in relation to Mr Vaz's parliamentary activities around the collapse of the Bank BCCI because Control Securities Ltd had an improper financial relationship with BCCI. Consequently Mr Vaz might have been in breach of the rules on declaration of interest and/or advocacy when speaking in the House and/or have failed to resolve a conflict of interest in favour of the public interest as required by the Code of Conduct.

Possible interference in an Inland Revenue investigation

  17.  That Mr Vaz agreed to a request from Mr Zaiwalla that he try to influence the outcome of an investigation into Mr Zaiwalla's tax affairs contrary to the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

Possible lack of openness with Ministers when making a recommendation for an honour

  18.  That Mr Vaz recommended Mr Zaiwalla for an honour in 1997 without disclosing that he had received financial benefits from Mr Zaiwalla as required by the Code of Conduct.

Possible misuse of parliamentary postage

  19.  That Mr Vaz circulated copies of the Caribbean Times and Asian Times using parliamentary postage, contrary to the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

Possible misuse of funds

  20.  Since the accounts for a Club, established by Mr Vaz as a Member of Parliament, were not made available to subscribers they were not able to assess whether the money had been spent for proper purposes when it appeared that the funds collected were in excess of those distributed, contrary to the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

Possible soliciting and receipt of payment for help with planning permission or site acquisition in Leicester and failure to register payments received

  21.  That in 1991-92 Mr Vaz offered to help Mr Jaffer Kapasi obtain planning permission for a mosque in return for £500.

  22.  That between 1992 and 1996 Mr Vaz received three payments from Mr Kapasi in respect of land acquisition for a religious building.

  23.  That Mr Vaz solicited £500 each from three religious groups which were seeking to purchase land at discounted prices from Leicester City Council, contrary to the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

  I hope the above settles most of the matters which you raise in your letter, but I would like to make one further point which I hope will allay your concerns about my office's contact with the press on these matters.

  I share your concerns about the damage which irresponsible press articles can cause. May I assure you that my office has given no information to the press about the content of my enquiry or any of the evidence provided to me. As Mr Vaz is aware in this case, the press were informed of many of these complaints prior to my receiving them or Mr Vaz receiving them from me. Mr Vaz has informed me that he is aware that several newspapers have been carrying out extensive enquiries into some of these matters over a number of years. I have been informed by a number of witnesses of approaches they have received from the press and one witness, who provided me with evidence, has apologised to me for responding to press questions.

  I have informed Mr Vaz of requests I have had from the press to confirm that I have received specific complaints from named individuals. I am pleased to say that on several occasions when the press has been informed that I have been sent complaints I believe my denials have prevented other allegations being printed. Mr Vaz has kindly informed me of approaches he has had from the press.

  When Mr Vaz has had the opportunity to consider this letter I would be grateful to hear whether he wishes to put any further information to me at this juncture as I share his wish to conclude my enquiry as soon as possible.

7 June 2000

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