Letter to Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman
& Partners, Solicitors, from the Parliamentary Commissioner
Thank you for your letter of 15 June.
Members are required to uphold the Code of Conduct
and Rules in general. The purpose of the Code is described as
"to assist Members in the discharge of their obligations
to the House, their constituents and the public at large",
and the main purpose of the Register of Members' Interests is
set out in paragraph 9, page 8 of the Guide to the Rules as "to
provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material
benefit which a Member receives which might reasonably be thought
by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes in
Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member
To turn to the specific items you mention:
Q15 Members are required to make specific
and accurate entries in the Register and this is described in
paragraph 12, page 8 of the Guide to the Rules.
"Members are responsible for making a full
disclosure of their interests. And if they have relevant interests
which do not fall clearly into one or other of the specified categories,
they are nonetheless expected to register them."
Q16 Code of Conduct, page 4.
"Members shall base their conduct on a consideration
of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest
and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two,
at once, and in favour of the public interest."
Q20 Code of Conduct, page 3
Holders of public office are accountable for
their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves
to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office."
and page 5:
"No improper use shall be made of any payment
or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative
rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly
You refer to paragraph 2 of my memorandum to
the Committee on the Investigation Process. The key words here
are "some substance". I must emphasise that having some
substance is not the same as "substantiated". The test
is set out more fully at paragraph 69 of the Code of Conduct and
Guide to the Rules, which states:
"If the Commissioner is satisfied that sufficient
evidence has been tendered in support of the complaint to justify
his taking the matter further, he will ask the Member to respond
to the complaint and will then conduct a preliminary investigation."
I have not yet taken a view on whether any individual
complaint has been substantiated and will only do so after I receive
Mr Vaz's response to any matters which might appear to be at variance
with his account.
Part of my responsibility is to give the Committee
my view on whether a complaint should be upheld or not upheld.
The decision as to whether a complaint is upheld is a matter for
the Committee alone. I share your view that the highest standards
of fairness should apply to my investigations. I have made no
report to the Committee on these complaints to date, and will
only do so after Mr Vaz has had the opportunity to comment on
my draft report.
I make no comment on the article you attached.
I can only confirm that no decision has been taken by me or the
Committee, to date, as to whether the complaint by Mr Milne against
Mr Vaz is unsubstantiated.
I share your concern at the length of time taken
on this enquiry. I still await evidence from key witnesses and
until it is forthcoming I cannot conclude my enquiry. I trust
they will provide it shortly and that will allow me if necessary
to raise matters with Mr Vaz.
21 June 2000