Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Report to the Executive Committee following an article in The Sunday Times dated 22 May 1994


  The Officers requested that a report be prepared on recent events concerning the Leicester East Constituency Party, in particular in respect of an article that appeared in the Sunday Times dated 22 May 1994. The delay in producing the report has been due to the fact that the Sunday Times has to be given some time to compile the information in order to support its original story.


  Members are asked to read in particular the rules of the Labour Party in respect to clauses relating to persons bringing the Party into disrepute and also the standing orders of the Labour Group. It is also worth re-reading a letter from the Constituency Secretary to the General Secretary of the Labour Party concerning the conduct of Peter Soulsby and other Councillors in respect of Public Meetings held by them which criticised other Councillors.


  1.  A meeting was called by Councillor Peter Soulsby on Wednesday 20 April 1994 at the New Walk Centre. The telephone calls to various Community Organisations were made by Councillor Dave's Secretary. Community Leaders and Organisations were called to the meeting at very short notice in order to hear the then Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council. There was no formal written Calling Notice and no agenda. At the meeting a number of other Councillors were present and discussions and comments took place led by Councillor Soulsby which were critical of other Labour elected officials. In particular Members of the Community were asked to note that Members of the Council who were of "Asian Origin" were not voting together to support particular candidates.

  2.  Members of the Community Organisations together with some Councillors were present at a meeting on Friday 22 April 1994 at the New Walk Centre. The purpose of the meeting was to discover how Members of the Council were going to vote at the Labour Group election Meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday 26 April 1994. A "Resolution" was adopted in which Councillors of Asian origin on Leicester City Council were asked to vote together and other clauses were adopted in that resolution which were based on information given by Peter Soulsby and others in their meeting 20 April 1994.

  3.  A meeting was held on Friday 29 April 1994 at 144 Uppingham Road following a request made by "Community Leaders". These were the same "persons" that attended the meetings on 22 April 1994. Present at the meeting were 36 individuals together with the Chair and Vice-Chair of Leicester East CLP. The Chair and Vice-Chair will be aware that those present at the meeting agreed that they had been misled by information given to them on 22 April 1994 that they had no wish to direct the Leicester East Party, individual Councillors, or elected Officials as to how they should conduct their jobs and a number expressed their regret that they had been invited by Peter Soulsby to be involved in this matter. A second resolution was passed by them at the meeting which they accepted fully that they had acted on information that was not accurate. That resolution was printed in full in the Leicester Mercury on Saturday 30 April 1994. That definitive statement has never been challenged.

  4.  Following a meeting of the Executive Committee of Leicester East CLP and the GMC it was decided that a complaint be made in respect of the behaviour of Members of the Labour Party who sought to involve those outside the Labour Party in the internal workings of either the Labour Group or the Constituency Party. The concern was noted that some of the people attending the 22 April 1994 who subsequently came to put their case on 29 April 1994 were not only not Members of the Labour Party but were Members of other Political Parties. Only one person actually lived in Leicester East CLP.

  5.  An article then appeared in the Sunday Times dated May 22 1994. A complaint was then made by Keith Vaz and others. It was felt impossible to believe that Members of the Party had sought to settle their differences in the Party by going to a Newspaper that had a tradition of being hostile to the Party and in particular that it was owned by a person whose Group had delivered massive support to the Conservative Party before the last General Election.

  6.  The Sunday Times replied on 24 June 1994. The reply sets out clearly the Members of the Party involved in providing information to the Sunday Times and regrettably also keen to discuss the internal workings of the Labour Group of which they were Members. The Sunday Times has been very open and honest in naming their sources of information.

  Here is the sequence the Sunday Times describes (and we refer them specifically to the person named by the Sunday Times)

(i)  Paul Sood

  A Member of the Labour Party in the Leicester South Constituency

  "Rajiv Syal (the Reporter) was approached by Paul Sood, Mr Sood, a Member of the Labour Party, said he was worried about the role of Mr Vaz in Peter Soulsby's fall from power".

(ii)  "Syal was in Leicester from May 18-20. The Sunday Times says that he interviewed five Councillors while he was in Leicester between these dates."

(iii)  Peter Soulsby

  Not only was Peter Soulsby most co-operative with the Sunday Times but also he helpfully provided the Sunday Times with Private and Confidential letters that were sent to him in his capacity as Leader of the Council. This breach of confidentiality by ostensibly a person of integrity holding an important office in the City Council to a National Newspaper is a cause of great concern. Officers will recall that last year when Peter Soulsby asked for a meeting with the Leicester East Officers and Keith Vaz he stressed the importance of working within the internal apparatus of the Labour Party to avoid the Press being notified of any disagreements. He set up an elaborate procedure whereby this could be achieved. It is therefore ironic that it is Mr Soulsby himself who has chosen to go the Press in this way.

(iv)  Brian Bishop

  Presently Labour Group Secretary and Chair of Employment and Economic Development is also quoted in the complaint as one of the Councillors who co-operated with the Sunday Times releasing a letter signed by him, a copy of which neither the officers nor ourselves have seen.

(v)  Ned Newett

  It has been understood that Ned Newett has been conducting an investigation into the involvement of Members of the Labour Group in the article in the Sunday Times. We find this extraordinary in view of the fact that the Sunday Times not only quotes him as one of the people who has co-signed a letter of copy of which nobody has seen criticising the way in which matters were dealt with but also quoted at length by the Sunday Times in respect of what he did and said at the meeting. Referring to the events at the Labour Group Meeting the Sunday Times says "when other Labour Councillors arrived, Ned Newett, the Labour Chief Whip, asked for a Ballot Box at the back of the room for Councillors to place their votes. He wanted to protect waverers from pressure from those sitting next to them, who might see how they were marking their Ballot Papers". We find this statement coming from a Labour Chief Whip about Members of his own Group to a National Newspaper hostile to the Labour Party as being extraordinary.

(vi)  David Taylor

  David Taylor told the Sunday Times of alleged incidents which occurred at the time of the meeting we quote "Taylor told the Sunday Times in an account supported by two other witnesses". The reporter apparently interviewed Labour Councillors but they were prepared to discuss what was happening at their Group Meeting in the presence of others, it is not clear whether these were Councillors or others or merely members of the public.

(vii)  Bhupen Dave

  The Sunday Times confirms that they spoke at length with Bhupen Dave before the article was produced and in particular refers to a conversation that they had with him in the week commencing June 24, 1994. The Sunday Times quotes Dave as saying "I wanted to win the election, (Bhupen Dave reaffirmed to the Sunday Times this week) but it became apparent that I couldn't . . . I wanted to make way for Shore because he stood a better chance of winning." Mr Dave did not inform the Sunday Times that a month before the AGM he had decided to apply for a job in the Social Services Department writing a personal letter to the Director of Social services saying that he was prepared to step down as Deputy Leader if he had got that job. He also failed to disclose that he had gone on live radio and explained the reasons for his resignation on the Monday of the week before the AGM (Monday 18 April 1994) the transcript has now been prepared and sent to the Press Complaints Commission.

  What is regrettable is that Labour Councillors like Bhupen Dave are still speaking to the Sunday Times and assisting them in what they are doing.


  A democratic election took place on Tuesday 26 April 1994. It is those that who were defeated seem unwilling to accept the democratic will of the Labour Group. We find most regrettable the following matters:

  (i)  Members of the Labour Party and the Labour Group have chosen to have a complete disregard to the wellbeing and rules of the Party and instead have chosen to settle their scores by other means. It may well be that they never believed that they would be named in such matters if they did they are clearly naive about the way in which the Murdoch press operates.

  (ii)  We deplore the way in which race has been used in particular by Peter Soulsby as a means by which pressure should be put on people of Asian origin who happen to be Labour Councillors. We deplore any attempts to split the people of Leicester East on racial lines, or indeed on religious lines. We think this is particularly distressing as Peter Soulsby has always represented electoral wards that have a substantial Asian population.

  (iii)  We recognise that both Paul Sood and Peter Soulsby were candidates for the Leicester East Parliamentary nomination in June 1985 a selection which as we know was won by Keith Vaz. We believe that they should accept this verdict and not seek to continue with this personal rivalry.

  (iv)  We are proud of Leicester East Labour Party's record as far as race issues go. We have the best record of any of the Constituencies in the whole of Leicester for the selection and election of Labour candidates. There are six Councillors of Asian origin on the City Council and two County Councillors of Asian origin, Leicester East has more people of Asian origin serving on the two Councils than the rest of the City put together. We deplore any attempts to suggest otherwise.


  As Officers will know there was a meeting held last year at Peter Soulsby's request between the Officers of the Constituency the MP and the Labour Group Executive in which terms of reference were agreed as to how to deal with outstanding points. It was agreed at Peter Soulsby's suggestion that if there were any disputes that they should be handled internally without having to go to the Press! We realise that Keith Vaz subsequent to the meeting felt that it would be better for letters to be sent via the Chief Executive of the City Council rather than directly to elected Members on issues of importance because he did feel that such issues should be dealt with in a non Party Political way.

  We understand that in respect of Councillor Soulsby Keith Vaz last spoke to him in November 1993 when Councillor Soulsby telephoned him at the House of Commons following the publication of the Rate Support Grant Statement and sought his advice as to how it should be handled when Councillor Soulsby appeared on "Newsnight". Keith Vaz provided Councillor Soulsby with all the information he required.

  In respect of Councillor Dave Keith Vaz informs us that he has always enjoyed excellent relations with Councillor Dave and was very surprised by the comments he has made to the Sunday Times. Councillor Dave called to see him a month before the AGM at Councillor Dave's request in order to inform him in advance that he was applying for the job as the Divisional Manager (Leicester East) for the Social Services Department. He told him at that stage that he would be stepping down as Deputy Leader if he got the job. A day later Councillor Dave telephoned him both on his emergency number and at his office concerning an immigration problem that Councillor Dave's brother, who lived in London, had. Keith Vaz subsequently dealt with this problem, sorting out the difficulty even though Councillor Dave's brother was not a constituent. He finds it extraordinary that on a private level Labour Councillors seek support, encouragement, and advice and assistance but publicly they are willing to criticise. Following Councillor Dave's resignation Keith Vaz wrote to him to regret his departure and to follow up a conversation Councillor Dave had had with him about appointments to quangos.


  We recommend the following:-

  (i)  That the Labour Group be informed of the fact that the Leicester East Labour Party has completed its investigation as to what led to the Sunday Times article on 22 May 1994. That it is for the Labour Group to take whatever disciplinary action it deems necessary against those who seek to undermine standing orders. We believe this is clearly a case where the party has been brought into disrepute. We intend that a copy of this report be sent to the Regional Office.

31 July 1994

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