Second letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman & Partners,
As you are aware, while giving consideration
to the questions in your letters of 3 and 12 October (and the
purported transcript accompanying the latter), I received a further
letter dated 19 October asking yet more questions. While preparing
a reply I have received yet another letter dated 26 October in
which you say that because "some witnesses have seriously
delayed their replies" it maybe that you will need to ask
further questions in due course.
I am sure you will agree that this is a most
unsatisfactory and improper way to conduct an investigation. The
questions in your recent letters (and several previous ones) constitute
a type of interrogation which conflicts with natural justice and
with article 6 of the European Human Rights Convention. Frequently
it has been impossible to identify any complaint to which the
question relates, what evidence you have received to support the
complaint or what specific breach of any code of conduct or rules
you are investigating. Furthermore, you have repeatedly ignored
my objections over many months and have failed to give adequate
answers to my questions in which I have tried to ascertain the
nature of the complaints which you are investigating, the source
of those complaints, and the evidence which appears adverse to
my client and which he therefore can reasonably be asked to respond
This cavalier approach, as I have several times
pointed out, conflicts with your own description of the investigation
process in the Ninth Report of the Committee. I refer in particular
to paragraph 8. In an attempt to clarify the position in relation
to the complaints first listed in your letter of 7 June, I pointed
out the absence of evidence against my client in virtually every
case and I invited you to tell me which complaints, if any, had
not in your view been effectively rebutted. You have not answered
that reasonable request but have merely asked a whole lot more
questions, many of inexplicable relevance.
Of course, Mr Vaz could properly decline to
answer without the clarification for which I have repeatedly asked
and has done so in relation to the questions repeated in paragraph
(b) of your letter of 3 October. However, by doing so he risks
the accusation that he has failed to co-operate with your investigation.
That is the last thing he wants. Throughout he has co-operated
far beyond the call of duty, undergoing great stress, legal expense
and distraction from his other important responsibilities in responding
to false and probably malicious accusations. On 4 July you said
you hoped, on receiving his replies (which were sent to you the
following day) to report to the Committee. At that time Mr. Vaz
had seen no evidence of wrongdoing which he had not already rebutted
and he has seen none since. Yet you have still not dismissed a
single complaint. If you still have no evidence it is wholly unjust
that you should still be delaying your draft report merely because
you are hoping to obtain evidence against Mr. Vaz from witnesses
"who have seriously delayed their replies."
Having said all this in order that his view
of the matter should be absolutely clear, Mr. Vaz has instructed
me to reply as follows to your further questions under the headings
which you have given them:
3 OCTOBER 2000
(a) Mr Zaiwalla told you in his letter of 7
February 2000 that apart from certain charitable donations, neither
he nor his firm made any payments "by cash cheque in kind
or inferred any financial benefit directly or indirectly either
to or on Mr Vaz MP or his constituency party or his family".
Mr Vaz made it quite clear to you in his letter of 16 February
2000 that he could well have encouraged Mr Zaiwalla to make contributions
to charities or events, but he is equally adamant that he has
never received any personal benefit in any shape or form from
Mr Zaiwalla. In my letter of 17 July I supplied a full explanation
of the calendar which Mr Vaz discussed in detail with your predecessors.
Doubtless, the second payment by Mr Zaiwalla related to the calendar
arising out of a suggestion by Mr Vaz or could have been a part
payment for the advert in the calendar. This is speculation because
Mr Vaz simply does not know. Though I have repeatedly asked you
to identify any evidence of wrongdoing on which you rely, you
have declined to do so. Are you suggesting that these entries
in Mr Zaiwalla's cashbook are evidence of wrongdoing and if so
(b) Question 7: These questions were not answered
previously because you had not made it clear whether they were
based on any evidence and if so what; nor had you said to what
possible wrongdoing they could be relevant. For the avoidance
of doubt, may I make it clear that Mr Vaz did not solicit or receive
any payment or benefit from Mr Zaiwalla in any circumstances which
required to be registered under the Rules.
Question 24: As Mr Sing Clair was treasurer
of the local party, it is highly probable that Mr Vaz discussed
with him the possibility of obtaining donations for the Labour
Party or even for election funds, but you have produced no evidence
whatsoever of any wrongdoing in relation to any matter concerning
Mr Sing Clair. Mr Vaz categorically denies that any such discussions
were improper or involved any suggestion of impropriety.
Question 26: The answer to the previous question
Question 31: As you are well aware, Mr Attwall
has stated that he made a payment of £1,000.00 to the Labour
Party. You have confirmation that this payment was received by
the Labour Party. Mr Vaz has received no personal payment or benefit
from Mr Attwall and is aware of no payment made by Mr Attwall
other than that referred to.
Question 45: As your letter of 12 October asks
a number of questions about the 50 club and the 100 club, please
see answers to that letter below.
(c) There is no dispute that the payment by
Mr Attwall was for and received by the Labour Party. Is there
any evidence that the cheque was paid personally to Mr Vaz or
that it was paid into a personal bank account of Mr Vaz? Surely
not, or you would have mentioned it previously. It is difficult
to understand why you have refused to supply photocopies of the
cheque stub and bank statement. Do you contend that any of the
evidence relating to this matter is evidence of wrongdoing by
Mr Vaz? If so, please say what that is and supply copies of any
(d) Question 4: There is no evidence that the
two payments attributed to Mr Zaiwalla were paid to Mr Vaz personally
and Mr Zaiwalla himself has denied that he made any such payments.
Mr Vaz has made it clear that he did not receive any such payments
and has said where, to the best of his knowledge, they went. Are
you suggesting that he should produce all his bank accounts to
enable a search to be made for any possible entries which would
contradict his assertions? If not, I cannot see what further answer
you require. In any case the amount of the payments seems to be
below any registrable amount. The issue of the calendar was dealt
with at great length by the previous Commissioner.
Question 5: In the absence of any evidence that
Mr Vaz received any benefit from the charity donations in question,
it is unreasonable to expect him to track down the organisers
of events which took place so long ago or to interrogate them
as to their bank accounts.
Question 6: This is sufficiently answered in
my letter of 17 July which makes it clear that Mr Vaz was neither
a shareholder or a director and derived no income or personal
benefit from the company. See also reply to your letter of 19
Question 7: The Attwall matter has been exhaustively
answered in this letter and elsewhere.
Question 8: See reply to letter of 19 October.
(e) Apart from the transcript of your meeting
with Mr Zaiwalla which contains no evidence of any wrongdoing
by Mr Vaz (apart from a complaint relating to * * * *
which you have not pursued), the transcripts are mere hearsay
and of no evidential value. You have failed to respond to my request
for the tape recordings or to provide any evidence to support
Mr Kapasi's allegations which have been categorically denied.
(f) It is unreasonable to expect Mr Vaz to supply
Labour Party bank statements which are not in his possession or
control. In my letter of 5 July (page 4, para. 20) I asked for
the details of the destination of his direct debits, which Mr
Kamal had offered to supply to you. You have not provided these.
12 OCTOBER 2000
1. The full transcript which you have supplied
of the alleged conversation between Mr Milne and Mr Brown indicates
that on 14 January 2000 Mr Brown told Mr Milne that he had no
recollection of handing over an envelope containing money to Mr
Vaz or his assistant. Mr Brown and Mr Milne have apparently made
a series of contradictory statements which have been fully analysed
and debunked by Mr Vaz in his letter to you of 13 March. Mr Milne's
further letter of 4 April did nothing to remove the contradictions
and Mr Vaz dealt with them in his letter to you of 11 April. On
25 May I invited you to reject Mr Milne's claim which had been
completely demolished. I am at a loss to understand why you are
still pursuing it.
2. The club, variously described as 50, 100,
and 200 club (the latter by Mr Kamal) was set up by the local
Labour Party for the purposes stated in the statement of the chairman
Mr Gratrix which you have supplied. In fact Mr Vaz believes it
never had more than 30 members. Mr Vaz did not prepare the chairman's
statement. Mr Vaz believes it was prepared by the Treasurer. Mr
Vaz was happy to support and endorse the club but has never had
any involvement in its finances. He believes it is no longer in
existence. Mr Vaz repeats that this is a matter for the Labour
Party which would have received any donations and doubtless could
account for them and provide any other information. He also says
that he has never received any payment from the Labour Party and
indeed has donated money to the Party.
19 OCTOBER 2000
1. Mr Vaz owns 144 and 146 Uppingham Road, one
as residence and the other he allows to be used as the constituency
office. The only complaint as to these properties which you have
mentioned in your letter of 7 June relates to the possibility
that Mr Vaz has received housing benefit as rent from Mr Thomas.
Mr Thomas does not live in the property and neither he nor the
Labour Party pays Mr Vaz any rent or has ever done so. Save that
you have transposed the addresses in a and b and for the dates
in sub-para e, you may therefore infer that your understanding
of the position is correct.
2. Not relevant.
3. He owns his home jointly with his wife. "Completeness"
is hardly a sufficient reason for asking questions which are irrelevant
to any complaint.
4. The Labour Party pays its own office expenses.
Mr Vaz confirms that he has received no personal benefit from
the occupation by the Labour Party of his premises.
You have not claimed at any stage to have received
any complaint relating to this company the purpose of which was
fully explained to Sir Gordon Downey and which must be documented
in your files. Mr Vaz has already confirmed in my letter of 17
July that he has been neither a shareholder or director of this
company and has received no financial benefit from it. All the
information you seek can be obtained from the Companies Registry.
See separate reply.
Before you submit your draft report may I also
invite you to consider seriously the extent to which it is necessary
for you to put the mass of material which has been accumulated
in this inquiry into a form which could become public. Even though
my client is entitled to be fully exonerated of all the false
allegations made against him you owe him a moral if not a legal
duty to safeguard him as far as possible from the continuation
of a damaging campaign evidently mounted against him by political
2 November 2000