Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

(iii)  Complaint relating to Mr Vaz's alleged failure to register remunerated employment with Leicester City Council

439.  I received a letter dated 26 April 2001 from Mr Andrew Robathan, Member for Blaby (Annex iii1), making a complaint against Mr Vaz on the grounds of his alleged failure to register remunerated employment with Leicester City Council.

440.  Specifically, Mr Robathan drew attention to the following extract[131] from the evidence given by Sir Peter Soulsby, former Leader of Leicester City Council, to my previous investigation of various complaints against Mr Vaz:

    "The second strain in our relationship was in 1987 when he was elected to Parliament when, despite a number of requests from me and from the Town Clerk, Keith delayed resigning from his post and continued to draw his salary for I think it was, about eight months after his election."

441.  The reference to Mr Vaz's "post" was to a job he obtained, shortly after his selection as the prospective Parliamentary candidate in Leicester East, at a council-funded law centre.

442.  Mr Robathan added:

    "There were several other complaints about Mr Vaz's behaviour there, but I do not see that any of them particularly relate to his behaviour as an MP. However, remunerated employment other than from Parliament has to be declared in the Register of Members' Interests and had to be so declared in 1987.

    Having checked the Register of Members' Interests that covered that period, published in December 1987, I note that under Remunerated Employment, Keith Vaz's entry is "nil"."

443.  I wrote to Mr Vaz on 3 May 2001 (see Annex I1) to ask for his response to this allegation.

444.  Having received no response from Mr Vaz, I reminded him, in letters dated 7 September 2001 to his solicitor (see Annex ii56) and 27 September 2001 to Mr Vaz himself (see Annex ii66), that a reply was due.

Mr Vaz's Response

445.  Mr Vaz replied, in his letter dated 28 September 2001 (see Annex i9), as follows:

    "First he [Mr Robathan] raises a matter which is now 14 years old. Sir Peter Soulsby made these allegations when he saw you on 14th March 2000. You sent me a copy of his statement in your draft report to the Committee nine months later on 20th December 2000. You presumably studied it carefully as you quoted from it very extensively, giving his comments even more coverage in your report than mine. Is Mr Robathan suggesting that you have not been thorough?

    No evidence was provided by Sir Peter Soulsby to support his allegations. No questions were asked of me about them.

    I respectfully suggest that it is not appropriate to investigate a complaint after so long. When I was elected as a Member of Parliament, I informed the Law Centre of the fact that I had become an MP, though this was also a matter of public knowledge. I would have explained to them that I wish to give up my employment with the Law Centre. I would imagine that even newly elected MPs would have to give some kind of notice to their previous employers.

    I would have taken the substantial holidays due to me (as I had not taken any since I joined the Law Centre in 1985) and any flexitime that I was entitled to. As this was a Law Centre my removal from the Law Centre would necessitate the employment of another solicitor with a practising certificate.

    Sir Peter Soulsby claims that I received letters from the City Attorney. This is untrue. He also claims that he wrote to me, but has provided no letters to confirm this and I do not believe there are any. Perhaps you could ask him to provide you with copies of his letters.

    Since preparing the above I have now received your letter of 27th September 2001. You say that "the complaint is that you misled the Committee during the last inquiry". (However, Mr Robathan himself does not say that the Committee was misled). The sequence of events is as follows:

      (a)  You interviewed Peter Soulsby on 23rd March 2000 when he made this statement to you. You did not feel that it merited any further examination. You sent my solicitor this statement on 20th December 2000.

      (b)  You interviewed me on 3rd July 2000. You did not mention this allegation.

      (c)  Between the commencement of your first inquiry and the conclusion I answered over a hundred questions. You did not feel that it was serious enough to ask a question on this statement.

      (d)  The Committee examined me and Peter Soulsby yet did not feel that this matter merited examination. You also did not ask Peter Soulsby to provide copies of his alleged letters.

    I believe there is some confusion on Mr Robathan's part or perhaps he was not aware of the sequence of events."

446.  During the previous inquiry I had said to Mr Vaz's solicitor in a letter dated 9 November 2000:

"Finally, may I once again invite Mr Vaz to provide me with any other information he wishes me to consider, otherwise I shall assume that Mr Vaz has completed his replies to me."

447.  I made this offer to ensure that Mr Vaz could provide me with any other information to deal with matters raised or to fulfil his obligations to the House, for example by registering interests which he had overlooked.

Further information

448.  I asked the Chief Executive of Leicester City Council, Mr Rodney Green, to provide me with information about the terms of Mr Vaz's employment with the Law Centre between 1985 and 1987. On 18 October 2001, he telephoned me to say that the Council no longer retained the relevant records and suggested that I might approach the former Town Clerk, Mr Arthur Price-Jones.

449.  On 22 October 2001, Mr Green wrote to me as follows (Annex iii5):

    "Further to your recent telephone enquiry I confirm that Keith Vaz worked at a law centre run by Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre Limited. The company was funded by Council grant. I understand that around 1986/7 the Board broke down and the Council withdrew funding. In an attempt to maintain the provision of law advice services, the Council took a shell company which it had registered and changed the name to Leicester Advice and Information Services Limited. This company was then paid the grant previously paid to the Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre. It also inherited the staff including Keith Vaz.

    LAIS Limited ran the Law Centre until a new company was set up to take over the task around 1990 or 1991. LAIS was formally dissolved on 6th April 1992.

    It is understood by colleagues that Keith Vaz was employed by LAIS for a period after his election to Parliament, but no records are available to confirm precise details."

450.  I also wrote to Mr Vaz on 19 October 2001 (Annex ii78) to request details of his employment by the Law Centre. Mr Vaz replied on 24 October 2001 in a telephone call (Annex iii7). He said Sir Peter Soulsby should be asked to provide the letters to which he referred. I said that I would consider his suggestion but had assumed Mr Vaz could provide the correct information himself.

451.  I wrote to Sir Peter Soulsby on 24 October 2001 to ask him to provide me with any information he had about the dates of Mr Vaz's employment at the Law Centre. Sir Peter Soulsby replied to me on 7 November 2001 (Annex iii8) saying:

    "I can confirm that Keith Vaz delayed resigning his post with the Law Centre for several months after he was first elected to Parliament in 1987.

    The requests for him to resign were made formally by the Town Clerk at the time, Mr Arthur Price-Jones, and informally by me, as the then Council Leader.

    The reason for our concern was that he was obviously not actually working for the Centre and this Council-funded project had already had embarrassing questions asked about how Mr Vaz got the job: whether he had been practising without a valid Law Society Certificate and whether the Law Centre was effectively being used by him as his Campaign Headquarters.

    Unfortunately we have been unable as yet to find the files from this period and it seems possible that they have been destroyed in the intervening years, most likely during the period of dramatic departmental reorganisation that took place prior to and at the time of local government restructuring in 1997/8.

    I have however asked for further searches to be made and if any of the papers are found will contact you again."

452.  I had a telephone conversation with Mr Price-Jones, the former Town Clerk of Leicester City Council on 19 October 2001 (Annex iii9) to ask him for information about Mr Vaz's employment period with the Law Centre.

453.  Mr Price-Jones wrote to me on 19 November 2001 (Annex iii10) saying:

    "My recollection is as follows. I clearly recall some agitation on the part of the directors of Mr Vaz's employing company because of what was perceived as a delay on his part in ending his employment as a Law Centre Solicitor following his election to Parliament. I recall that Mr Vaz ended his employment in or about October 1987, but I cannot be precise.

    I enclose a copy of a letter I have received from Mr Goldberg who was the company's accountant at the time. The newspaper cutting, to which he refers, contains a reference to the resignation of Mr Vaz."

454.  Mr Price-Jones attached a copy of a letter dated 14 November 2001 from Mr L Goldberg, Head of Audit at Leicester City Council which says:

    "I attach the cutting I referred to during our conversation earlier today. You will see that as at 7 September 1987, arrangements to recruit a replacement for Keith Vaz were in hand. Given that he would almost certainly have been on one month's notice, it could be inferred that Mr Vaz remained on the payroll of Leicester Advice and Information Services Ltd until at least the end of September 1987.

    As far as I can recall, Mr Vaz continued to be employed by the company after he was elected in June 1987. The duration of that employment however, I cannot recall.

    In view of the fact that the account files held by the City Treasurer, in his capacity as Company treasurer, and yourself, in your capacity as Company Secretary, are no longer in existence, the only possible route by which verification of the duration of Mr Vaz's employment could be obtained would be through the Inland Revenue."

455.  Mr Goldberg attached a copy of a newspaper cutting which is dated 7 September 1987 which says:

    "... a post of solicitor was now being advertised to replace Mr Keith Vaz, who is now MP for East Leicester."

456.  Mr Vaz was elected on 11 June 1987. In 1987 the Rules required new Members entering Parliament to make a register entry of their financial interests within four weeks.

457.  In a letter dated 25 June 1987 (Annex iii11) which went to new Members it was made clear that financial "interests should be entered which date from the first day of the Parliament" and that the registration form should be returned "within four weeks of taking your seat".

458.  Mr Vaz's registration form, which was acknowledged on 8 October 1987 by the Registrar of Members' Interests, registered no financial interests.

131   HC (2000-01) 314-II, Annex 117, p cxxix. Back

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