Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

(iv)  Complaint relating to Mr Vaz's alleged failure to register property interests and his alleged failure to give full and accurate answers about such interests during the previous investigation

469.  On 13 June 2001 the BBC Today programme broadcast an item in which it was alleged that Mr Vaz owned properties which he had not registered, contrary to his duty under the rules relating to the registration of interests (Category 8: Land and Property). The programme further alleged that Mr Vaz had transferred the ownership of his flat in Kennington, London to his mother on 27 October 2000, 8 days after I had written to Mr Vaz during the previous inquiry, asking him to give details of all his property interests. On 6 June 2001, an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph making similar allegations.

470.  At my request, both the Today programme and The Sunday Telegraph provided me with the documentary evidence, including extracts from electoral registers, on which they had based their allegations about Mr Vaz's property interests. A list of the documents concerned is at Annex iv7A.

471.  Although these allegations were not the subject of a specific complaint, I thought it necessary to examine them since, if true, they might indicate that Mr Vaz had failed to give full and accurate answers to my questions about his property interests during the course of my previous investigation of complaints against him, and that accordingly, as suggested by Mr Lansley in the context of his allegations in relation to the Hinduja brothers, Mr Vaz had misled the Committee and myself.

The previous investigation

472.  By way of background, it is necessary to rehearse briefly the position concerning Mr Vaz's property interests as it was established on the basis of information supplied by Mr Vaz or his solicitor during the earlier inquiry.

473.  After some initial confusion over the addresses, Mr Vaz confirmed that, in addition to his home in * * *, Middlesex, he owned numbers 144 and 146 Uppingham Road, Leicester—the first being used as his constituency office and the second as his home. Mr Vaz did not mention any other property.

474.  Since it is of some importance in determining whether Mr Vaz's answers to my questions during the first inquiry were full and accurate, the relevant sequence of correspondence is set out in some detail below.

475.  I wrote to Mr Vaz's solicitor on 19 October 2000 seeking confirmation of the position regarding the two houses in Uppingham Road, Leicester and asked Mr Vaz, for the sake of completeness, to "give me details of any other properties he owns, their purpose and the date of purchase."

476.  In a letter dated 2 November 2000, Mr Vaz's solicitor replied to this request as follows:

    "'Completeness' is hardly a sufficient reason for asking questions which are irrelevant to any complaint."

477.  In a further letter, dated 9 November 2000, to Mr Vaz's solicitor, I gave my reasons for seeking this information about Mr Vaz's other property interests (if any):

    "... you are aware that Members are required to make Register entries for some property interests. Therefore when I became aware that Mr Vaz owned two houses in Leicester I had to seek clear information about them from him and to give him the opportunity to inform me if he owned other property elsewhere."

478.  My letter (which also dealt with other matters relating to complaints against Mr Vaz) concluded:

    "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."

479.  In a further letter dated 7 December 2000, Mr Vaz's solicitor said:

    "My client's position... ... is that there are no relevant questions which remain unanswered. He has made it clear that he is happy to answer any further questions which the Committee wishes him to answer."

480.  In a letter dated 8 January 2001, in response to my memorandum (which had been shown to Mr Vaz in draft), Mr Vaz's solicitor commented on my view that No. 146 Uppingham Road ought to have been registered by referring to the fact that Mr Vaz had previously (in January 1994) sought advice on the issue from the then Registrar. He did not, however, make any reference to any other property interests which Mr Vaz might have.

481.  In the relevant part of their Report,[132] the Committee referred to my difficulty in completing my inquiries satisfactorily on this point and stated:

    "We drew Mr Vaz's attention to the rules relating to the registration of land and property and invited him to register any property which he had not registered but which was nonetheless registrable. Mr Vaz has now registered the property in Leicester which he uses as his constituency office. We regard this rectification of his Register entry as a sufficient outcome."

482.  In the light of:

    — the information provided by the Today programme and The Sunday Telegraph;

    —  the fact that Mr Vaz had not responded directly to my request, during the previous investigation, to let me know of any other properties he owned (in addition to the two Leicester houses and his home in * * *[Middlesex]);

    —  correspondence between Mr Vaz and the Registrar in February and early June 2001 (Annexes iv1-4) covering properties in which Mr Vaz appeared to have an interest but which he had not previously mentioned (this correspondence included a letter of 5 June 2001 in which Mr Vaz indicated that his mother had agreed to purchase No. 146 Uppingham Road from him but that he would continue to live there when he stayed in Leicester);

    —  information which had come to light during other aspects of the complaints against Mr Vaz (including that relating to Mapesbury Communications Limited) which suggested that there might be other properties with which Mr Vaz had some connection but in relation to which the nature of any interest he might have was unclear.

483.  I took the view that it would be appropriate to write to Mr Vaz setting out my understanding of his property interests and asking him to confirm its accuracy or otherwise.

Mr Vaz's Response

484.  I accordingly wrote to Mr Vaz on 19 June 2001 (Annex iv5). The relevant points of the letter (which also dealt with other outstanding complaints against Mr Vaz) were as follows:

    "The Today programme and The Sunday Telegraph have provided me with background research information collated from public records concerning your property interests and in some instances, where they appear to be intertwined, those of your mother. I have added the information which you have provided to me and created the attached schedule which sets out the property information of which I am aware, including information about the occupants.

    Please would you let me know whether this schedule is correct and complete. If it is not please provide me with a comprehensive and corrected version covering all your property holdings in the United Kingdom or elsewhere from the date of your first election in 1987 to June 2001 and indicating any rental income received from properties. This will enable me to provide accurate information to the Standards and Privileges Committee.

    Perhaps you would also confirm what you have already explained to my office, that you personally received no rent in respect of 75 Vanburgh Court and confirm that you have never, since your election in 1987, had any financial interest in 63 to 65 Camden High Street, London, NW1, 77 Langland Crescent, Harrow, 53 Scraptoft Street, Leicester, or 203a Uppingham Road, Leicester.[133]

    I see from the Land Registry information that you transferred the ownership of your Kennington flat at Vanburgh Court to your mother on 27th October 2000. I would be grateful if you would let me know why this transaction occurred at this date."

485.  The schedule attached to my letter of 19 June 2001 is set out in full below:

PropertiesAcquired/owned by Sale/transfer Registered occupants[134]
* * *
London SW1
Title registered
12 April 1999
* * *
* * *

Mr Keith Vaz
* * *
23 August by Mr and Mrs Keith Vaz (Maria Rita Zarina Fernandes) 1996-99
* * *
* * *
* * *

Ana M Fernandez

70a Teignmouth Road
Willesden Green
London NW2
(ground floor flat)
Mr Vaz and Maria Rita Zarina Fernandes 1993 16 November 1999[135] Asian Business Network appeared in until at least 9 June as operating from this address.

* * *


* * * (Flat 1)
* * * (Flat 2)
* * * (Flat 3)

* * * (Flat 1)
* * * (Flat 3)

* * * (Flat 1)
* * * (Flat 2)
* * * (Flat 3)

* * * (no numbers given)
* * * (Flat 3)

* * * (no number given)
* * * (Flat 3)

* * * (no number given)
* * * (Flat 2)
* * * (no number given)

Please confirm which refer to 70a
144 Uppingham Road
27 September 1985 1987-94
Mr Vaz

Mr Vaz and Maria Vaz[136]


Mr Vaz and Maria Vaz

146 Uppingham Road
Please provide date 17 April 2001, sold to Mrs Vaz senior (Merlyn) 1987-90

* * *


* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *

Mr Vaz and Maria Z F Vaz


Mr Vaz and Maria Fernandes
Merlyn Vaz with effect from June 2001
75 Vanburgh Court
Wincott Street
London SE11
Title registered 5 August 1988
Mr Vaz from * * *
27 October 2000 to Mrs Vaz senior without payment

Subsequently sold subject to contract
January 2001
* * *

Mr Vaz


* * *

* * *

1996 onward

486.  On 1 July 2001, Mr Vaz wrote to me (see Annex I2) asking me to send him "the full set of research papers sent to you by the BBC and the Telegraph."

487.  I replied to Mr Vaz on 6 July 2001 (Annex iv7), pointing out that I had incorporated into the schedule attached to my letter of 19 June 2001 the information on properties sent to me by the BBC and The Sunday Telegraph and that I had also provided Mr Vaz with the original documentation supplied to me by them.

488.  I received a further letter from Mr Vaz, dated 9 July 2001 (see Annex i21), in which he said:

    "In relation to the material forwarded by the BBC and the Telegraph, this appears to be a collection of office copy entries and electoral registration extracts, many of which appear to relate to other people, the majority of which I do not know anything about. It will take me several weeks to write to individuals, electoral registration officers and others to get a completely accurate picture for you, as there appear to be so many inaccuracies.

    Could you possibly forward to me the covering letters from the BBC and the Telegraph, which will help me crystallise what exactly is required? I assume that these were not just sent as a bundle but that there was some kind of reason why this particular material was provided."

489.  I wrote again to Mr Vaz on 16 July (see Annex i22) with my response on these points:

    "There is no need for you to check the public information other than in relation to your own records. All I require are the facts which relate to your ownership of property and any rental income you have received during your time as a Member of Parliament. Please correct the schedule I have provided to you and return it to me so that I can provide the Committee with an accurate account of your property interests.

    No covering letter was provided by The Sunday Telegraph in relation to property information which was faxed to my office. The BBC Today programme delivered the information to my office following a telephone call saying they would do so. No covering letter was provided."

490.  I received a further letter from Mr Vaz dated 13 August 2001 (see Annex i23) which contained the following two paragraphs relevant to property matters:

    "It appears that the BBC has placed reliance on electoral registration information which I have discovered is not accurate. I do not have copies of the electoral registration forms and I would imagine that people do not normally keep these, they either hand it to the canvassers or send it to the local office. I have therefore written to the appropriate authorities concerned to obtain as much information as possible.

    I wonder if you could clarify the list of names for 70 Teignmouth Road. That property, which was our first matrimonial home, is a converted block of flats and not a single dwelling. The persons who we sold it to when we purchased * * * are not listed, although I have asked the solicitor who dealt with the sale to check this. Would you kindly check the information you received from the BBC as there appears to be a number of office copy entries missing between the time we sold it and moved to * * * and the time it was purchased by whoever purchased it from the new owners in 1999. I assume it is one of the persons on the list. It was always described as the "garden flat", though the BBC describe it as the ground floor flat."

491.  I responded to this part of Mr Vaz's further letter on 23 August 2001 (Annex iv11) as follows:

    "As I have said previously there is no need for you to obtain further electoral registration documents. All I need from you is a complete and accurate record of the properties you have owned since becoming a Member with dates and a list of the people who have lived in those properties with dates. I also need a statement from you showing those from whom rental income has been received at any time during your ownership of those properties. Where any of the properties included in the information which I have sent you have not been owned by you, eg other flats in a block of flats, please show that as well so that I have a complete picture."

492.  Mr Vaz wrote to me again on 31 August 2001 with the following information (Annex iv12):

    "In your letter of 19 June 2001 you refer to a number of properties whose details have been sent to you by the BBC. I have now had an opportunity to study the papers you sent me. As my Agent has already explained to them I have never had a financial interest in 63-65 Camden High Street, London NW1 (which I have never even visited), 77 Langland Crescent, Harrow (although I think you mean Stanmore) which was owned by my mother-in-law and I understand was purchased in the mid 1970s (I only met my wife in 1992) or 53 Scraptoft Street, Leicester (although I think you mean 153 Scraptoft Lane, Leicester). I have been renting office space at 203a Uppingham Road, Leicester which was in use during the election and is now used for storage. The rental agreement was for a maximum of 12 months. I also have no financial interest in The Garden Flat, 70a Teignmouth Road, London NW2 which my wife and I sold in 1997."

493.  I subsequently received a letter dated 6 September 2001 from Mr Vaz's solicitor (see Annex ii55), whom Mr Vaz had asked to advise him on his response to the various complaints against him, the last paragraph of which read:

    "I must say, having read the material, I would find it very helpful if you were able to let me have a list of what you still regard as outstanding matters, though I appreciate you may feel you have already made your position sufficiently clear."

494.  I wrote to Mr Vaz's solicitor on 7 September see (Annex ii56), listing the 14 previous letters in which I had asked Mr Vaz for his comments or for information in connection with my inquiries into both this complaint and the others which are the subject of this memorandum.

495.  I received a further letter from Mr Vaz, dated 27 September (Annex iv15), in which he said:

    "In your letter of 23rd August 2001 in response to my paragraphs 17 and 18 you refer to flats owned by me in a "block of flats" and you referred to the office copy entries sent to you by the BBC. This is a little confusing; there are many office copy entries that have been included that have nothing to do with me. They appear to be entries that relate to next door neighbours and other people in a block of flats whom I have never met. I am uncertain why you have included these when they have nothing to do with me; am I missing something here, is something being alleged that I am not aware of? If it is, I would like to deal with this in my submission.

    In order to correct your schedule I need the missing office copy entry in relation to 70a Teignmouth Road from the time it was sold in 1997 to the time it was sold in 1999 by the person who purchased it in 1997. I requested this in paragraph 18 of my letter. Could you possibly forward this to me please?

    If I am to give you full and accurate information I will need this information. I want to deal with all your points to give you a complete picture."

496.  In his letter of 28 September 2001 (see Annex i9), Mr Vaz gave his detailed response to what he described as the outstanding matters relating to his property interests, as follows:

    "As regards the information provided by the BBC you have stated in your letter of 23 August 2001 that I need not check the electoral information, however for completeness I believe it is important to check the information that they have provided and to make sure that it was accurate. As I have already explained to you the BBC has relied on information that is inaccurate as can be seen from the plethora of office copy entries that have nothing to do with me that they sent you.

    My Agent and indeed I cautioned them that they were dealing with matters that were not correct. As has become clear from the replies I have received so far from the Electoral Registration Officers, the information is indeed inaccurate. Local electoral registration officers require that a form is filled in every year. However, I believe that it is important to stress that electoral registers are not always reliable because a person tends to be assumed to remain in occupation unless a positive step is taken to alter that assumption. This was confirmed by all the EROs that I have written to.

    I discussed all property issues with the Registrar when invited to do so by the Committee. I further discussed them again following media comments. I discussed them a third time in June 2001. The first two occasions were in person and the third was on the telephone. I remain very grateful to the Registrar for his advice. As a result of his advice I registered my office at 144 Uppingham Road, Leicester.

    I have explained to the Registrar in correspondence the purchase of 75 Vanburgh Court was in 1988. I have no personal knowledge of who was registered there when I was not in occupation but I confirm that I received no rent. I continued to use this property as a second home. The words "transferred without payment" is misleading. Payment was not required when it is a transfer to the beneficial owner for the reasons I gave to the Registrar when we discussed these issues.

    70a Teignmouth Road was a garden flat and my first matrimonial home. My wife and I lived there from 1993 to 1996. It was sold subject to contract in 1996 when we purchased our home in * * * [Middlesex], the proposed purchaser then withdrew and it was sold to a new purchaser in April 1997. None of the persons named in the last column lived in the garden flat when we owned it. As it is clear from the flat numbers stated in most cases those named were occupying other flats in the building. I have asked for a missing office copy entry from 1997 and 1999 which the BBC has not supplied, this will tell you the identity of the purchaser. For completeness I would be glad to receive this. The information from is four years out of date. They informed my assistant that information is acquired from a number of sources and informed her that they only change information when they get new information.

    As my Agent explained to the BBC and to The Times I have never met the * * * family. The explanation as to why they remained on the register is given above. I have subsequently checked with the previous owners of our house and was told that the * * * family occupied the property in 1995 before it was sold to us (there were no tenants when we moved in). They ran an organisation called the London Life Christian Centre. Post for them is still delivered to our address. The other person named was our live-in nanny.

    * * * was purchased in April 1999 as a new second home in London after family members indicated that they wished to move into the studio flat. * * * and * * * are the previous owners as the office copy entries show, not tenants, their registration was not removed. The registration of my name for 2001-2 was made by a canvasser and not made by me and was removed at my request.

    144 Uppingham Road was purchased before I became an MP when I moved from London, I have explained at length what it was used for and from time to time it was used [as] living accommodation and may be so used in the future. I have not received any rent. 146 Uppingham Road was purchased from a Mr Murphy. As I have explained various persons including a former member of staff and one member of the Labour Party, Mustapha Kamal, stayed there, the Labour Party had their offices there from 1994-5. I have received no rent. It was sold at full market value in April 2001 for the reasons I explained to the Registrar when I saw him in February.

    In your schedule you use the word "empty". With respect I believe this is the wrong description. Your last column is based on electoral registration for the relevant date, 10th October in each year. The correct description is that no person is registered to vote, at that property, on that date, in that year.

    I hope I have clarified the errors that were contained in the information that was given to you."

497.  In a letter dated 2 October 2001 (Annex iv16), I responded to Mr Vaz's letter of 27 September 2001 as follows:

    "As far as I am aware you are missing nothing. I explained what I need from you in my letter of 23 August. I quote—

    "All I need from you is a complete and accurate record of the properties you have owned since becoming a Member with dates and a list of the people who have lived in those properties with dates. I also need a statement from you showing those from whom rental income has been received at any time during your ownership of those properties. Where any of the properties included in the information which I have sent you have not been owned by you, eg other flats in a block of flats, please show that as well so that I have a complete picture.

    To deal with properties with which you have, or have had, no connection please strike through their details on the information which I have sent to you and confirm to me that you have struck out properties which you have neither owned nor received rental income from at any time.

    If any property was sold or transferred to Ms Fernandes, Mrs Vaz senior, Mapesbury Communications or the Asian Business Network please give those details and the date of the transaction.

    There are no missing schedules for 70 Teignmouth Road, NW2. I attach the electoral record from which the table was compiled.[137] You will see they are identical.

    In addition the table includes the BT information about the use of the premises at 70A Teignmouth Road by the Asian Business Network.

    May I reiterate that all I need from you is a comprehensive and complete list of your property interests and confirmation that during your time as a Member you have neither owned nor received rental income from any other property.""

498.  Mr Vaz responded to these points in a letter dated 3 October 2001 (Annex iv17):

    "In respect of 70a Teignmouth Road there is a misunderstanding. You are referring to electoral registration issues and I am asking about ownership issues. Your schedule states that I sold the property in 1999 which is wrong (see paragraphs 24 and 76).[138] You base this information on the only office copy entry you have been sent by the BBC which relates to 1999. The missing office copy entry relates to the sale of this flat to the current owners by some other person who may or may not be on your list. It is quite obvious from the new list you have supplied who lived in each flat.

    I have dealt with all the property issues you raised in paragraphs 74-81. I have corrected the information you have received concerning ownership. As far as I am aware I have addressed all the issues in the folder you sent me of which you asked questions."

499.  In a letter dated 19 October 2001 (see Annex ii78), I put some further questions to Mr Vaz about his property at Vanburgh Court:

"(a) You say in relation to Vanburgh Court:

    "I have no personal knowledge of who was registered there when I was not in occupation, but I confirm that I received no rent. I continued to use this property as a second home."

    I am having difficulty in understanding this answer.

    Could you please tell me:

      (i)   whether the people registered to vote at your Vanburgh Court address were living there with your authority; if so, what was the basis of the arrangement and how can you maintain that you do not know who they are?

      (ii)   if the people concerned were not living at your Vanburgh Court address with your authority, on whose authority were they there and what was the basis of the arrangement?

      (iii)  how frequently did you use the Vanburgh Court address as a second home and how did this fit in with its occupation by the other people registered to vote there?

      (iv)  did you receive any benefit of any kind in lieu of rent from any of the people registered at the Vanburgh Court address?

(b)   So far as the transfer of Vanburgh Court to your mother is concerned:

      (i)   what was the purpose and legal effect of the transfer?

      (ii)   what is meant by 'beneficial owner' and what was your own legal status in relation to the property a) before and b) after the transfer?

      (iii)  what determined the precise timing of the transfer?"

500.  In the same letter I also asked Mr Vaz for confirmation that he had now supplied me with details of all his property interests:

    "You may feel that the cumulative effect of your individual answers deals with this point, but nevertheless could you please confirm for the record that you have now provided me with complete information about all your property interests, in the UK or elsewhere, during the time you have been a Member of Parliament?"

Mr Vaz's response

501.  On 3 November 2001 (see Annex ii84) Mr Vaz replied in respect of property as follows:

    "117.   ...I have already set out in correspondence with the Registrar my knowledge on these matters.

    118.  (a) (1) [i] and (2) [ii] I had no arrangement with any such persons nor do I have knowledge of any arrangement. They were there under the authority of the beneficial owner who was responsible for this. I explained this to the Registrar in January, February and twice in June. I received no benefit. (3) [iii] there is no qualification of time required for Members to occupy a second home. I used it whenever I needed to, I cannot give you exact dates nor are Members required to do so. No one was in occupation of the flat when I stayed there. (4) [iv] No.

    119.   (b) (1) [i] To reflect the true position that my mother was the beneficial owner. (2) [ii] beneficial owner is clearly established legal term is defined in the Law of Property Act 1925 section 76 Schedule 2. The reason for the transfer was explained to the Registrar. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 at the stage she wished to move to London and she had not decided whether her treatment should be in Leicester or London. She had not decided if she wished to sell the property. Instructions were given to settle these matters in 1999, she changed her mind in 2000 and changed it again. Two different sets of solicitors were instructed to deal with these matters the second set being instructed in the summer of 2000, and they began the process. I made reference both to her health and these family matters to the Committee. The timing of the transfer is a matter of legal process.

    120.   I can confirm for the record that I have never owned property abroad. I sold my house in London when I permanently moved to Leicester as far as I recall the sale was in 1987. I cannot say whether it was before or after the actual date of the general election. I do not accept that I have failed to provide you with all information that is relevant to your proper concerns. No complaint had been made about my ownership of any property."

132   HC (2000-01) 314-I, paragraph 53. Back

133   For Mr Vaz's corrections to some of these addresses, see paragraph 492. Back

134  .Electoral registers are in force from February to February but record residents as at the previous October. Back

135   Mr Vaz has indicated that he sold this property in 1997 (see paragraph 495). Back

136   Mrs Vaz junior's [Mr Fernandes's] name has in each case been given as it appears on the Electoral Roll. Back

137   See Annex iv5. Back

138   The numbers refer to paragraph numbering Mr Vaz used in the series of letters to me. Back

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