(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
502. During the previous inquiry into complaints
against Mr Vaz, I concluded that he had failed to register a property
(144 Uppingham Road, Leicester), which he owns and which is used
as his constituency office. The Committee agreed with my view
and Mr Vaz has now registered that property.
I asked him to let me know of any other properties he owned (in
addition to his two houses in Leicester and his home in * * *
[Middlesex]). He did not give me details of any other properties.
503. Documentary material provided to me by the
Today programme and The Sunday Telegraph and correspondence
between the Registrar and Mr Vaz appeared to suggest that Mr Vaz
had interests in properties he had not previously mentioned. Information
also came to light during other aspects of the current investigation.
I therefore thought it right to set out my detailed understanding
of all Mr Vaz's properties and to put this to him for confirmation
or otherwise. I did this in the form of a schedule in tabular
504. I asked Mr Vaz to let me know whether the
schedule was accurate and complete, and, if it was not,
to let me have "a comprehensive and corrected version
covering all [his] 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".
505. I had assumed that Mr Vaz would take my
schedule as a starting point. He would then indicate in each case
whether he had (or had previously had) an interest in the property,
and, if so, what kind; whether rental income had been received;
and whether any properties in which he had an interest had been
omitted. Instead, Mr Vaz wrote a series of letters to me requesting
additional information or seeking clarification of points of detail
in the schedule which did not appear to me to be necessary to
enable him to set out with precision his own property interests.
506. Having written to Mr Vaz enclosing the schedule
on 19 June 2001, I received from him on 28 September what he described
as his response on the outstanding matters relating to his property
interests. Because his answers were incomplete this gave rise
to further questions from me in a letter dated 19 October 2001,
some replies to which were supplied by Mr Vaz in his letter of
3 November 2001.
507. In my view, it should not have taken as
long as five months to seek to obtain from Mr Vaz comprehensive
factual information about his property interests. Even now I can
not confirm that the information on his property interests is
comprehensive because Mr Vaz has failed to provide me with clear
confirmation despite several requests.
508. I deal in turn below with the position relating
to each of the properties listed in my original schedule, taking
into account Mr Vaz's replies and other information provided to
(a) * * * [London
509. Mr Vaz stated that he purchased his flat
at * * * in April 1999 as a new second home in London; that the
people registered to vote at the address between 1998 and 2001
were in fact the previous owners (not tenants of Mr Vaz),
whose names had been left on the electoral roll in error; and
that Mr Vaz's own name had been registered by a canvasser without
his knowledge and had subsequently been removed at his request.
510. I have received no evidence which contradicts
this explanation by Mr Vaz of the position concerning the property
at * * *. As a second London property used only for residential
purposes and not producing substantial income (which I have no
reason to doubt), this property is not registrable.
(b) * * * [Middlesex]
511. The house at * * *, is Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes's
main London residence and was purchased by them in August 1996.
Mr Vaz told me that he had never met the Murte family, three of
whom continued to be registered to vote at that address from 1996
to 1999. His explanation for this apparent anomaly was that the
* * * had occupied the house in 1995 and 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". The implication of Mr Vaz's
statement is that because he and his wife were not themselves
registered to vote at their * * * home there was no reason for
them to have taken steps to ensure that the electoral register
entry for that address was accurate. The fourth name which appeared
on the electoral register for * * *, Ana M Fernandez, was, according
to Mr Vaz, the family's live-in nanny. It therefore appears that
someone did make an electoral registration return for the property
sometime after Mr and Mrs Vaz moved in.
512. As Mr Vaz's principal London residence,
the home at * * * was not registrable unless Mr Vaz was deriving
substantial income from it. I have received no evidence to suggest
that this is, or has been, the case.
(c) 70a Teignmouth Road, Willesden Green
513. 70a Teignmouth Road, Willesden Green is,
according to Mr Vaz, the garden flat in a converted block. From
the information gathered by my office it appears to have been
purchased by Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes in 1993 as their "first
matrimonial home". Mr Vaz told me that it was sold in
1997 when he and his wife bought their current house * * * [Middlesex].
Mr Vaz explained that the sale date of 1999 which I had included
in my schedule was incorrect since that referred to the disposal
of the property by the person who had purchased it from Mr Vaz
and Ms Fernandes in 1997. Since the * * *[Middlesex] house was
purchased in August 1996 (a statement not corrected by Mr Vaz
in the schedule sent to him), it would appear that, for a period
of some months covering late 1996 and part of 1997, Mr Vaz and
Ms Fernandes owned both properties.
514. I was concerned to establish why so many
different names (though not those of Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes)
appeared on the electoral roll for 70 Teignmouth Road between
1993 and 1997. I therefore asked Mr Vaz, when checking the accuracy
of the schedule, to indicate which of the names related to No.
70a (ie the ground floor or garden flat).
515. Mr Vaz's initial response was that the relevant
electoral registration extracts appeared "to relate to
other people, the majority of which I do not know anything about".
He subsequently expanded on this reply, saying that the details
appeared "to be entries that relate to next door neighbours
and other people in a block of flats whom I have never met".
516. When asked by me in letters dated 19 &
31 October 2001 why the Asian Business Network was registered
from 70a Teignmouth Road until February 2001 when he had previously
stated that he was not actively involved in the organisation's
work, Mr Vaz told me in his letter of 3 November 2001 that:
"...The ABN has never
been 'registered' at this address. I have lived at this address
and I have been the President of this organisation a position
that as you say I have registered. It has always as far as I am
aware operated from Coleridge House, Coleridge Gardens..."
517. In his letter of 18 November 2001 Mr Vaz
reiterated that the Asian Business Network had no connection with
the property and he said the Website information was incorrect.
518. Mr Vaz's 70A Teignmouth Road home was, until
June 1999, the registered address of Mapesbury Communications.
519. During the period between 1993 and 1997
when Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes owned 70a Teignmouth Road it was
their main London residence and therefore not registrable unless
substantial income was derived from it. I have received no evidence
to suggest that this was the case. I have, however, been unable
to establish how this property remained the address of Mapesbury
Communications until June 1999 and maybe that of the Asian Business
Network until February 2001
or whether it has in fact been used for business purposes other
than as an address.
(d) 144 and 146 Uppingham Road, Leicester
520. Registration issues arising from Mr Vaz's
two properties at Nos 144 and 146 Uppingham Road, Leicesterthe
first used as his office and the second as a residencewere
dealt with in my previous investigation. The Committee agreed
with my finding that Mr Vaz ought to have registered No. 144 and
he did so on 13 February 2001.
521. For the sake of completeness, however, I
included both properties in the schedule sent to Mr Vaz for checking.
In one of his responses dated 28 September 2001 Mr Vaz explained
that No. 144 had been used "from time to time [as]
living accommodation and may be so used in the future",
but that no rental income had been received from it. As for No.
146, Mr Vaz added that various people, including a former member
of [his] staff and a member of the Labour Party, had stayed there,
and the Labour party had had their offices there from 1994 to
1995but again no rental income had been generated. No.
146 was sold "at full market value" in April
2001 to Mrs Vaz senior.
522. I do not consider that any of the additional
information supplied by Mr Vaz causes me to revise my previous
conclusions about these properties, nor has any evidence been
provided to me to indicate that Mr Vaz's Register entry in relation
to 144 and 146 Uppingham Road (following his recent registration
of No. 144) is incomplete or otherwise inaccurate.
(e) 75 Vanburgh Court, Kennington
523. The property at 75 Vanburgh Court, Kennington
was purchased by Mr Vaz in August 1988 and was used as a second
London home until he acquired the flat at * * * [London SW1] in
524. Mr Vaz had previously explained in correspondence
with the Registrar that his mother "was the beneficial
owner of the Kennington flat and it was transferred to her last
year" [ie 2000]. In his response to the schedule prepared
by my office Mr Vaz added that the phrase "transferred
without payment" used in that document in relation to
the Vanburgh Court property was misleading since, as Mr Vaz put
it, "payment was not required when it was a transfer to
the beneficial owner". He added that his mother had since
sold the flat (in January 2001), but that during the period before
he had purchased the * * * [London SW1] flat she had rented out
the property for a short time, and she also thought she had permitted
"someone else" to live there. But none of that rent
had been paid to Mr Vaz.
525. Mr Vaz had also told the Registrar that
he had allowed the flat to be used on two occasions (for no more
than three weeks at a time) as the headquarters of a political
campaign, but that, again, no rent was received by him for the
use of the accommodation.
526. Given that other people were registered
to vote at 75 Vanburgh Court in various years between 1988 and
1996, I was puzzled by Mr Vaz's statement, in his response to
the schedule, namely: "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 therefore invited Mr Vaz
in a letter dated 19 October 2001 to explain on what basis, unless
with his authority, the persons registered to vote at the property
were there, and, if with his authority, how he could maintain
that he did not know who they were.
527. In his reply to this point Mr Vaz said:
"...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..."
528. I do not regard this as an adequate explanation
for people who were living in his property long enough to be registered
529. In a letter dated 19 June 2001 I also questioned
Mr Vaz about the legal implications and, in particular, the timing
of the decision to transfer the Kennington property to his mother
on 27 October 2000, two weeks after I had written to him during
the earlier investigation to ask whether he had any previously
undisclosed property interests.
530. Mr Vaz answered:
"The reason for the
transfer was explained to the Registrar... she [Mrs
Vaz senior] wished to move to 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 ... The timing
of the transfer is a matter of legal process."
531. In his letter of 5 June 2001 (Annex iv2)
Mr Vaz referred to a meeting with the Registrar as follows:
"As I said in our
meeting in January my mother was the beneficial owner of the Kennington
flat and it was transferred to her last year".
532. However, as regards the meaning of the term
'beneficial owner', Mr Vaz, in his letter of 3 November 2001,
merely referred me to a particular statute (the Law of Property
533. This response by Mr Vaz was not very informative.
It was Mr Vaz who introduced the term 'beneficial owner' as part
of his explanation for the transfer. To direct me to a 75 year
old section of the statute book was not, as Mr Vaz must have known,
helpful. It was not the answer of someone who was trying to be
open and cooperative.
534. Nor has Mr Vaz explained his own legal status,
if any, in relation to the property before or after the transfer,
as I had specifically requested.
535. Of the other addresses in respect of which
I had asked Mr Vaz to confirm whether or not he had a property
interest, he told me that:
he had never
had a financial interest in 63-65 Camden High Street,
nor even visited the premises;
he had never had a financial interest
in 77 Langland Crescent, Stanmore, which was owned by his mother
he had never had a financial interest
in 153 Scraptoft Lane, Leicester;
his only connection with 203a Uppingham
Road, Leicester was that he had rented office space there which
had been in use during the general election and was now employed
536. I have received no evidence to suggest that
Mr Vaz personally, or his office, derived any benefit from any
of these properties such as would have made them registrable.
537. In my letter of 19 October 2001 I asked
Mr Vaz to "...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."
538. Mr Vaz's answer in his letter of 3 November
2001 offered confirmation in relation to properties abroad but
did not mention the UK. This may be because he regards this schedule
as comprehensive but it is not the answer of someone seeking to
provide a complete and accurate account of his interests.
The Registration of Second Homes
539. The table below shows the sequence of the
purchases and sales by Mr Vaz of his various properties:
|70a Teignmouth Road
|* * *
|* * *
|75 Vanburgh Court
||October 2000 [transferred to Mrs Vaz snr]
|144 Uppingham Road
|146 Uppingham Road
||April 2001 to Mrs Vaz senior
540. It can be seen that, for most of the period
since 1993, Mr Vaz has owned, in addition to a principal residence
in London, a second home in Leicester (one or other, alternately,
of the Uppingham Road properties) and a second London home. For
a period between the purchase of the * * * [London SW1] property
in April 1999 and the transfer to his mother of the Kennington
flat in October 2000, Mr Vaz owned two London properties,
which he says were used for residential purposes of himself, his
wife and his mother, in addition to his principal London residence
(in * * * [Middlesex]) and a home in Leicester.
541. On the basis of the information I have received,
and with the exception of his failure (since rectified) to register
144 Uppingham Road, Leicester which he uses as his office, Mr
Vaz appears to have fulfilled the registration requirements in
relation to these properties according to the rules as they now
stand and as they have been interpreted hitherto. (Though, for
the reasons I have indicated, the question of whether Mr Vaz owns
other properties in the United Kingdom about which he has not
informed me remains unresolved).
542. The Committee may wish to consider whether
any limit should be placed on the number of properties, in addition
to a Member's main home, which can be treated as exempt from registration
on the grounds that they are used solely for the personal residential
purposes by the Member or his spouse.
Alternatively, the Committee may wish to examine whether the definition
of "personal residential purposes" needs to be specified
more clearly. Either way, the issue raised by this case is whether
there is a point at which a Member's ownership of several properties
becomes a portfolio holding; and, if so, whether that constitutes
a financial interest of such significance that it ought to be
registered, irrespective of the use to which the properties are
139 He did so on 13 February 2001. Back
See paragraph 124. Back
See section (ii) Back
Personal information about Mrs Vaz senior removed. Back
See paragraph 291. Back
On 20 March 2001the Committee recommended that a total property
portfolio of a value equivalent to, or greater than, 100% of the
Parliamentary salary should be registered, but it did not propose
that there should be any restriction on the number of properties
which could qualify as second homes for exemption for registration.
This recommendation has not yet been agreed to by the House.