Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


(i)  Complaints relating to Mr Vaz's alleged financial relationship with the Hinduja brothers and his failure to provide accurate information about the payment by the Hinduja Foundation to Mapesbury Communications Limited

a)   Allegation that the Hinduja brothers made payments to Mapesbury Communications Ltd which constituted a benefit to Mr Vaz which he failed to register

760.  Mapesbury Communications Limited was established by Mr Vaz in October 1994 to receive his income from his earnings from outside Parliament and from his annual calendar. In January 1996 he informed the then Commissioner that he had established the company for that purpose and sought advice as to its registrability. Therefore, in June and July 1995 Mr Vaz was personally involved in this new company, which by that time was already trading. The accounts of the Hinduja Foundation showed that a payment had been made to Mapesbury Communications Limited in July 1995.

761.  In a letter of 14 March 2000 I asked Mr Vaz whether he had failed to register a substantial donation from the Hinduja brothers. Mr Vaz replied "no donation has ever been made by the Hinduja brothers".

762.  On 19 March 2001 Mr Lansley drew attention to a payment made to Mapesbury Communications Limited in July 1995 for the Vaswani lecture and reception and alleged that Mr Vaz's replies on this matter during my previous inquiry had therefore been inaccurate and misleading.

763.  On 26 March 2001 Mr Vaz replied to questions from the then Chairman and me about this payment. He said the payment was for the expenses incurred in organising the Vaswani lecture and reception on 6 July[161] 1995.

764.  As I have already indicated[162], I have received no evidence to contradict Mr Vaz's account in relation to this specific allegation.

Complaint not upheld

b)   Allegation that Mr Vaz received registrable benefits from the Hinduja brothers in return for securing, mainly through his wife, preferential treatment of immigration issues on behalf of the Hinduja family or business; and that Mr Vaz failed to register those benefits

765.  During this inquiry I have established that Mr Vaz's wife, Ms Fernandes, through her legal practice Fernandez Vaz, carried out work on a commercial basis for the Hinduja business or family on four separate immigration and nationality cases.

766.  According to his evidence to the Hammond inquiry, Mr Vaz also made representations to the Immigration Service and to Home Office Ministers relating to the Hinduja cases (see Annex i30).

767.  I have received no evidence to support Mrs Gresty's allegations that Mr Vaz has been provided with direct personal payments or other benefits by the Hinduja brothers, business or Foundation, nor that the payments which were made by the Hinduja business to Ms Fernandes's legal practice were used to provide benefits to Mr Vaz in relation to his role as a Member of Parliament.

Complaint not upheld

c)   Allegation that, during the previous inquiry, Mr Vaz misled me and the Committee about the financial relationship between the Hindujas and Mapesbury Communications Limited

768.  Shortly after Mr Vaz had set up Mapesbury Communications Ltd and shortly before his handing it over in a "dormant" state to his wife, the company received the payment from the Hinduja business for the Dada Vaswani lecture. Mr Vaz should therefore have mentioned this payment in his replies during the previous inquiry.

769.  Moreover, I have established that Mr Vaz's replies to the then Chairman and me about payments by the Hinduja family or business to Mr Vaz's family were also inaccurate. Mr Vaz has made much of the confidentiality of his wife's legal dealings—a consideration which would usually apply where a spouse was in professional practice of any kind. In this instance, however, I am not convinced by the reason given by Mr Vaz for his inability to provide me with the information I had requested from him. Mr Vaz was making representations to the Immigration Service on behalf of the Hinduja family at a time shortly before the Hinduja business began paying Fernandes Vaz for similar services. In these circumstances it is not credible that Mr Vaz was unaware of the work Ms Fernandes was engaged upon in her legal practice in respect of Hinduja-related immigration issues. Mr Vaz was personally involved in this way in matters which related closely to Ms Fernandes's cases, or indeed was actually involved in those cases themselves. He could and should have provided an accurate answer to the questions from the then Chairman and me. He should have been willing to ascertain whether his wife had received professional payments for legal services from the Hinduja business. Mr Vaz could, of course, have asked the Committee to maintain confidentiality in respect of Ms Fernandes's clients.

770.  Mr Vaz was in contact with the Immigration Service on behalf of the Hinduja interests shortly before Ms Fernandes was engaged by them on Hinduja-related immigration cases. I must therefore conclude that Mr Vaz's answers to the then Chairman and me were inaccurate on this point. I am not persuaded that Mr Vaz's answers could have been a mistake. Mr Vaz has not sought to correct his previous statements on the subject during this inquiry. Although he undertook to obtain the information from his wife, he did not in fact do so.

771.  In addition, Ms Fernandes has actively sought to withhold information from this inquiry about the fees she had received from the Hinduja business. (I have already made clear the relevance of this information to my inquiry into this aspect of the complaint against Mr Vaz[163]). In acting in this way, Ms Fernandes's reliance on professional confidentiality was disingenuous: she made no attempt, despite repeated requests, to approach her clients (the Hinduja family) to see whether they would be willing to allow her to provide me with the relevant details. The fact that the Hinduja brothers were my eventual source for the information, and were open and co-operative with me, indicates that, if Ms Fernandes had approached them, they would not have refused to co-operate.

772.  The information I have obtained during this inquiry shows that Mr Vaz took an active part, through representations to the Immigration Service and the Home Office, in providing assistance to the Hinduja business and family on immigration issues at least until the end of 1998. Mr Vaz was appointed a Minister in May 1999.

773.  According to the information provided by the Hinduja brothers, from early 2000 Mr Vaz's wife, Ms Fernandes, was receiving payments from their business for immigration work carried out by her in 1999 or earlier. During 2000 she was paid over £3,000 by the Hinduja business.

774.  Through his own efforts in pursuing immigration cases on their behalf, Mr Vaz was linked to the payments the Hinduja brothers made to Fernandes Vaz in respect of the same or related cases, even though he may have received no direct personal benefit. It is clear to me that there has been deliberate collusion, over many months, between Mr Vaz and his wife to conceal this fact and to prevent me obtaining accurate information about his possible financial relationship with the Hinduja family.

775.  The Hinduja brothers were not Mr Vaz's constituents. Whether or not Mr Vaz was involved in a direct financial relationship with them, he made use of his role as a Member of Parliament to make representations to the Immigration Service and Home Office Ministers on their behalf. It is likely that Mr Vaz thereby assisted his wife's business commercially. Mr Vaz should have been open about the payments made by the Hinduja brothers to his wife.

776.  Mr Vaz misled the Committee and me in the replies he gave to us about the payments from the Hinduja brothers' business to Mapesbury Communications Limited and Fernandes Vaz after the last inquiry. He has continued to give misleading answers.

Complaint upheld

d)   Allegation that Mr Vaz received free office accommodation at the Hinduja Foundation which he failed to register as a benefit

777.  I have found no evidence to support this allegation.

Complaint not upheld

(ii)   Complaints relating to Mr Vaz's alleged financial relationship with Mapesbury Communications Limited

778.  During the previous inquiry I examined allegations that payments had been made to Mr Vaz which had been routed through Mapesbury Communications Ltd and which he had failed to register.

779.  I reported:

780.  In the section of my previous conclusions dealing with inquiries I had been unable to complete I said:

    "Mapesbury Communications Limited

    [With reference to the allegation] That Mr Vaz may have used revenue from Mapesbury Communications Ltd to support his Parliamentary office without disclosing the sources of the company's income."[165]

I continued:

    "On the same basis, I also recommend that, in order to establish the facts, the Committee take steps to obtain the relevant documentary information from: ... Mapesbury Communications Limited; and Mr Vaz."[166]

781.  The Committee in their report said:

    "No evidence has been provided to the Commissioner or the Committee that establishes the absence or the existence of a Mapesbury link with Mr Zaiwalla or other significant contacts of Mr Vaz."[167]

782.  The copious correspondence related to Mapesbury Communications Limited and the interviews which I undertook with Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan are set out in section (II).[168] They demonstrate that, during this second inquiry, I tried, with little success, to obtain from Mr Vaz the precise factual information about the company I needed in order to establish conclusively whether he did or did not obtain payments or benefits via this vehicle. I have been prevented from achieving this in full. Although I have pieced together more information about the company, about some people who have worked for it and about some events with which it has been associated, the picture is incomplete and lacks clarity.

783.  I have established that:

    —  There was an overlap of personnel between Mapesbury Communications Limited and Mr Vaz's parliamentary office. Between 1994 and 1996 Mr Pathan was employed through the House of Commons Office Costs Allowance in Mr Vaz's parliamentary office. In 1998 Mr Pathan was also employed by Mapesbury. In that year Ms Coco was also employed both by Mapesbury and by Mr Vaz;

    —  The directors of Mapesbury Communications Limited were all closely linked to Mr Vaz: Mrs Vaz senior (his mother), Ms Fernandes (his wife) and Mr Pathan (a close family friend) and, until her death, his mother-in-law;

    —  Mr Vaz chaired the Into Leadership Conference. The evidence suggests that he and his staff organised it. I have been unable to establish whether or not Mapesbury Communications Limited was involved as a company. But Mr Pathan, one of its personnel, who also worked for Mr Vaz, certainly was. Nor have I been able to discover how much money was raised, into what account or accounts it was paid, to what use it was put, or whether Mr Vaz received any benefit from it;

    —  Mr Vaz told my predecessor that the company handled the finances associated with his calendars. I established during the previous inquiry that at least some of the calendars were printed by Wildberry Printers, of which Mrs Vaz senior and Mr Townsend, Mr Vaz's brother-in-law, were the directors. I have not been provided with information by Mr Vaz about the amounts of money involved in transactions between Mapesbury Communications Limited and Wildberry, nor whether there was an excess of income over expenditure and, if so, how it was spent.

784.  I was repeatedly told that Mapesbury Communications Limited was a small company—in which case I would have expected the directors to have had a clear grasp of its activities. The cumulative effect of the delays and failure to provide information by Mr Vaz and his wife, the sole shareholder throughout, leads me to the view that there has been deliberate delay, prevarication and obfuscation on their part. The same must be said of Mr Pathan, a director of the company.

785.  I have received no hard information to link payments into Mapesbury Communications Limited with payments or benefits to Mr Vaz. But, because of the unhelpful way in which my requests for information have been handled by Mr Vaz, his wife, and Mr Pathan, I have been unable to complete my inquiries into this allegation and I am therefore not in a position to reach any conclusions on it. I have, however, established that on some matters the information provided by Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan was untrue.

Inquiries incomplete

(iii)   Allegation that Mr Vaz failed to register remunerated employment in the Leicester Law Centre when he first entered Parliament in 1987

786.  I have received compelling evidence from current and past officers of Leicester City Council that Mr Vaz continued to be formally employed by the Leicester Law Centre for a period of several months after his election to the House in June 1987.

787.  Mr Vaz failed to make any register entry to cover this employment. Under the rules as they stood in 1987, Mr Vaz should have returned his registration form within 28 days of taking his seat in Parliament and it should have recorded any remunerated employment held by him on or after the date of his election. The form, which was not returned within the timescale required, was therefore inaccurate and incomplete in this respect.

Complaint upheld

Complaints relating to matters more than 7 years old

788.  The Committee had previously agreed that it would not normally look into complaints relating to events which occurred more than seven years ago unless the matter was of a serious nature.

789.  I recommend that the Committee decide whether, in the light of this inquiry and the previous one, they regard Mr Vaz's failure, when first elected to Parliament, to register this remunerated employment, as serious.

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

790.  On 19 October 2000, in order to ensure I had a complete picture to provide to the Standards and Privileges Committee during the previous inquiry, I offered Mr Vaz the opportunity to give me a complete list of the properties he owned and to clarify the position regarding his two houses in Uppingham Road, Leicester. Mr Vaz did not produce such a comprehensive list.

791.  The Committee drew Mr Vaz's attention to the rules relating to the registration of property and invited him to register any registrable property which he had hitherto failed to register.

792.  As a consequence Mr Vaz registered his property at 144 Uppingham Road on 13 February 2001.

793.  The correspondence during this inquiry, which I have set out in paragraphs 135-250, demonstrates that I again faced protracted difficulties in obtaining from Mr Vaz a comprehensive list of the properties he owns and has owned, and for what purpose they have been used, over the period from 1987 to date.

794.  I therefore decided to compile my own list of what I understood, from various sources, to be Mr Vaz's complete property portfolio and asked him to indicate whether the list was both accurate and complete. This seemed to me to be a straightforward request which should have caused Mr Vaz no difficulty. I was therefore surprised that he chose to respond with a series of requests for further information which had no relevance to his ability to confirm or deny his ownership, past or present, of each of the properties I had listed and any instance where he had received rental income.

795.  Nevertheless, despite the protracted and roundabout way in which Mr Vaz responded to my requests, I formed the view, as I said earlier in this memorandum:[169]

    "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 [ie the properties I had listed and sent to Mr Vaz for his comments] according to the rules as they now stand and as they have been interpreted hitherto."

796.  Although Mr Vaz had thus dealt with the issue of the list's accuracy, he had not addressed unequivocally its completeness.

797.  Eventually, in his final statement during this inquiry Mr Vaz confirmed that he neither owns, or has owned, property outside the UK, but he still did not give me the specific confirmation which I had requested about all his properties past and present within the UK. This may be because Mr Vaz regarded the information he had already provided as comprehensive. For my part, however, following my two investigations, I cannot, until such confirmation is received from Mr Vaz, report to the Committee that I am able to provide a complete picture of Mr Vaz's property interests or determine whether Mr Vaz has failed to make any necessary register entry.

798.  I repeat my earlier recommendation that the Committee might review the rules relating to registration of property interests.[170]

Inquiries incomplete

161   I later established that the reception was held in June 1995 (see paragraph 26). Back

162   See paragraph 68. Back

163   See paragraphs 71-73. Back

164   HC (2000-01) 314, Annex 1, paragraphs 450-454. Back

165   Ibid paragraph 505. Back

166   HC (2000-01) 314, paragraph 507. Back

167   Ibid paragraph 58. Back

168   See paragraphs 135-250. Back

169   HC (2000-01) 314, Annex 1, paragraph 527. Back

170   See paragraphs 539-542. Back

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