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Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 10:09 GMT
Vaz rejects property claims
Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz: Details of properties are "totally wrong"
Europe Minister Keith Vaz, who is under fire in the Hinduja passport row, has denied newspaper claims that he owns a string of properties worth more than 1m.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr Vaz has three homes in London and two in his Leicester constituency.

I, in common with other MPs, have use of a flat in London

Keith Vaz
But Mr Vaz said many of the details printed were "totally wrong".

His denial came as former Tory minister Neil Hamilton said he may stand as an independent against Mr Vaz or Peter Mandelson at the next election.

Mr Vaz's business affairs and ministerial conduct have come under intense scrutiny since questions were first raised last month about his role in helping the billionaire Hinduja brothers secure British passports.

The affair prompted the resignation of Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson but Downing Street has backed Mr Vaz, saying he has done nothing wrong.

Two flats, three houses

The Mail says the Leicester East MP's property portfolio comprises flats in Kennington, south London, and Pimlico, central London; a detached house in Stanmore, north-west London and two adjoining homes in Uppingham Road, Leicester.

But in a statement Mr Vaz responded: "The Kennington studio flat it refers to is not owned by me but by a family member who sold it in January 2001, subject to contract, for 97,000 (not 200,000, as the Daily Mail claims).

"The house at 144 Uppingham Road is not a house but an office with full planning permission for use as an office.

Srichand Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja's passport application sparked row
"It was bought in 1985 - before I became an MP - for 22,000 (not 55,000, as the Daily Mail claims)."

The paper actually gives the current value as 55,000. It does not quote the purchase price.

Mr Vaz's statement continues: "I, in common with other MPs, have use of a flat in London.

"My wife and children live in Stanmore with a mortgage paid by my wife.

"I have a second home at 146 Uppingham Road where I live when I go to Leicester, paid for by the second home allowance which all MPs get. My mother lives there."

According to the Mail, Mr Vaz pulled out of a further house purchase in London last month but is still house hunting.

'Labour sleaze'

Mr Hamilton told Radio 4's Today programme that his standing against either of the two key figures in the Hinduja passport affair would be a rich irony.

The former Tory MP lost his ministerial job under John Major amid the "cash for questions" scandal, and in May 1997 his Tatton seat to "anti-sleaze" candidate Martin Bell.

"I'm thinking of buying a white suit," said Mr Hamilton, in a sideswipe to Mr Bell's trademark attire.

But this time it would be "Labour sleaze not Tory sleaze".

He has yet to decide which seat to contest.

"There would be a certain irony in me coming forward to point up the failings of this administration, as exemplified by one or two individuals in the same way as they did to me in the last election, it's getting your own back," he said.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | Talking Politics
Vaz: Is the coverage racist?
06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Asians rally to embattled Vaz
06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Blair's test of strength over Vaz
05 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Downing Street moves to bolster Vaz
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