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The BBC's Carole Walker
"The government will be relieved that this report clears Mr. Vaz of all the main charges against him"
 real 56k

Keith Vaz's lawyer Geoffrey Bindman
"Mr Vaz was absolutely desperate to have this enquiry ended"
 real 28k

Tory Foreign Affairs spokesman, Francis Maude
"Mr Vaz refused to co-operate"
 real 28k

Martin Bell, Independent MP
"I dont think he [Mr Vaz] has been vindicated"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 11:03 GMT
Vaz rejects 'obstruction' claim
Europe Minister Keith Vaz
Mr Vaz says he is pleased with the report's findings
Europe Minister Keith Vaz is facing calls to resign despite rejecting accusations that he obstructed an official investigation into his dealings with businessmen.

An inquiry by the parliamentary standards committee upheld one out of a total of 18 charges of wrongdoing against Mr Vaz.

This report shows that Labour ministers treat parliament and the people with contempt

Francis Maude
Shadow foreign secretaryTory MP
But its report criticised the minister for not answering "fully and promptly" questions from standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin.

Mr Vaz has been backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook - but the Conservatives say he is now unfit to represent Britain.

And Labour backbencher Austin Mitchell has criticised the way in which the report on Mr Vaz was undertaken, saying self-regulation by MPs would not uncover the truth in such cases.

No action

The committee reveals that eight of the charges against Mr Vaz were not fully investigated because of problems getting evidence from him and other witnesses.

The complaint that was upheld said that, as an opposition MP, Mr Vaz recommended lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla for an honour without declaring the financial links between them.

The committee recommended that no disciplinary action be taken against the MP.

Sarosh Zaiwalla
Mr Zaiwalla: Recommended for a peerage
Mr Vaz said he was delighted at the "complete rejection" of all but one of the allegations.

He criticised the way the investigation was handled and said he was surprised to be accused of obstructing it.

But the report quotes Ms Filkin as saying: "This has been a particularly unusual case in terms of: the difficulty I have experienced in obtaining information; the contradictory statements made by some witnesses; and the failure on the part of Mr Vaz to provide full and accurate answers to certain of my questions."

The present procedures give too much latitude to the purveyors of lies and malice

Keith Vaz
She recommended the committee consider summoning witnesses and evidence to "resolve any outstanding uncertainties or fill any remaining gaps in the evidence".

The committee also said officers of the Labour Party in Mr Vaz's Leicester East constituency had shown a "consistently unhelpful attitude" towards Ms Filkin in a bid to "frustrate the commissioner's investigation".

Backing for minister

Mr Vaz has received the "full support" of the Prime Minister, according to a spokesman.

And Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, welcoming the report's findings, said Mr Vaz's private affairs had been "crawled over exhaustively", and not one serious complaint stood up to scrutiny.

"I hope he can now be allowed to get back to doing the job that he does very well," he added.

But shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude called for Mr Vaz's resignation, accusing him of an "extraordinary" breach of the ministerial code.

Francis Maude
Francis Maude: Called for Mr Vaz to go
"Frankly he is quite unfit to represent Britain," Mr Maude declared.


And the intervention by Labour MP Austin Mitchell has increased pressure on Mr Vaz.

The former TV journalist, who's MP for Great Grimsby, said that the reports into Mr Vaz and also the inquiry over the Hinduja passport inquiry were "protective devices in a sense".

"There is a Whitehall whitewash industry but the inquiries really are protective in the sense of prophylactic," he said.

"They want to kill the sperm of suspicion and protect the chaps, that is what it is all about."

The report's publication comes days after Mr Vaz was cleared by Sir Anthony Hammond's separate inquiry into the unrelated Hinduja passport affair, which brought down former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson.

Mr Vaz's solicitor Geoffrey Bindman insisted his client "did not refuse to cooperate at any stage".

After 10 months of "innumerable" questions from the commissioner Mr Vaz became frustrated and decided to deal direct with the committee, Mr Bindman said.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker called for a shake-up of the ministerial code of conduct to clarify what he called its "blurred edges".

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Keith Vaz: The allegations
06 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz set to escape censure
10 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Vaz rejects property claims
06 Feb 01 | Talking Politics
Viewpoint: Vaz coverage is racist
06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Asians rally to embattled Vaz
06 Feb 01 | Talking Politics
Vaz: Is the coverage racist?
26 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Keith Vaz: Minister and networker
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