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Shadow cabinet minister, Andrew Lansley
"Mr Vaz failed to give full and frank answers"
 real 28k

Monday, 19 March, 2001, 08:42 GMT
Tories keep heat on Vaz
Keith Vaz
The Tories are calling for further investigations.
Foreign Office Minister Keith Vaz is facing the prospect of a fresh parliamentary "sleaze" inquiry into his business affairs.

The Tories have called for the inquiry into Mr Vaz's relationship with the Hinduja brothers to be reopened.

A newspaper report over the weekend alleged that there is fresh evidence to show the minister failed to inform the previous investigation against him about a financial link with the controversial billionaires.


It is incumbent on the parliamentary commissioner to reopen the inquiry

Andrew Lansley
Shadow cabinet minister
The allegation centres around a 1,200 donation reportedly made by the Hindujas in 1995 to Mapesbury Communications, a company set up by the minister.

Mr Vaz, it is claimed, did not declare the donation in the Commons register of members' interests.

And when Ms Filkin asked during her inquiry last year if the minister had ever received money from the billionaires he reportedly wrote back, "No donation has ever been made by the Hinduja brothers".

Allegations denied

Responding to the allegations, a spokesman for Mr Vaz said the Hindujas were not the Hinduja Foundation, Mapesbury was not Vaz or his office, and that Vaz derived no income from Mapesbury.

Mr Vaz had declared his "delight" last week at being cleared of all but one of 18 charges of sleaze investigated by the Committee of Standards and Privileges.

Dr Liam Fox
Dr Fox: "exceptional reasons" needed to overturn visa decisions
But the minister has since come under fierce attack, accused of obstructing the inquiry by parliamentary watchdog Elizabeth Filkin - investigations into eight of the 18 allegations were not completed because of problems gathering evidence.

Mr Vaz continues to have the support of the prime minister.

There had been speculation that Mr Vaz would be prevented from travelling to an EU summit later this week because of the continuing controversy.

However, he is now expected to accompany Tony Blair to Stockholm on Thursday.

Now the Tories are calling on the Committee to consider re-opening the inquiry into Mr Vaz's relationship with the Hinduja brothers.

Andrew Lansley, shadow cabinet minister said the latest disclosures suggested Mr Vaz "not only failed to give full and frank answers, but that the truth may have led to detailed investigations which were not undertaken, because of lack of candour".

"It may be that the committee will need to consider if Mr Vaz has breached the members code of conduct by the potentially misleading response to the inquiries."

Speaking to BBC News, he said: "We are acquiring a pattern of behaviour that Mr Vaz failed to give full and frank answers."

He added: "It is incumbent on the parliamentary commissioner to reopen the inquiry."

More claims

And in a separate development, the beleaguered minister is facing yet more damaging claims.

The Observer newspaper reported that Mr Vaz personally overturned an unprecedented" number of visa application decisions since coming to office.

It alleges that since taking charge of overseeing visa applications to Britain in October 1999, Mr Vaz has rejected the advice of immigration officers on some 50 occasions.

Shadow health secretary Liam Fox, who had similar responsibilities at the Foreign Office in the previous administration, said ministers needed "exceptional reasons" to overturn the decisions of immigration officers, and called on the prime minister to investigate the claims.

According to the report, MPs are claiming there could be a conflict of interest because Mr Vaz's wife, Maria Fernandes, is an immigration officer specialising in visa issues.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz cleared but questions remain
17 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Straw raises Vaz 'racism' allegation
16 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Who said what in the Vaz inquiry
15 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Pressure mounts on Europe minister
15 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz rejects 'contempt' claim
16 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Dossier increases pressure on Vaz
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