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The BBC's Tim Franks
"There is concern about how MP's behave when they are under investigation by Ms Filkin"
 real 28k

Friday, 23 March, 2001, 06:59 GMT
MPs warned on sleaze
Keith Vaz
Vaz was criticised for not co-operating fully with inquiry.
MPs have been warned that their system of self-regulation risks being undermined by a lack of co-operation from those being investigated.

Sources close to sleaze watchdog Elizabeth Filkin have told the BBC that unless MPs are not more willing to assist her inquiries in the future she will need extra powers to compel them.

Last week the standards and privileges committee criticised Europe Minister Keith Vaz for not co-operating fully with the inquiry by Ms Filkin into 18 complaints about his business affairs.

Despite the code of conduct demanding that MPs should co-operate with the commissioner for standards, the publication of evidence from the inquiry into Mr Vaz showed Ms Filkin was prevented from finishing her investigations against him.

Only one minor complaint was upheld, but nine others could not be investigated fully because of difficulties gathering evidence.

Mr Vaz's solicitors had written to the commissioner and said their client did not want to answer any further questions from her.

Frustrated

The source said that Ms Filkin is frustrated that the cross-party committee on standards failed to follow her calls for further investigation and disciplinary action against Mr Vaz.

She is said to believe it would be inappropriate for MPs to follow his example and draw on legal advice in an inquiry as if facing a court of law.

The BBC has been told this would be at odds with the honesty Parliament itself expects of its members.

Elizabeth Filkin
Elizabeth Filkin is believed to be unhappy about self-regulation.

The standards committee decided not to follow Ms Filkin's recommendations for further action to be taken against Mr Vaz.

But sources close to the commissioner have said that if the committee draws different conclusions to the public and the press about an MP's conduct, it could be said that self-regulation by MPs does not work.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz defiant as inquiry starts
21 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz hands Blair a new headache
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz cleared but questions remain
12 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Keith Vaz: The allegations
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz rejects 'obstruction' claim
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