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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Cook accuses press over Vaz collapse
Keith Vaz
Mr Vaz is now on sick leave
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has blamed journalists for the collapse of Europe minister Keith Vaz.

Mr Vaz spent two days in hospital last week after passing out in his office. He is now on eight weeks sick leave.

This is a man who is seriously ill

Robin Cook
The collapse followed months of media pressure over Mr Vaz's ministerial future after he faced a string of allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Cook said Mr Vaz had been pursued "mercilessly" by the press over the past two months.

And he wished that journalists would realise that their actions, as in this case, could have "a human consequence".

"I do think it would be helpful if, at this present time, the media were to understand that this man is human and we should show some respect for him and his family at this difficult time for him," said Mr Cook.

"This is a man who is seriously ill and has been ordered to take time off - and I don't think he should be badgered and harried and harassed."

Vaz defended

Mr Cook, speaking to ITV, said that Mr Vaz had been cleared by the Commons standards and privileges committee of 14 out of 15 allegations levelled against him.

Mr Cook confirmed there would be no direct replacement appointed to cover for Mr Vaz during his absence.
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Mr Cook criticised press coverage of Mr Vaz

"We're perfectly capable of coping for a short period of time with one of those who needs to take a break because of health reasons," he said.

Mr Vaz has faced repeated calls to resign after he was accused of failing to cooperate with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Elizabeth Filkin.

Mrs Filkin recently announced that she was opening a fresh investigation into alleged links between Mr Vaz and the wealthy Hinduja brothers.

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See also:

31 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Eight weeks sick leave for Vaz
26 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Keith Vaz: Minister and networker
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz cleared but questions remain
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz criticised over Balkans absence
26 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz defends visa approvals
22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz defiant as inquiry starts
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