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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Mrs Vaz ordered to submit papers
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz
Mr Vaz: Accused of obstructing a previous inquiry
The wife of Europe Minister Keith Vaz has been ordered to hand financial documents to Parliament's "sleaze watchdog".

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee told Maria Fernandes to submit accounts from the family's Mapesbury Communications PR and publishing company by 1200 BST on Friday.

The move comes after an investigation into the minister's financial affairs was reopened.

Elizabeth Filkin
Mrs Filkin: Investigated 18 allegations of wrongdoing
Ms Fernandes - a director of the firm - must list all payments of 1,000 or more to or from the company.

Mr Vaz has been on sick leave since collapsing in March in the wake of a previous investigation.

In a statement issued through the Labour Party on Friday the firm said the response to the new order was "in the post".

It also pointed out the committee had already seen the list.

It is understood MPs on the committee are determined to ensure there is no link between the company and the Hinduja brothers.

Inquiry problems

An earlier inquiry by Standards and Privileges Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin covered 18 allegations of wrongdoing against the Leicester East MP.

Andrew Lansley
Shadow cabinet office minister Andrew Lansley welcomed the move
Mr Vaz was criticised for failing to disclose links to a lawyer he had recommended for an honour in 1997. The matter was considered too minor for punishment, and he was cleared of nine other counts.

But Mrs Filkin said there was insufficient evidence to decide on the other eight charges and accused him of obstructing her investigation, saying he refused to answer all her questions.

A newspaper subsequently revealed that the company received nearly 1,200 from the Indian-born tycoons' Hinduja Foundation, to pay for a lecture in Parliament by an Indian spiritual leader.

But Mr Vaz dismissed the payment, saying he had checked with the Commons Register of Members' Interests and Mrs Filkin and was told he did not need to register the company.

He also said the payment had been of no benefit to Mapesbury, to any member of my family, or to him personally.

But the Tories, led by shadow cabinet office minister Andrew Lansley, complained and a new investigation was begun.

Hinduja brothers

On Friday Mr Lansley welcomed the decision to order the handover of the documents.

SP Hinduja and the Blairs
SP Hinduja and the Blairs: the Tories claim deep links
"It is right for the committee to be undertaking their inquiries with rigour and with speed since Parliament is to be dissolved on Monday," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Lansley said: "Before the election I think members in Mr Vaz's constituency and the public generally should be able to assess whether he has met the requirements of the Code of Conduct for MPs."

He also said the public should be allowed to decide "whether Mr Blair was right to retain his services as a senior member of the government."

The Hindujas are currently in India facing charges linked to a corruption scandal.

They were the subject of a passport inquiry earlier this year, which led to the ministerial downfall of Peter Mandelson.

In an earlier version of this story we said that "Mr Vaz was found guilty of improperly tipping a lawyer for an honour." We would like to make clear the report criticised Mr Vaz for failing to disclose that a "financial relationship" existed between him and the lawyer in question. The report also concluded that: "We do not believe the recommendations (for an honour) were made because of the two small payments."

See also:

23 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz: I will help new inquiry
09 May 01 | Vote2001
Hinduja 'cover up' claimed
26 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Keith Vaz: Minister and networker
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hinduja brothers: Wealthy and reclusive
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