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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 16:30 GMT
Vaz faces Commons suspension
Keith Vaz facing one month Commons suspension
Mr Vaz resigned as Europe minister because of illness
Former Europe Minister Keith Vaz faces being suspended from the House of Commons for a month for misconduct.

The Commons standards and privileges committee has found Mr Vaz committed serious breaches of the MPs' code of conduct and showed contempt for the House of Commons.

MPs' findings
Vaz should be suspended for a month
Three out of 11 complaints upheld
Vaz committed "serious breaches of the MPs code of conduct"
He was guilty of "a contempt" of the Commons
Mr Vaz said he thought the punishment was "disproportionate" and he hoped natural justice will prevail.

He says the report has been rushed out and published before the full facts were known.

But his claim that the police would be investigating the matter further have been denied by Leicestershire police.

In a statement, the force said there was no evidence that a witness had made malicious calls to Mr Vaz's mother, as the ex-minister claimed.

The MPs' recommendation will now have to be approved by a Commons vote but it is almost unheard of for the Commons to turn down such a recommendation.

The findings follow an investigation by parliamentary standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin, who leaves her job next week.

Response to Filkin

Mr Vaz was under investigation over complaints that he had not fully declared his financial links to the Hinduja brothers, whose passport applications caused the storm that saw Peter Mandelson resign from government.

MPs on the committee said they would have been satisfied with an apology for the complaints upheld against him had it not been for the way he treated Ms Filkin's investigation.

"We have found that Mr Vaz committed serious breaches of the code of conduct and a contempt of the House," said the committee.

The one-month suspension will be seen as a serious censure of the Labour MP.

The complaints the committee upheld against Mr Vaz were:

  • He previously gave "misleading information" to the standards committee and Ms Filkin about his financial relationship to the Hinduja brothers

  • He failed to register his paid employment at the Leicester Law Centre when he first entered Parliament in 1987

  • He failed to register a donation from the Caparo group in 1993

    But the committee's most serious criticism comes about the way Mr Vaz has responded to the investigation of those complaints since February 2000.

    Political reaction

    The MPs say he refused to put himself before the kind of scrutiny expected of an MP, although he argues he has been "very cooperative".

    They also conclude that Mr Vaz "recklessly" made an untrue and damaging allegation that his mother received nuisance telephone calls from a woman making a key complaint against him.

    Elizabeth Filkin
    Filkin has complained of obstruction from Vaz
    Mr Vaz also accused Ms Filkin of interfering with a criminal investigation after himself setting the MPs' watchdog on a "false line of inquiry", says the report.

    But the MP says the police now plan to investigate his claims about the nuisance calls and he accused Ms Filkin of failing to follow her own procedures.

    "This report would have been very different had it been completed properly by the new parliamentary commissioner instead of being rushed out as Elizabeth Filkin's last hurrah," added Mr Vaz.

    Earlier, former Independent MP Martin Bell said the report on Mr Vaz's conduct would reflect on the prime minister Tony Blair, who has mounted a vigorous defence of Mr Vaz in the past.

    Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith says Mr Blair should now "make clear whether his defence of Mr Vaz is still absolute."

    Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker said: "Today's decision brings into question why Mr Vaz was allowed to remain in ministerial office for as long as he did."

    Before last year's general election, Mr Blair said each time allegations had been levelled at Mr Vaz they were found to be groundless but critics just moved to another set of claims.


    An investigation last year upheld only one minor charge against Mr Vaz, out of a total of 18, and the standards committee took no disciplinary action.

    But Ms Filkin said she could not complete her inquiries on another eight complaints because she said Mr Vaz failed to give her prompt and clear answers.

    Mr Vaz, who was last year cleared of wrongdoing over the Hinduja passports affair, resigned from the government after the general election, citing ill health.

    The BBC's Mark Mardell
    "There was no hint of contrition from Mr Vaz"
    Michael Foster MP, Labour Committee member
    "I am sad because it was all about process"
    Peter Bottomley MP, Conservative Committee member
    "There was no foundation to some of the accusations made against him"
    Keith Vaz MP
    "The elements of natural justice were not there"
    See also:

    06 Feb 02 | UK Politics
    Sleaze watchdog named
    22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
    Vaz defiant as inquiry starts
    11 May 01 | UK Politics
    Mrs Vaz ordered to submit papers
    11 Jun 01 | UK Politics
    Vaz inquiry widens
    13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
    Vaz rejects 'obstruction' claim
    10 Feb 01 | UK Politics
    Vaz rejects property claims
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