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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 22:39 GMT
Vaz comes out fighting
Keith Vaz facing one month Commons suspension
Mr Vaz says he will accept the committee's findings
Former Europe Minister Keith Vaz has come out fighting over a damning report on his conduct as an MP.

Mr Vaz is facing a month-long Commons ban for refusing to co-operate with an inquiry into his conduct and failing to declare cash donations.

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

A committee of MPs ruled he had seriously breached parliament's rules of behaviour and had shown contempt for the House of Commons.

The penalty is one of the harshest ever handed out to a member of parliament.

But the Leicester East MP has described it as "disproportionate" to his alleged misdemeanours.

Attack on process

He dismissed the MPs' report as the "last hurrah" of Commons standards watchdog Elizabeth Filkin, who leaves her job this week.

"I think the process is unfair but I accept the process," Mr Vaz told BBC News.

Mr Vaz is insisting that the report, by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, was rushed out and published before the full facts were known.

"This report could have been very different if it had been completed properly," Mr Vaz said.

Further blow

But in a further blow to the embattled ex-minister's credibility, his claim that the police would be investigating the matter further has 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.

BBC Political Correspondent Mark Mardell said it was absolutely inconceivable that Mr Vaz's ministerial career could be resurrected.

But he said it was clear the MP wanted to continue in the Commons and had the full support of his constituency.

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 said they would have been satisfied with an apology.

But they were unhappy about the way he had 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 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
    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: "The decision brings into question why Mr Vaz was allowed to remain in ministerial office for as long as he did."

    Resignation

    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.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Mark Mardell
    "Mr Vaz says he's completely innocent"
    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:

    08 Feb 02 | UK Politics
    Dramatic fall for Vaz
    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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