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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 16:32 GMT
Vaz apologises to MPs
Keith Vaz
Mr Vaz has apologised to fellow MPs
Former Europe minister Keith Vaz has apologised to MPs and been banned from the House of Commons for a one-month period.

The Commons standards and privileges committee recommended the ban last week in a damning report accusing Mr Vaz of showing contempt for Parliament.

Mr Vaz was given the opportunity to address colleagues ahead of a debate on the report and he apologised to the House of Commons adding that he accepted "completely" the committee's findings.

"I apologise to the committee and the House and in doing so I underline my unreserved support for the integrity of the House and its procedures," said.

It would have been almost unheard of for the Commons not to approve the recommendations of the committee, which also criticised Mr Vaz for breaking the MPs' code of conduct.

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
In the event they agreed the suspension without a division.

Before withdrawing from the Commons' chamber to allow MPs to debate the report, Mr Vaz argued that he had "co-operated in every possible way" with the inquiry.

That point was disputed by Sir George Young, the chairman of the Standards and Privileges committee.

The standards committee had criticised the Leicester East MP for refusing to co-operate with an inquiry into his conduct and failing to declare cash donations.

Sir George went on to question Mr Vaz's wisdom in holding an impromptu press conference on the report last week.

Mr Vaz said at the time that the punishment, one of the toughest ever handed down to an MP, was "disproportionate" to his alleged misdemeanours and against natural justice.

Response to Filkin

Mr Vaz was found to have given "misleading information" about his financial links to the Hinduja brothers, whose passport applications caused the storm that saw Peter Mandelson resign from government.

The standards committee upheld three of the 11 complaints against Mr Vaz.

Elizabeth Filkin
Filkin leaves her post on Wednesday
It said it might have been satisfied with an apology had it not been for the way the MP responded to Ms Filkin's inquiry.

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

Attack on process

Conservative MP Peter Bottomley says he is standing down from the Commons standards committee in protest at the way Ms Filkin has been treated.

The watchdog has complained of a whispering campaign against her and says her job has been downgraded.

She will be replaced by newly appointed standards commissioner Philip Mawer.

Mr Vaz argues the report was rushed out and published before the full facts were known and says he did cooperate with the investigation.

But his claim that Leicestershire Police are still investigating one of the claims has been denied by the force.

Resignation

Mr Vaz clearly wants to continue in the Commons and has the full support of his constituency party.

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
Vaz comes out fighting
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
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Complaints against MP upheld
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