|The Right Honourable
26 July 2007
|Preceded by||John Denham|
|Preceded by||Geoff Hoon|
|Succeeded by||Peter Hain|
Member of Parliament
for Leicester East
11 June 1987
|Preceded by||Peter Bruinvels|
|Born||26 November 1956
|Alma mater||Caius College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Member of Parliament|
Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz (born 26 November 1956) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Leicester East since 1987, and has been the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee since July 2007. He was appointed as a member of the Privy Council in June 2006.
Keith Vaz was born in 1956 in Aden, Yemen, to Indian parents. He moved to Bradford in England with his family in 1965. He was educated at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith followed by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he studied law and obtained a BA(1979), MA (1987), MCFI(1988).
Vaz lives in London with his wife and two children.
Vaz worked as a solicitor for a number of years, including for Richmond Council (1982); as senior solicitor for the London Borough of Islington (1982-1985); and as solicitor at Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre in Leicester (1985-1987).
He and his wife Maria have two children, Luke (b. 1995) and Anjali (b. 1997).
For the 1987 election he was chosen to stand for the seat of Leicester East, which had 16,000 British Asian voters. He won the election, defeating the right-wing Conservative candidate Peter Bruinvels, and became a popular constituency MP, the first Asian MP since Shapurji Saklatvala lost his seat in 1929. From 1987 to 1992 he was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
In March 1989, he led a protest in Leicester against Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. At this event, Vaz addressed 3,000 Muslim demonstrators, stating "today we celebrate one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain". In February 1990, he wrote in The Guardian newspaper urging Salman Rushdie not to publish the book in paperback because "there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech". That month, he caused outrage when he suggested that an IRA bomb detonated at Leicester Army Recruiting Office might have been planted by the British army.
Vaz became a frontbench spokesman on the Environment for the Official Opposition in 1992 and between 1993 and 1994 was a Member of the Executive Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. On Labour winning power in 1997, he became a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Government's Law Officers.
In 1999 he was promoted, becoming Minister for Europe in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and was tipped to become a Cabinet Minister. Vaz is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Flag Group 
In February 2000 the Parliamentary standards watchdog Elizabeth Filkin began an investigation after allegations that Vaz had accepted several thousand pounds from a solicitor, Sarosh Zaiwalla, which he had failed to declare. The allegations were made by Andrew Milne, a former partner of Zaiwalla and were denied by both Vaz and Zaiwalla. Additional allegations were made that Vaz had accepted money from other businessmen.
Vaz wrote to Filkin on 7 February 2000 to deny the allegations, and Filkin and Vaz went on to exchange letters until April 2000 in which Vaz responded to Filkin's queries. Geoffrey Bindman, who was acting as Vaz's solicitor, wrote to Filkin on 18 May to ask how much longer her inquiry was to take and Filkin produced a list of 48 questions she wanted answered on 29 June.
On 19 October Filkin wrote and asked for details about properties owned by Vaz, who replied that he owned three properties. However, evidence was later found by BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Vaz failed to disclose all his property interests to Filkin, and that documents showed that he owned four rather than three properties at the time. It was also discovered that he had transferred the ownership of a fifth property in London to his mother on 27 October, eight days after Filkin requested details of all his properties. Vaz said that the timing was a coincidence and the property was put on the market by Mrs Vaz 6 months after the transfer. Land Registry documents showed that Vaz had become the owner of the property on 5 August 1988, and the Electoral Register showed that it had been Vaz's address in 1988 and 1999. Between February 1992 and February 1996 the property was the address of Reza Shahbandeh, who Vaz denied all knowledge of when asked.
On 2 November Geoffrey Bindman warned Filkin that her inquiry could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Filkin sent a final list of questions for Vaz to answer on 27 November, following which Bindman wrote to Filkin on 4 December that Vaz would not answer any more of her questions, but would co-operate with the Standards and Privileges Committee. Filkin told the Standards and Privileges Committee on 20 December that she had been unable to reach a conclusion on eight of the 18 allegations she had investigated.
On 12 March 2001, the Filkin report cleared Vaz of nine of the 28 allegations of various financial wrongdoings, but Elizabeth Filkin accused Mr Vaz of blocking her investigation into eighteen of the allegations. He was censured for a single allegation - that he had failed to register two payments worth £4,500 in total from solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla, whom he recommended for a peerage several years later. Mrs Filkin announced in the same month a new inquiry which would focus on whether or not a company connected to Vaz received a donation from a charitable foundation run by the Hinduja brothers.
Filkin was reported on 18 March as angered by the way in which Vaz had "spun" her report, saying that he had been representing the report as clearing him when in fact she failed to reach conclusions on several complaints because he obstructed the inquiry. Filkin declined to comment, saying she felt her position on Vaz was set out in her report.
In January 2001, immigration minister Barbara Roche revealed in a written Commons reply that Vaz, along with Peter Mandelson and other MPs, had contacted the Home Office about the Hinduja brothers. She said that Vaz had made inquiries about when a decision on their application for citizenship could be expected.
On January 25, Vaz had become the focus of Opposition questions about the Hinduja affair and many parliamentary questions were tabled, demanding that he fully disclose his role. Vaz said via a Foreign Office spokesman that he would be "fully prepared" to answer questions put to him by Sir Anthony Hammond QC who had been asked by the Prime Minister to carry out an inquiry into the affair.
Vaz had known the Hinduja brothers for some time; he had been present when the charitable Hinduja Foundation was set up in 1993, and also delivered a speech in 1998 when the brothers invited Tony and Cherie Blair to a Diwali celebration.
On 26 January 2001, Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused of prejudicing the independent inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair, after he declared that the Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz had not done "anything wrong". On the same day, Vaz told reporters that they would "regret" their behaviour once the facts of the case were revealed. "Some of you are going to look very foolish when this report comes out. Some of the stuff you said about Peter, and about others and me, you'll regret very much when the facts come out," he said. When asked why the passport application of one of the Hinduja brothers had been processed more quickly than normal, being processed and sanctioned in six months when the process can take up to two years, he replied, "It is not unusual."
On 29 January, the government confirmed that the Hinduja Foundation had held a reception for Vaz in September 1999 to celebrate his appointment as the first Asian Minister in recent times. The party was not listed by Vaz in House of Commons register of Members' Interests and John Redwood, then head of the Conservative Parliamentary Campaigns Unit, questioned Vaz's judgement in accepting the hospitality.
In March Vaz was ordered to fully co-operate with a new inquiry launched into his financial affairs by Elizabeth Filkin. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Vaz's superior, also urged him to fully answer allegations about his links with the Hinduja brothers. Mr Vaz met Mrs Filkin on 20 March to discuss a complaint that the Hinduja Foundation had given the sum of £1,200 to Mapesbury Communications, a company run by his wife, in return for helping to organise a Hinduja-sponsored reception at the House of Commons. Vaz had previously denied receiving money from the Hindujas, but insisted that he made no personal gain from the transaction in question.
In June 2001 Vaz said that he had made representations during the Hinduja brothers' applications for British citizenship while a backbench MP. Tony Blair also admitted that Vaz had "made representations" on behalf of other Asians.
On 11 June 2001 Vaz was officially dismissed from his post as Europe Minister, to be replaced by Peter Hain. The Prime Minister's office said that Vaz had written to Tony Blair stating his wish to stand down for health reasons.
In December 2001 Elizabeth Filkin cleared Vaz of failing to register payments to his wife's law firm by the Hinduja brothers, but said that he had colluded with his wife to conceal the payments. Filkin's report said that the payments had been given to his wife for legal advice on immigration issues and concluded that Vaz had gained no direct personal benefit, and that Commons rules did not require him to disclose payments made to his wife. She did, however, criticise him for his secrecy, saying, "It is clear to me there has been deliberate collusion over many months between Mr Vaz and his wife to conceal this fact and to prevent me from obtaining accurate information about his possible financial relationship with the Hinduja family".
In 2002 Vaz was suspended from the House of Commons for one month after a Committee on Standards and Privileges inquiry found that he had made false allegations against Eileen Eggington, a former policewoman. The committee concluded that "Mr Vaz recklessly made a damaging allegation against Miss Eggington to the Commissioner, which was not true, and which could have intimidated Miss Eggington or undermined her credibility".
Eileen Eggington, a retired police officer who had served 34 years in the Metropolitan Police, including a period as deputy head of Special Branch, wanted to help a friend, Mary Grestny, who had worked as personal assistant to Vaz's wife. After leaving the job in May 2000, Grestny dictated a seven-page statement about Mrs Vaz to Eggington in March 2001, who sent it to Elizabeth Filkin. Grestny's statement included allegations that Mr and Mrs Vaz had employed an illegal immigrant as their nanny and that they had been receiving gifts from Asian businessmen such as Hinduja brothers. The allegations were denied by Mr Vaz and the Committee found no evidence to support them.
In late 2001, Vaz complained to Leicestershire police that his mother had been upset by a telephone call from "a woman named Mrs Egginton", who claimed to be a police officer. The accusations led to Ms. Eggington being questioned by police. Vaz also wrote a letter of complaint to Elizabeth Filkin, but when she tried to make inquiries Vaz accused her of interfering with a police inquiry and threatened to report her to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Eggington denied that she had ever telephoned Vaz's mother and offered her home and mobile telephone records as evidence. The Commons committee decided that she was telling the truth. They added: "Mr Vaz recklessly made a damaging allegation against Miss Eggington, which was not true and which could have intimidated Miss Eggington and undermined her credibility."
A letter to Elizabeth Filkin from Detective Superintendent Nick Gargan made it plain that the police did not believe Vaz's mother ever received the phone call and the person who came closest to being prosecuted was not Eggington but Vaz. Gargan said that the police had considered a range of possible offences, including wasteful employment of the police, and an attempt to pervert the course of justice. Leicestershire police eventually decided not to prosecute. "We cannot rule out a tactical motivation for Mr Vaz's contact with Leicestershire Constabulary but the evidence does not support further investigation of any attempt to pervert the course of justice." 
The complaints the committee upheld against Mr Vaz were:
It was concluded that Vaz had "committed serious breaches of the Code of Conduct and showed contempt for the House" and it was recommended that he be suspended from the House of Commons for one month.
In 2001 the revelation that Vaz had assisted Anglo-Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi in his attempts to avoid extradition to France raised doubts about Vaz's suitability for high office and led to charges that rich businessmen had received privileged access to Labour government Ministers. Opposition MPs called for an investigation into what one dubbed "Hinduja Mark II".
Anglo-Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi was wanted for questioning by French police for his alleged role in the notorious Elf Aquitaine fraud scandal which led to the arrest of a former French Foreign Minister. The warrant issued by French authorities in July 2000 Auchi of "complicity in the misuse of company assets and receiving embezzled company assets". It also covered Auchi's associate Nasir Abid and stated that if found guilty of the alleged offences both men could face 109 years in jail.
Vaz was a director of the British arm of Auchi's corporation, General Mediterranean Holdings, whose previous directors had included Lords Steel and Lamont, and Jacques Santer. Vaz used his political influence on GMH's behalf; this included a party in the Park Lane Hilton to celebrate the 20th anniversary of GMH on 23 April 1999, where Lord Sainsbury presented Auchi with a painting of the House of Commons signed by Tony Blair, the Opposition leaders, and over 100 other leading British politicians. Lord Sainsbury later told The Observer that he did this "as a favour for Keith Vaz". In May 1999 Vaz resigned his post as a director after he was appointed a Minister. In a statement to The Observer, a GMH spokesman said that Vaz had been invited to become a GMH director in January 1999, yet company accounts showed Vaz as a director for the financial year ending December 1998.
Labour confirmed in May 2001 that Auchi had called Vaz at home about the arrest warrant to ask him for advice. A spokesman said that Vaz "made some factual inquiries to the Home Office about the [extradition] procedure." This included advising Auchi to consult his local MP. The spokesman stressed that Vaz acted properly at all times and was often contacted by members of Britain's ethnic communities for help. In a Commons answer to Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker earlier the same month Vaz confirmed that "details of enquiries by Mr Auchi have been passed to the Home Office".
Keith Vaz was again brought to public attention when the Daily Telegraph printed a hand written letter suggesting that Vaz had, or was due to receive, some sort of reward for voting for the Government under the 42 Day Rule Vote in June 2008. In a letter to Vaz, written on 12 June, a day after the key vote, Geoff Hoon wrote:
“Dear Keith… Just a quick note to thank you for all your help during the period leading up to last Wednesday’s vote. I wanted you to know how much I appreciated all your help. I trust that it will be appropriately rewarded!... With thanks and best wishes, Geoff.”
Vaz was originally against the idea of holding suspects for 42 days without charge, but he changed his mind a few days before the key vote. Although Prime Minister Gordon Brown was accused of offering rebel backbenchers a series of deals in exchange of their votes, Brown denied that any such deals were made.
Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) voted to resurrect the defunct Black Socialist Society (BSS) in 2006. As part of this, the party set up an Ethnic Minority Taskforce. Tony Blair appointed Vaz to chair this taskforce. When membership of the BSS exceeded 2,500 in early 2007, the society qualified for its own seat on the NEC. Vaz was elected to this post on March 10 2007.
Vaz was elected Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, replacing John Denham, on 26 July 2007. He was unusually nominated to the Committee by the Government, rather than by the quasi-independent Committee of Selection which, under the Standing Orders of the House, nominates members to select committees. The Leader of the House argued that this was because there was not sufficient time to go through the usual procedure before the impending summer recess. The Chairman of the Committee of Selection told the House that the Committee had been ready to meet earlier that week, but had been advised by the Government that there was no business for it to transact.
In September 2008 Vaz faced pressure to explain why he failed to declare an interest when he intervened in an official investigation into the business dealings of a close friend, solicitor Shahrokh Mireskandari, who has played a role in several racial discrimination cases against the Metropolitan Police, and who was representing Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur in his racial discrimination case against Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority began an investigation into Mireskandari's legal firm, Dean and Dean, in January 2008 after a number of complaints about its conduct. Vaz wrote a joint letter with fellow Labour MP Virendra Sharma to the authority's chief executive, Anthony Townsend, in February 2008 on official House of Commons stationery. He cited a complaint he had received from Mireskandari and alleged "discriminatory conduct" in its investigation into Dean and Dean. The Authority was forced to set up an independent working party to look into whether it had disproportionately targeted non-white lawyers for investigation.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable said that Vaz should make a public statement to clear up his role in the affair. "It is quite unreasonable that an independent regulator should have been undermined in this way. I would hope that the chairman of the home affairs select committee will give a full public statement."
In July 2007 Vaz was appointed chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. The appointment caused an outcry at the time since select committee members are usually proposed by the committee of selection, but Vaz was the only nomination made by Commons leader Harriet Harman.
In September 2008 Vaz came under pressure when it was revealed that he had sought the private views of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in connection with the Committee's independent report into government plans to extend the detention of terror suspects beyond 28 days. The Guardian reported that emails suggested that Vaz had secretly contacted the Prime Minister about the committee's draft report and proposed a meeting because "we need to get his [Brown's] suggestions". An email was sent in November 2007 to Ian Austin, Gordon Brown's parliamentary private secretary, and copied to Fiona Gordon, at the time Brown's political adviser. Another leaked email showed that Vaz had also sent extracts of the committee's draft report to the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, for his comments; according to Parliament's standing orders, the chairman of the Select Committee cannot take evidence from a witness without at least two other committee members being present.
The disclosure caused concern both among committee members and civil liberties campaigners, as the Select Committee's reports are supposed to be compiled independently of government influence. Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, compared it to a judge deciding a case privately emailing one of the parties to seek their suggestions.
Vaz denied that he invited Brown to contribute, except as a witness to the committee.
Mr Vaz was implicated in the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal. As reported by the Daily Telegraph, Vaz claimed £75,000 in expenses for a second home just 12 miles from his main home. His main home is declared to be in the North-west London suburb of Stanmore, and was purchased with his wife Maria for £1.15 million in 2005, and is around 40 minutes from Westminister by Tube, raising questions as to whether billing for a second home (a £545,000 Westminster flat) was essential for his work as an MP. He also flipped property: claiming for the Westminster flat's service charge and council tax (£2,073, and £1,022), then renting this flat out, switching his second home to a house in his Leicester East constituency, fitting it with around £16,000 of furniture and soft furnishings, as well as £600 month of un-receipted cleaning, service, and repair bills, then flipping back to the Westminster flat again, allowing mortgage interest to be claimed on the flat once more.
Vaz has campaigned against what he perceives as violent video games, and has outspoken views on their content. He has called for the '18'-rated Rockstar game Manhunt to be banned after claiming that the killers of British schoolboy Stefan Pakeerah had been influenced by the game, and campaigned with Pakeerahs' parents against the game.
On 26 July 2007 he expressed his delight that the British Board of Film Classification had banned Manhunt 2, the sequel to Manhunt, and again repeated the claim that the killers had been influenced by the game:
Since we last had such a debate, I am delighted that the British Board of Film Classification has banned “Manhunt 2”, the sequel to “Manhunt 1”, which was produced a few years ago and caused so much controversy. According to Giselle Pakeerah, the mother of Stefan Pakeerah, the young Leicester boy who was stabbed to death in a park in Leicester when aged only 14, the 17-year-old killer copied exactly scenes from “Manhunt 1” to lure Stefan into the park and stab him 17 or 18 times with a knife.—Keith Vaz, 26 July 2007
It had already been established in 2004 by investigators, however, that the only person involved in the case who owned the game was the victim, and detectives ruled out Manhunt's influence on the killers' behaviour as there was no evidence that they had even heard of it.
He first raised the subject on 26 October 2005, a year before the final game was released, expressing his concerns over Bully during Prime Minister's Question Time:
On 10 November last year, the mother of the murdered Leicester schoolchild Stephan Pakheera told the Prime Minister that she believed that her son's killer was influenced by the video game "Manhunt". Last week in Sheffield, a young schoolgirl, Shani Naylor, was seriously injured by bullies, and 31,000 children complained to ChildLine about bullying last year. Does the Leader of the House share my concern at the decision of Rockstar Games to publish a new game called "Bully", in which players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other schoolchildren? Will he ask the Prime Minister to refer this video game to the British Board of Film Classification, and if it does not make any changes, will the Government use their powers to ban this video game?—Keith Vaz, 26 October 2005
Last Thursday, the British Board of Film Classification gave a 15 certificate to a video game formerly called “Bully”. The game contains scenes of violence, including scenes of players terrorising teachers and students, teachers being head-butted and the aggressive use of baseball bats. Currys has banned it. Given the link between video games and a propensity to encourage violence that some research has demonstrated, will the Prime Minister convene a meeting of stakeholders—including representatives of the industry and parents’ groups—to discuss the issue? Does he accept that this is not about adult censorship, but about protecting our children?—Keith Vaz, 18 October 2006
During a piece on Radio 4 on 9 January 2007, Vaz again talked about Bully (using this former name, not its revised name) and implied it was a bullying simulator, again suggesting that he had not played it himself. He asked Hoon: "Does the leader of the house share my concern at the decision of Rockstar Games to publish a new game called Bully in which players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other schoolchildren?"
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Leicester East
|Minister of State for Europe
1999 – 2001