MP suspended for month after scandal

FORMER Europe Minister Keith Vaz was today sentenced to a month's suspension from the House of Commons after he was found guilty of "serious breaches" of the MPs' code of conduct and interfering with an investigation into his affairs.

The Leicester East Labour MP was accused of "recklessly" making damaging allegations about one of And he was also found guilty of deliberately interfering with the investigation conducted by Retiring Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin.

A damning report by the powerful House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee recommended that Mr Vaz be suspended from the Commons for a month – one of the heaviest sentences it has imposed.

The decision will be rubber-stamped in a Commons' debate in the next couple of weeks.

However the committee and Mrs Filkin exonerated Mr Vaz of the majority of the original allegations.

Of the original 11, they upheld three, two of which they do not believe to be serious.

However the committee was concerned about Mr Vaz's refusal to answer questions and provide information on his financial and property affairs for many months until forced to do so.

And it was particularly upset at what it described as "wrongful interference in the investigation process".

Mr Vaz told both Mrs Filkin and the office of Leicester police's chief constable that one of the complainants – former Metropolitan police officer Eileen Eggington – had telephoned his mother in a threatening and harassing way.

He accused her and her friend, Rita Gresty, of harassing his mother.

Mrs Gresty was a disgruntled former employee of Mrs Vaz.

However the complaint appeared to be completely unjustified, the committee concluded.

And they pointed out that as it became clear there was no basis to the accusation Mr Vaz shifted his position.

He went on to accuse Mrs Filkin of interfering in a Leicester police criminal investigation into Miss Eggington – who holds the Queen's Police Medal – despite knowing that no such inquiry was underway.

The report said: "We find Mr Vaz's conduct unacceptable.

"We conclude 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.

"Miss Eggington and Mrs Gresty were interviewed by the police as a direct result of his intervention.

"Having set the Commissioner on a false line of inquiry, Mr Vaz then accused her of interfering in a criminal investigation and threatened to report her to the Speaker."

The report is a follow-up to an interim report before the end of the last parliament which accused Mr Vaz of obstructing the investigations of Mrs Filkin and the then Standards and Privileges Committee.

The committee found Mr Vaz guilty of providing misleading information about the financial relationship between his family and the multi-millionaire Hinduja brothers that started the saga.

It said he did not give details of payments from the brothers – who are alleged to have used influence with Labour to win British passports – to his wife's solicitors firm.

It also upheld a complaint about Mr Vaz failing to register income from Leicester Law Centre when first an MP and uphold another complaint about his failure to register a gift quickly enough the Caparo group.

It said neither of these complaints were serious.

Mr Vaz left the Government in June in the post-General Election reshuffle – Mr Blair had been grilled over Mr Vaz's conduct in a radio interview during the campaign – and his job as Europe Minister went to Peter Hain.