Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz (born 26 November 1956) is a British Labour Party politician who, as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester East since the 1987 general election, is the British Parliament's longest-serving British Asian MP.
Vaz served as the Minister for Europe between October 1999 and June 2001. He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in June 2006. He was Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from July 2007, but resigned from this role on 6 September 2016 after allegations about his private life were published by the Sunday Mirror. At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee; a parliamentary vote to block this development was defeated.
|The Right Honourable
|Chair of the Home Affairs Committee|
26 July 2007 – 6 September 2016
|Preceded by||John Denham|
|Succeeded by||Tim Loughton (Acting)|
|Minister of State for Europe|
9 May 1999 – 11 June 2001
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Geoff Hoon (Minister)|
|Succeeded by||Peter Hain|
|Member of Parliament
for Leicester East
11 June 1987
|Preceded by||Peter Bruinvels|
|Born||Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz
26 November 1956
Aden Colony (now Yemen)
|Relations||Valerie Vaz (sister)
Penny McConnell (sister)
|Alma mater||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (MA) (BA)|
Keith Vaz was born in the British crown colony of Aden, on 26 November 1956, to parents, Xavier and Merlyn Vaz. The Vaz family hailed from Goa, now an Indian state, which accounts for his Goan-Portuguese surname. Vaz is a distant relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary. He moved to England with his family in 1965, settling in Twickenham. His father worked in the airline industry, while his mother held two jobs as a teacher and in Marks & Spencer. Vaz's father committed suicide when his son was 14. Merlyn Vaz moved to Leicester when her son was selected as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Leicester East constituency. She was elected to Leicester City Council as a Labour councillor and served on the council for 14 years.
While in Aden, Vaz was educated at St Joseph's Convent. In England, he attended Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith, followed by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied law. He graduated from Cambridge University with a BA 1st class Honours (1979), MA (1987), and MCFI (1988).
Vaz has two sisters, Valerie (b. 1954), who has been the MP for Walsall South since 2010, and Penny McConnell, who is a solicitor. He lives in London with his wife, Maria Fernandes, and their two children, a son and a daughter.
Before his political career, Vaz was a practising solicitor. In 1982, he was employed as a solicitor to Richmond upon Thames London Borough Council; and later as a senior solicitor to the London Borough of Islington. He was selected as the prospective Labour candidate for the Leicester East constituency in 1985. At that time, he found a job in Leicester as a solicitor at the City Council-funded Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre. He remained in this role until his election to Parliament in 1987.
Vaz has been a Labour party member since 1982.
In 1983, Vaz stood in the general election as the Labour candidate in the Conservative-Liberal marginal Richmond and Barnes constituency, coming third with a swing away from Labour of 4.3% compared with a national average swing away of 9.3%. He stood as the Labour candidate in the European Parliament election in 1984 for Surrey West, coming third.
On 11 June 1987, Vaz was elected as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East by defeating the sitting Tory MP Peter Bruinvels with a majority of 1,924. He was re-elected in 1992 (majority of 11,316), 1997 (majority of 18,422), 2001 (majority of 13,442), 2005 (majority of 15,867), 2010 (majority of 14,082), 2015 (majority of 18,352) and 2017 (majority of 22,428).
Vaz has held a variety of parliamentary posts. Between 1987 and 1992, he was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, of which he was the Chair from July 2007 to September 2016. Between 1993 and 1994, he was a member of the Executive Committee Inter-Parliamentary Union. Finally, between December 2002 and July 2007, Vaz acted as a senior Labour Member of the Select Committee for Constitutional Affairs.
In 1992, Vaz was given the role of Shadow Junior Environment Minister with responsibility for planning and regeneration, his first frontbench role. He remained in this position until 1997, when he was given his first Government post as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General and Solicitor General. Vaz then served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department between May and October 1999. This was quickly followed by his appointment as the Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He served in this position from October 1999 and June 2001.
Other positions currently held include as an elected member of the National Executive Committee and as the Vice-Chair of Women, Race and Equality Committee of the Labour Party. He has held both of these positions since March 2007. Since 2000, he has been a patron of the Labour Party Race Action Group and in 2006 he was appointed the Chairman of the Ethnic Minority Taskforce.
In March 1989, Vaz, a Catholic, led a march of several thousand Muslims in Leicester calling for Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses to be banned, describing the march as "one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain". According to Rushdie's autobiography Joseph Anton, Vaz had a few weeks earlier promised his "full support" to Rushdie, describing the fatwa against Rushdie as "absolutely appalling".
In February 1990, after a bombing attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army against a British Army recruiting centre in Leicester, Vaz publicly suggested that the Army had stored explosives on the premises.
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. He was censured for a single allegation – that he had failed to register two payments worth £4,500 in total from Zaiwalla. Vaz was accused of blocking Fitkin's investigation into the allegations.
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 25 January, 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, John Redwood MP accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of prejudicing the independent inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair, after Blair 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 co-operate fully with a new inquiry launched into his financial affairs by Elizabeth Filkin. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Vaz's superior, also urged him to answer fully allegations about his links with the Hinduja brothers. Vaz met Filkin on 20 March to discuss a complaint that the Hinduja Foundation had given £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 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 the Hinduja brothers. The allegations were denied by 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 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, it was revealed that Vaz had assisted Anglo-Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi in his attempts to avoid extradition to France. Opposition MPs called for an investigation into what one dubbed "Hinduja Mark II".
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 accused 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".
Following the February 2004 murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, Vaz asked for an investigation of the relationship between the video games and violence, saying the parents of the victim believed that the killer was influenced by the video game Manhunt. Although the police dismissed the claim and the only copy found belonged to the victim, Tony Blair said the game was unsuitable for children and agreed to discuss with the Home Secretary what action could be taken. The sequel, Manhunt 2, described by the British Board of Film Censors as "distinguishable ..by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone", became the first video game banned by the BBFC in the UK for 10 years. Vaz said: "This is an excellent decision by the British Board of Film Classification, showing that game publishers cannot expect to get interactive games where players take the part of killers engaged in 'casual sadism' and murder."
Vaz has also criticised Bully, which had a pre-release screenshot showing three uniformed pupils fighting and kicking. In 2005, he asked Geoff 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?" Due to the controversy surrounding the Bully title, the game was released in the UK in 2006 under an alternative name though the original title was restored when the game was re-released in 2008 with a BBFC 15 rating and some positive reviews.
In October 2010, Vaz put down an early day motion noting that the 2009–10 Malmö shootings "have been associated with the violent video game Counter-Strike". The EDM also noted that the game had been previously banned in Brazil and also been associated with US College Campus massacres in 2007. It called on the Government to ensure the purchase of video games by minors was controlled and that parents were provided with clear information on any violent content.
In July 2007, Vaz was elected as the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Select committee members are usually proposed by the Committee of Selection which, under the Standing Orders of the House, nominates members to select committees., but unusually Vaz was the only nomination made by Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal. Harman 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. Vaz replaced John Denham on 26 July 2007. Vaz was re-elected to the Committee's chairmanship in June 2015.
Vaz's backing for the 42-day terrorist detention without charge "was seen as crucial by the Government". During the debate on 10 June 2008, the day before the key vote, Vaz was asked in Parliament whether he had been offered an honour for his support. He said: “No, it was certainly not offered—but I do not know; there is still time.” The Daily Telegraph printed a hand written letter to Vaz, written the day after the 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 wrote to the Press Council complaining the story was inaccurate, that the letter had been obtained by subterfuge and that he had not been contacted before the story was published. The complaint was rejected as the article made it clear that the reports of an honour were just speculation which Vaz had already publicly denied.
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 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.
Vaz denied that he invited Brown to contribute, except as a witness to the committee.
Vaz's total expenses of £173,937 in 2008/2009 were ranked 45th out of 647 MPs, with office running costs and staffing costs accounting for 70% of this. The register of Member's interests shows that he owns the constituency office.
His second home expenses, ranked 83 out of 647 at £23,831 in 2008/2009 were the subject of a Daily Telegraph article. Vaz who lives in Stanmore, a 45-minute journey time from Parliament, claimed mortgage interest on a flat in Westminster he bought in 2003.
In May 2007, after claiming for the flat's service and council tax, he switched his designated second home to his constituency office and bought furniture. The report into the Parliamentary expenses scandal by Sir Thomas Legg showed that 343 MPs had been asked to repay some money and Vaz was asked to repay £1514 due to furnishing items exceeding allowable cost. New expenses rules published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which came into force after the 2010 general election limit the second home allowance to £1,450 a month, i.e. the Westminster cost of renting a one bedroomed flat. Profits made on existing second homes will be recouped.
Vaz was one of the members of the Commons who agreed to be on the all-party parliamentary group on Fiji proposed by Patrick Mercer MP, as part of his paid advocacy for lobbyists. Mercer was recorded describing Vaz as "a crook of the first order", adding that he had "never met an operator like him... I mean it's not always completely ethical but it's stunning, he is an operator". Such comments on Vaz and on other politicians were a reason for the Committee on Standards deciding that Mercer had brought the House of Commons into disrepute.
In April 2015, a video showing Vaz speaking using loudspeakers from a campaign car caused a row with Leicester Conservatives. Using a loudspeaker on the street is an offence that carries a penalty of up to £5000, and there is no exemption for political campaigning.
Allegations about Vaz were published by the British Sunday Mirror tabloid in early September 2016. It was reported that he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had said he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it. He told the prostitutes that his name was Jim and that he was an industrial washing machine salesman. Vaz later apologised for his actions. "It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way", he said. Vaz resigned as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee on 6 September 2016.
At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee, after he had put himself forward and was nominated by his party. A House of Commons motion to block this development was defeated; they are rare on such an issue. According to Laura Hughes of The Daily Telegraph, Conservative Party whips told their MPs to vote for Vaz in the division to prevent a precedent being created of such appointments being rejected by MPs. Over 150 Conservative MPs voted in support of Vaz. The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen asked in the chamber of Vaz: "what makes him think that he is a fit and proper person this month?" The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson has previously announced an investigation into Vaz's conduct.
Vaz has also been appointed to a Public bill committee, which held its first meeting on 15 November 2016, looking at the Criminal Finances Bill which aims to tackle money laundering and corruption.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament
for Leicester East
|Minister for Europe
|Party political offices|
|Socialist societies representative on the Labour Party National Executive Committee
With: Simon Wright (2010–2011)
Conor McGinn (2011 –2015)
James Asser (2015–present)