London: Keith Vaz, Britain’s longest-serving Indian-origin MP was today re-elected as chair of Parliament’s influential Home Affairs Select Committee, even as a controversy rages over his help to scam-tainted former IPL chairman Lalit Modi in obtaining British travel documents.
The Leicester East MP had been challenged to the post by fellow Labour MP Fionna McTaggert but the MPs voting for the post decided to keep him in the post.
“I am a genuine and passionate believer in the scrutinising role of Parliament, a role that is predicated on detailed and fair scrutiny of the executive. The Select Committee system is one of the most important and impressive features of our parliamentary democracy, and it is one that we should cherish,” Vaz, 58, had said in his application for re-election.
“As chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the last Parliament, I always ensured that the views and suggestions of all members were given careful, proper and equal consideration, and I have been strongly committed to the committee’s success in carrying out effective and thorough scrutiny to achieve significant and lasting impact,” he added, stressing on cross-party support he had received in his role.
British MPs from all parties voted in the hotly contested elections yesterday to chair the Commons departmental select committees, with as many as five MPs from the same party fighting for the same roles.
Over the years, the Home Affairs Select Committee has emerged as more powerful than a shadow Cabinet minister or even a junior minister. Vaz has been battling controversy in the last few weeks over his alleged role in helping controversial Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi acquire travel documents through the UK Home Office.
However, the parliamentary standards commissioner had decided he had no case to answer and ruled out an investigation. The Goan-origin MP had denied any wrongdoing in the matter. Vaz is embroiled in a major row involving External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over helping Modi to obtain British travel documents to visit Portugal, purportedly for his wife’s cancer treatment in June last year.
According to British media which quoted leaked emails, Vaz cited Swaraj’s name to put pressure on UK’s top immigration official to grant the travel papers to Modi, who subsequently got the documents in less than 24 hours.