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Noise row over Vaz via loud hailer

Published 28/04/2015

A loud hailer attached to a Labour campaign car broadcast the voice of candidate Keith Vaz
A loud hailer attached to a Labour campaign car broadcast the voice of candidate Keith Vaz

Veteran Labour politician Keith Vaz has been caught up in a noise pollution row after rivals complained of hearing his voice from a campaign car's loud hailer.

Conservatives in the seat of Leicester East are raising a din with Leicester City Council after videoing the loud speaker-equipped vehicle, pumping out messages calling to for people to vote for Mr Vaz on May 7.

The car was filmed by Conservative activists at the weekend, who then sent the video to the council.

City hall officials have confirmed it is an offence to use a loudspeaker in the street, adding that what exemptions exist do not extend to political campaigning.

Anyone in breach of the rules can face a fine of up to £5,000.

Vinod Popat, deputy chairman of Leicester Conservatives which made the complaint to the council, said he had written to city election chiefs for guidance about using loud hailers prior to the election campaign, and was told they were banned.

He was assured all other political parties, election agents and candidates had also been informed.

However, on Saturday a people carrier emblazoned with signs reading "Labour" and "Vote Keith Vaz" was filmed travelling along the city's Loughborough Road.

From a loud hailer attached to the car, the voice of 58-year-old Mr Vaz can be heard saying: "This is Keith Vaz, your Labour candidate for Parliament.

"Vote Labour on the 7th of May. Vote Labour on the 7th of May."

Mr Popat said: "The voice is definitely him (Keith Vaz) but whether it was pre-recorded or him in the vehicle, we don't know.

"I had written to the council asking if they can be used and they told me 'no, it's illegal'."

"Now, apparently the council had then written to all the election agents and candidates prior to campaigning starting, telling them this was the case.

He added: "Mr Vaz seems to think he is above the rules - but he should know about them, he's been around long enough."

A Leicester City Council spokesman said the allegation was now under investigation by its noise and pollution control team.

He added: "The Control of Pollution Act 1974 makes it an offence to use a loudspeaker in the street for the purposes of advertising any entertainment, trade or business.

"The statutory exemptions - that cover things like emergency vehicles - do not extend to political campaigning.

"Those found guilty of using a loudspeaker illegally in the street could face a fine of up to £5,000."

A spokesman for Mr Vaz, who has held the seat since 1987, told the Leicester Mercury the Conservatives were "running scared".

"We have received no complaints from any members of the public," he said, adding that "all political parties use them at election time".

The spokesman went on to say Mr Vaz had not been in the vehicle at the time, as he could not be in two places at once.

He said: "The Conservative Party should note: There is only one Keith Vaz."

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