Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1 - 19)



Mr Williams

  1. Good morning, Mr Hall. Welcome is the wrong word really for coming to this Committee but thank you for attending and responding to our request to be here. Would you please introduce your solicitor to the Committee?

  (Mr Hall) Mr Chairman, with your permission I would like to introduce my solicitor, Mr Gerald Shamash.

  2. Thank you. Please stay seated, this is as informal as we can make it. You are free to seek advice from Mr Shamash but Mr Shamash can only himself speak if a question is directed to him, so he cannot address the Committee; he can advise you. Are you quite happy with that? Do you understand that?
  (Mr Hall) Yes, thank you.

  3. You know the background, clearly, to the fact we had to call you here. The letter you wrote on 8 May to Mr Kamal obviously caused great concern in this Committee. You in effect threatened him with possible disciplinary and legal action because of allegations he had made in his letter of 17 April to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and Mr Kamal is a witness to an investigation which she is carrying out, and there will be some questions probably in relation to that. I also want to make it clear that we are in no way here going to discuss the Commissioner's investigation nor, I am sure, would you want to. We are primarily concerned that a copy of a letter which was a Committee document, which has a special status in House of Commons' terms, fell into your hands and we would like to probe a little as to how that may have happened. Of course, as we have made clear in correspondence, it is regarded as a very serious matter indeed if a witness has been threatened. Your solicitor and you have provided information for which we are grateful. Your solicitor has advised us you apologise unreservedly to us and to the House for the contempt which has been committed and that you undertake to refrain from any other further actions of this kind. Would you please for the record confirm both these statements?
  (Mr Hall) Yes, Mr Chairman, I am happy to confirm that I unreservedly apologise for any contempt that may have been committed and I undertake to refrain from committing any further such actions in the future.

  4. Thank you, that is helpful. We will go into questions and, as I say, take your time, seek advice if you feel you need it. I should advise you, because you are from outside the House, to be fully aware of the rules that operate here, and of course it is another contempt to in any way try to mislead this Committee. Therefore it is in your interests to be as open as you can because there is always the possibility that in the course of our enquiries and the Commissioner's enquiries into the case itself we may come across further information which throws further light on this matter, so do not out of any false sense of loyalty hold back in telling us the correct answers to questions that you may be asked. If we go to the letter you wrote to Mr Kamal on 8 May—do you have copies of that?—you stated you were unaware that Mr Kamal was involved with the Commissioner's investigation but in that letter you made it clear you understand fully who Mrs Filkin is. You referred to her as the Parliamentary Commissioner and "therefore responsible for investigating the conduct of Members of Parliament." In his letter of 17 April, it is quite clear that Mr Kamal was answering questions which had already been put to him by the Commissioner. How do you reconcile these two facts?
  (Mr Hall) Sorry, could you repeat the question please?

  5. Yes. It is clear from the letter of which you received a copy that Mr Kamal was replying to questions from the Commissioner. You, in your letter, indicate that you were unaware that he was involved in the Commissioner's investigation. We find these two facts a little difficult to reconcile.
  (Mr Hall) Mr Chairman, the letter that I wrote to Mr Kamal was dated 8 May 2000 and the letter that Mr Kamal wrote was dated 17 April. As I explained in my letter to the Commissioner, I was not aware that the investigation was still continuing at that stage.

  6. "Still continuing", so you realised there was an investigation?
  (Mr Hall) As you have said, there was a letter written by Mr Kamal in response to the Commissioner dated 17 April, but the allegations by Mr Kamal were ones which I did not think were ones which could be substantiated unless there was any follow-up work which needed to be done and I was not aware of that either.

  7. Your solicitor stated on your behalf, having I assume taken full advice from you as to the circumstances, that, "my client in writing the letter of 8 May to Mr Kamal had absolutely no knowledge that Mr Kamal was a witness in proceedings before the House."
  (Mr Hall) I did not know, Mr Chairman, that the Committee were involved in the investigation in any way. Had I known that, I would obviously not have written to Mr Kamal at all, I would instead have sought this Committee's advice on how to proceed further.

  8. Whose advice?
  (Mr Hall) This Committee's.

  9. Which Committee is that? Which Committee are you referring to? This Committee?
  (Mr Hall) Sorry, the Commissioner.

  10. In your letter to Mr Kamal—and may I tell you, because I do not want to lead you into giving an answer and then bouncing information on you, we have had a letter, or we have had information, and this comes from more than one source, that at no time has the letter been brought as an agenda item either to the executive committee or to the full CLP—you said, "It has been agreed that I, as the CLP Chair, should respond to this matter on the CLP's behalf." With whom was that agreed?
  (Mr Hall) This decision was taken by myself in conjunction with the secretary and the treasurer of the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party.

  11. The secretary and treasurer, so that is another person who is now aware of it. Was there anyone else involved? Did you seek further advice? Did you seek advice outside the local party?
  (Mr Hall) No. No advice was sought.

  12. None whatsoever?
  (Mr Hall) No, I did not feel it was appropriate at that time because, as I said, I did not know there was a parliamentary investigation taking place, and I felt the letter was so contentious that I did not want too many people to become aware of its contents at that time.

  13. That is understandable. I understand that since you wrote to us you have now supplied the Commissioner with further copies of this letter which have arrived from other sources. Where did these come from?
  (Mr Hall) The first letter came anonymously in the post—well, it was not in the post because it did not have a post mark. The second one had a post mark and I sent that directly to the Commissioner. I have also advised that there are other recipients of that letter, mainly among colleagues of Mr Kamal and indeed Mr Thomas at Leicester City Council.

  14. Does there seem to be any identifiable category of people who have received the letter? Are they members of your committee or—
  (Mr Hall) Apart from myself, all the recipients of the letter that I am aware of are members of Leicester City Council.

  15. They are councillors?
  (Mr Hall) Yes.

  16. But no covering letter to indicate origin?
  (Mr Hall) No, but I do understand that one of the recipients actually received his copy directly from Mr Kamal himself.

  17. Received it from Mr Kamal?
  (Mr Hall) Mr Chairman, I understand also that the Commissioner is aware that that person, Mr Clair, did receive the letter in that way because he wrote to her informing her of this.

  18. Do you confirm that, Mrs Filkin?
  (Ms Filkin) If it is Councillor Singh Clair that you are referring to— Is that the person you are referring to?
  (Mr Hall) Yes, Mr Piara Singh Clair of 9 Jellicoe Road, Leicester, wrote to the Commissioner on 22 May.
  (Ms Filkin) Yes, he did, and Mr Kamal has confirmed that to me.

  19. You say when you received the letter there was no post mark on it, are you saying it was hand-delivered rather than through the post?
  (Mr Hall) Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

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