Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. Excuse me if I have got this wrong, and if the solicitor objects by all means let him do so, but what, in effect, you are saying is because it was off record you were willing to libel Mr Vaz but you were not willing to libel him on record. That is, in effect, what you are saying. You thought it was off record so you said it.
  (Mr Stephens) I have no problem with you answering the question.


  61. Could you repeat what you just said?
  (Mr Stephens) I said to Mr Kapasi, because Mr Williams invited me, I have no problem with him answering that question.

  62. Carry on.
  (Mr Kapasi) The question is the understanding of the off the record conversation. When I said that this conversation is off the record, it should be on the tape. What I understand of that is that one cannot quote me on it; really, one cannot quote me on it. The second point is that one really cannot rely on it as being accurate. The third thing—

Mr Williams

  63. Where did you get this rather unusual interpretation about the record—that it does not have to be accurate because it is off the record? I have never heard that interpretation before. How did you come to that?
  (Mr Kapasi) Because the reason why I was telling the story was to try to get it off him so I could get on with my job. If I had been told that look, first of all, this is not off the record, this is a serious conversation—the other thing that has happened, which I think the Committee should realise, is that I have been taped without my knowledge, without my permission. Surely, there are some human rights issues on that.

  Mr Williams: That is a separate issue. I will accept that. We never approve of taping without alerting people. That is a different matter, that is not what I am asking you. I am asking you what on earth made you think that it did not actually have to be accurate because it was off record? Can I put a situation to you? Again, your solicitor will listen carefully to what I say, but we in politics—


  64. Can I just point out the position of a solicitor? The solicitor's job is to advise his client, not to tell him not to answer questions. This is a Select Committee, we expect answers. So he can advise him how to answer, by all means, but what he said—
  (Mr Stephens) Sir, I do not think I have obstructed the Committee at any point today. It is certainly not my intention to try and do so.

Mr Williams

  65. In politics we know well that the whisper is often far more dangerous than the open speech, because you do not even know that the whisper is taking place. Again, I come back to the fact that we are not just dealing with someone who is inexperienced, we are dealing with someone who has a considerable professional background, a considerable social background, a position of integrity. Do you not understand that it is more insidious to tell untruths—I will put it as mildly as I can—about someone off the record than it is to tell them on the record? The person maligned or libelled does not have an opportunity even to respond, because they are not aware of the allegations that are being made. That does not sound very much like integrity, does it?
  (Mr Kapasi) As I mentioned earlier, I was telling these journalists what they wanted to hear, and I am not well-versed in dealing with the media. I think that has been my weakness, because I am not really a politician like you are and fully trained, and also fully aware.

  66. When you said "I ended up giving him £500" you really had not ended up giving him £500?
  (Mr Kapasi) No.

  67. When you said "It's more subtle than that, being a solicitor as well. He says I will do this for you" and then it goes on "A person can incur a lot of expenditure in my duties and I need you to finance it." You deny that you said that? What are you saying about that? How do you interpret that? That sounds very specific, does it not?
  (Mr Kapasi) I am sorry. Would you be able to repeat that because I have not read this before.

  68. I am awfully sorry. Page 470. They asked you "Did he give you a call saying `Can you come and give me some money?'" and you replied "It's more subtle than that, being a solicitor as well. He says `I will do this for you (inaudible) but I expected something of my expenditure, not in an open way. A person can incur a lot of expenditure in my duties and I need you to finance it'", and it goes on with more of that. This is page 29 I am dealing with. I apologise. So am I allowed to refer to it? My apologies, I have so many bundles of paper here.
  (Mr Kapasi) Can I make a note here? Obviously, I am not party to this transaction, to what you are just mentioning—

  Mr Williams: These are from the transcripts of the tape interviews.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  69. You do have a copy?
  (Mr Kapasi) I have not seen that at all.

  Mr Williams: It does not really matter. They are the actual tapes and they were transcribed.

  Mr Foster: Chairman, on a point of order, do you think, if we are going to ask questions about that, we ought to adjourn to enable the witness to see these documents?

Mr Williams

  70. I do not think we can progress with—well, it is up to the other Members of the Committee.
  (Mr Kapasi) Can I mention that my solicitor, an expert in these affairs, has been asking for this for quite a long time. He has been asking for whether the Commissioner has actually checked the tapes with what has been provided and whether she would confirm that.
  (Ms Filkin) I have written, Chairman, to say that Mr Kapasi is welcome to hear the tapes and that I would have them forensically examined.
  (Mr Kapasi) Can you refer to this in the—
  (Ms Filkin) Of course you are welcome.
  (Mr Kapasi) What page?
  (Ms Filkin) What I provided to you, early on, as you will recall, were the extracts from the tapes which set out the information that you had allegedly given to the newspapers about the payments. That was one of the first documents that I sent to you.
  (Mr Stephens) Sir, could I make a point of clarification here? The Commissioner has just said that she offered to have these forensically examined and offered Mr Kapasi the opportunity to listen to the tapes. I am completely unaware of that offer in any of the correspondence that I have seen. I have reviewed the correspondence prior to coming here today and, also, it is something that we have been asking for. The first time, despite innumerable requests going on for almost a year, we get anything is a letter of 11 July, which is found at Annex 158 in the bundle, page 468 in the little bundle, where tiny extracts—basically, paragraphed exchanges—take place between various people. We have not seen the full transcript and have not had the benefit of doing that. I took the precaution before coming today of writing to your Clerk, Mr Sandall, on 25 January and asked again for that information, and it has not been provided. He said he could not do so without the instructions of the Committee.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  71. Have you had a copy of annexes 129 to 159?
  (Mr Stephens) No, I have not. I am sorry, yes, 129. I do have 129.

  Mr Williams: Chairman, I can facilitate things. I have asked him the major points I want to make at this stage, I was going on to detail to underline my questioning. I am quite happy, to enable the Committee to progress, if others do not want to use the transcript, to finish my questioning now and, then, if I feel, towards the end, with your permission, that I would then like to flesh it out with some detail, it will be for you to decide whether you want to let the witness have time to go and read the document.

  Mr Bottomley: For the avoidance of doubt, Chairman, can Mr Kapasi confirm that he has had numbers 129 to 159 inclusive?
  (After a short pause)

  Chairman: Mr Stephens, I am going to ask Mr Bell to put some questions.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Can I suggest, to be fair to the witness so that he knows exactly what we have—

  Chairman: Indeed, he is going through it. To save time, Mr Bell, can ask some questions.

  Mr Foster: Chairman, on a point of order, with respect, I do not think you can do that. I think that we are in the middle of a situation where questions have been asked on a document that this witness has not seen. That is fundamentally flawed procedure. We have seen those documents and, therefore, it is within our consideration. You should not attempt to judge a witness against a document that he has not seen.


  72. We are not sure whether they have seen it or not.
  (Mr Stephens) I now have an answer for you, sir, which is that we have had those—which I think was Mr Bottomley's question -

Mr Bottomley

  73. The question was actually to Mr Kapasi, but it includes what the solicitor had as well.
  (Mr Stephens) Can I answer it, because I have the complete file? I can give him the answer to give to you, if that helps. Basically, we have had all except for 146, but we have not had all the enclosures which are referred to in the letters.


  74. There is no 146.
  (Mr Stephens) I understand that, I am just giving you a full answer.

  75. So you have had the transcripts?
  (Mr Stephens) No. We have had the extracts.
  (Ms Filkin) The extracts that Mr Kapasi has had from me are set out in my letter of 11 July at 158.

  Mr Bottomley: If questions follow the information which has been provided, I cannot see there is a difficulty.


  76. We have now established that you have the relevant documents for the basis of Mr Williams' question.
  (Mr Stephens) Could I just say, sir, I am not sure that we have, because we do not have transcripts. If you look at 158, the letter of 11 July from the Commissioner, that is the sum total of the extracts we have, with the one exception of a letter from the Commissioner which extracts something earlier, on 133.
  (Ms Filkin) You will recall I said to Mr Kapasi that if he wanted the transcripts I was sure that, since the newspapers had provided them to me, they would provide them to him.
  (Mr Stephens) I have no recollection of that, Commissioner.
  (Ms Filkin) Yes, we had that conversation.

  Chairman: The important thing is that as long as Mr Williams' questions deal with annex 158, then you have that in front of you as well.

  Mr Campbell-Savours:—that part of the Annex 158 which includes the extracts from the Commissioner—
  (Ms Filkin) They said they had got it.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: He has just said he has not.
  (Ms Filkin) He has not got a full transcript but he has the extracts at 158, which is what I put to him for his replies.

  77. Have you got the extracts at 158?
  (Mr Stephens) Yes, we do.

  78. How many pages of 158 have you got?
  (Mr Stephens) Four. I am sorry, five.

  Chairman: That is it. So you have the whole thing. So Mr Williams—

Mr Levitt

  79. Chairman, I am sorry, I do not think they do have the whole thing. On page 28 of the Commissioner's Report, I think, there are extracts which are not included in annex 158.
  (Ms Filkin) They do not have my report.

  Mr Levitt: I know they do not. Precisely. Mr Williams was asking questions relating to a section of the extracts which is in the Commissioner's report but which is not in the annex. That is the problem we have.

  Chairman: Mr Williams, as long as you keep your questioning to Annex 158—

  Mr Foster: No, with respect, Chairman, this really is a serious issue. You cannot select what you give to a person whose reputation is at stake. That is a fundamental breach of natural justice. This man's reputation is at stake, based on what he answers now, and I insist, Mr Chairman, this Committee consider—

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