Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 160 - 179)



Mr Bottomley

  160. Mr Kapasi, can I just go back to the time when some community leaders suggested to Mr Vaz he should not be involved in local council issues. Do you know if we have had a copy of that or whether there is a copy available?
  (Mr Kapasi) I have tried to find a copy from my files but I have not been able to get it. I am sure other community leaders would have it.

  161. If it is possible for you to make it available to the Committee, that would be helpful. If there is anything further you can say about the context, that would help us as well because it will help us get an understanding of what was happening in about 1994. I want to go to the middle of last year, about May last year, and I think I am right in saying you came to an agreement with the Commissioner that you would come to have a meeting with her.
  (Mr Kapasi) That is right.

  162. Then I get a sense from the documents that there was a sort of change of mood and instead of you responding to the Commissioner, your lawyers did, about which I make no comment, but what I do ask you to comment on is whether you were saying to yourself, "I will meet the Commissioner" or whether you were happy not to meet her, because from May last year to our gatherings now is seven months or so?
  (Mr Kapasi) That is right. Yes, as you quite rightly say, I was very willing to meet the Commissioner to clear the allegations. But then when I realised the conflict, and the independence and the neutrality of the person who was actually going to question me came to my mind, then I obviously started to go back and say whether I would get a fair or independent hearing at all. The other problem for me has been, and this has been through my solicitor as well, that there are no clear or definite rules when an independent person like me gets involved as a witness and then what rights he has or he has not got to question the parties involved, to have all the information, to have all the documents. What rights are there for the third party? That clearly made me very nervous in seeing the Commissioner alone and the only recourse for me was to rely on a committee like yourself with totally independent judgment on whether I would receive a fair hearing. One has to be, as my solicitor has mentioned, like Caesar's wife, beyond allegations or reproach.

  163. When you made the arrangement in early May to meet the Commissioner I think on 25th May, did you have worries then about some conflict? If so, was the conflict a conflict you were experiencing or were you saying that the Commissioner might be experiencing a conflict?
  (Mr Kapasi) The conflict obviously has been with the Commissioner and Sir Peter Soulsby and his involvement in this. Because the Commissioner was going to ask me questions and has to remain independent on this one, it was whether she would be biased in any way because I would have expected a totally independent person with no bias at all to have questioned me.

  164. When you talk of this word "bias" or "conflict", can you explain what you think this bias or conflict might have been in the Commissioner's mind or behaviour or judgment?
  (Mr Kapasi) I think from the people I know in the city and from the experiences I have dealing with some community affairs, there is no way I would have any link to make a decision. For example, if I sit on any of the committees, the first thing they ask is a declaration of interest, "Would you have any interest in the agenda which is going to be approved in this particular meeting?" From time to time I think one has to declare. The other point is that my solicitor actually tried four times to acquire any information about whether there was a conflict or not, and because there was hesitancy in declaring this interest, I felt very uncomfortable.

  165. Can you say very simply what is the interest which either you wanted to declare or what you thought the Commissioner had to declare?
  (Mr Kapasi) The Commissioner had to declare that the Commissioner and Sir Peter Soulsby sat on the Audit Commission and that they may have had other dialogue about this, I do not know.

  166. And that was it? The fact they had been on the Audit Commission together. Was that it?
  (Mr Kapasi) Sorry.

  167. Was there anything other than that?
  (Mr Kapasi) No, I do not think so.

  168. It was just the fact they had been on the Audit Commission together?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes. If the Commissioner had declared this earlier, then I think I would have seen her by now herself.

  169. I see. Do you want to add something, Mr Stephens?
  (Mr Kapasi) (After talking to Mr Stephens) My solicitor has kindly informed me that a judge would have declared this if that was the case.

  170. So the reason why you did not attend to have the discussion which you had planned to have with the Commissioner was the fact for a time Sir Peter Soulsby and she had been on the Audit Commission together?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, and that she failed to declare it from the very beginning until writing about four letters. After writing to the Commissioner four times by my solicitor, this fact was declared.

  171. I do not want to get involved with your discussions with your solicitor, so I will put the question a different way, was it your idea that this was a conflict of interest?
  (Mr Kapasi) It was I who informed the solicitor, because I found out from the community—in fact somebody within the council told me—that here we have a case whereby the Parliamentary Commissioner may be quite close to Sir Peter Soulsby.

  172. And that is the only reason why you did not go to meet her and explain the various things which you had said and done?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, absolutely.

  173. Can I ask about two other areas? The first one is this, when did you last have a conversation with Keith Vaz MP about this investigation or any of these issues?
  (Mr Kapasi) As I mentioned to you earlier, I have had no direct discussion with him since the investigation.

  174. Since? When you had the conversations with the journalists early last year, any conversations with Mr Vaz since then?
  (Mr Kapasi) Before. I think before, when Rajeev Syal actually made this allegation in a newspaper, I did have a conversation with Mr Keith Vaz and I denied and I said this is an off the record conversation which has no meaning for me.

  175. So you did not deny the conversation, you denied what you put in the conversation had a meaning?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes. This was before the parliamentary inquiry.

  176. But since then you have had no conversations with Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Kapasi) I did not discuss this issue at all.

  177. You may have had pleasantries at some function but not discussed this?
  (Mr Kapasi) I would not say "pleasantries" because I do not think he is a happy man.

  178. In your conversations with Mr Leppard, one conversation ended. Was it you who ended that conversation?
  (Mr Kapasi) No, it was him, because I was trying to tell him. Once he told me he was going to do an article and when I tried to retract, he suddenly realised I was going to deny everything I said in the previous matter, so he put the phone down.

  179. And then the second conversation, how soon was that?
  (Mr Kapasi) I think I have not spoken to him since then. Sorry, after the second conversation with David Leppard.

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