Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. Oh, there is more than one Mark?
  (Mr Vaz) In my life there are about four Marks.

  241. The Mark in the office.
  (Mr Vaz) Which Mark?

  242. There is more than one Mark in your office?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. There have been four Marks.

  243. At the moment? Four Marks?
  (Mr Vaz) No, in my life there have been four Marks.

  244. When did Mark go to work in the office then, the Mark in the office?
  (Mr Vaz) Which one?

  245. Perhaps you could tell us when the first Mark went to the office.
  (Mr Vaz) I am sorry. I cannot give you exact dates.

  246. Do you know roughly when it might have been?
  (Mr Vaz) Oh, the first Mark would have been—I cannot. I will be sending you something which I cannot justify in terms of dates but I will write to you and tell you the Marks, the three Marks and the one Marco. I do not mean to be frivolous but this was a point made by Mr Milne and frankly it is—there was a Milne Mark. The Milne Mark was not there when Milne said Mark was there, if you see what I mean.

  247. But there was no Mark?
  (Mr Vaz) There was no Mark or Marco then. If you met Mark, and if I am supposed to have done this—Mr Bindman has met Mark but he is not giving evidence because Mark is now a lawyer. He is not the kind of person that you would send over to collect £2,000 from. I do not want to slur his character. That is not what my staff do.

  248. I am simply trying to establish at the time when this incident allegedly took place there was no Mark whatsoever in your office?
  (Mr Vaz) No, but there was prior to that.

  249. There was prior to that?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. If I give his name will it appear?

  250. I would say only if it were relevant to our inquiry.
  (Mr Vaz) Okay. His name is Mark Henderson and he was the first Mark and he would have been employed at the time. He would have gone in 1993. This is all checkable with when he started at the Bar but not when Milne says so. Whether he knew there was a Mark there—

Mr Bell

  251. Can I get into the interesting area that you have a national constituency? I accept that you have. I have a national constituency of nutcases who write in to me every week. You made an interesting comment that bigwigs deserve to contribute and people come to you. Can we talk briefly of honours because obviously the Asian community is under-represented on the Honours List consistently? Therefore it is quite reasonable that you should make representations generally on that issue, which you did. Of course they also contribute financially to certain causes, causes in the Asian community and so on. Do you see that this could get into a difficult area?
  (Mr Vaz) My mind after what has happened and the way in which I suppose the last week has gone in particular makes me feel that I have to make certain choices about the way in which I want to continue. One of those choices is going to have to be whether I can continue to work with the Asian community at this level, whether I can ever meet an Asian person on my own, not because there is anything wrong with them but because of the perception. Having spent my entire career fighting these causes, to suddenly be in a position where you really have to choose, if anything, partly because of Mrs Filkin's investigation, but also because of this stuff on the Hindujas, I really have to make a decision and I have cut down on my contacts anyway with them since I became Minister, not the Hindujas but generally. I turn up at your friend's house and he brings together every Asian businessman in Manchester, and I sit there and I tell them what I am doing in Parliament and of course I tell them what a good MP they have. It is great. They feel that I am there to do something for them, not in a sort of horrible commercial way but they feel that something has been achieved. I think when you have more people of Asian origin and when we have some being elected—we have one in the Conservative Party, we will have more again, I think that that then can be shared, but I think I have to make decisions about whether or not I ever want to be involved in these matters again.

  252. Setting aside the difficulties you have had in the last ten days but on the evidence all the paperwork you have in front of you and Mr Kapasi and his allegations which he now says he was lying, do you feel conspired against in some way?
  (Mr Vaz) I feel that there is a frenzy. Somebody makes a complaint about you and it gets into the paper. I now have a chain. The first thing they do is they ring Sir Peter Soulsby, who is very wronged and has been treated very badly, he will say. They will then ring Mr Mustapha Kamal. Mr Mustapha Kamal can put them in touch with Rajeev Syal. There is this pattern because these are the same things that have occurred all throughout my career. That is why I welcome the thoroughness of Mrs Filkin's report, funnily enough, because this is the first time it is all going to be written down. I was saying to her, and this is nothing to do with what happened last week, I kept pressing the Chairman, "Complete, complete, complete". This is why I cannot believe the newspaper articles which say I wanted it to be delay, delay, delay. I do not. I want it completed. I do feel conspired against because of the circumstance of events. We choose this job, do we not? What we do not choose is that our families and our friends should be under scrutiny and that every single thing that we do should be questioned.

  253. Do you think that if you were not of Asian origin none of this would have happened?
  (Mr Vaz) I think the interest—I think clearly because I have links with the Asian community, but I think that people do not understand the Asian community and the way in which they operate. This is a new community that wants the status, it wants the recognition, it wants to feel part of the mainstream. I of course do not regard myself as an Asian MP. I regard myself as a Labour MP who happens to be Asian in the same way as Ms McIsaac is a Labour MP who is a woman. In the early days in the 1920s you had the first Jewish MPs and in the same way the Jewish community came around them. Now you have so many Jewish MPs and this is not a factor. The same thing applies to the Irish and everybody else. I think we are under scrutiny because I am there. I do not regard myself as the leader of the Asian community. That is why this has happened and it probably will continue to happen until I make that decision which I think I have made that I have got to now think about who I speak to, what I do, and how I conduct myself, whether I want to remain doing these kinds of things or do something completely different.

Mr Forth

  254. Can I just pursue the Zaiwalla connection for a moment? One of the things that I think puzzled all of us was that when we were told that a payment had been made for a charity, no one could remember what the charity was. It was quite a large sum of money—it was £1,000, as I recall. Do you not think it is a bit odd—unless you can now help us—that that sum of money changed hands, and yet neither the donor nor the recipient could remember where it went?
  (Mr Vaz) We do not know who the recipient was, and the reason is that there are so many—not so many recipients, but so many possible causes. You are going back a very long time. You are asking people to remember things that, as I have shown you, this happened yesterday, next week there will be another one. This will go on and on and on. When the earthquake happened last week, I was telephoned by seven different organisations all of them saying, "Come down here. I know that if you come here people will be at the temple, they will donate money." I said "No" to all of them. So it is not surprising, because that is the way it works; people will just come and ask for that support. I am glad he gave it. He does not have to give it that way, bearing in mind that he must have a lot of calls on his time and his resources. I think he has made a mistake in his choice of staff, but, I mean, how many of us make perfect judgements about whom we employ.

  255. Thank you. Moving on from that, what about the recommendation for the peerage as far as Mr Zaiwalla is concerned? Could you give us the background to that, please?
  (Mr Vaz) I will. I have a number of points I want to make on that, and I need to refer, if I may, to the last report that you have done in respect of Tony Baldry. I do not know whether the Committee has this. I have seen Mrs Filkin's analysis. Where does the complaint of the peerage come from? It comes from Andrew Milne; Andrew Milne who says in his second letter, not his first, "Mr Vaz has nominated Zaiwalla for a peerage. Mr Vaz came to see me and laughed hysterically and said he'd never get it." As Mr Bell has said, I have had a campaign going back to 1992. I do not know whether Mr Sandall has circulated my first letter to Mr John Major. I have done this to all the Prime Ministers, fairly regularly, I think I am right in saying, that we want more. He deserves an honour, because he is the country's leading Asian solicitor, in my view. We have lots of solicitors on high streets, but he has actually got to Chancery Lane and he actually moves in circles that are quite different to anyone else. He arranged the first ever dinner for the Asian community ever held at Number Ten when John Major was the Prime Minister, and so he has reached a standard. He has been nominated because he reaches a standard. Of course I want to see lots more nominated, but you have got to reach a certain standard. I do not believe he has been nominated by me for a peerage, because I would have made a judgement, when I wrote to the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister, saying "We've got too many lawyers in the House, and another lawyer is not going to be helpful." He would have been nominated for a serious honour by me, but not a peerage. This is why I think the peerage thing is very odd, that it comes into this conversation at all, this or that. As to why I disagree with Mrs Filkin, may I give you my analysis of where I think she is wrong, or where I think she needs to look again at this, rather than that she is wrong? If you look at your report into Baldry, this has implications for all Members of Parliament. "Mr Baldry", says the Parliamentary Commissioner in her Eighth Report, "received a loan from Mr Zaiwalla on 2 January 1997": "On 2 January 1997 Mr Baldry received the benefit of a loan of £5000 from Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla. On 14 January"—12 days later—"1997 he wrote to the Lord Chancellor's Department recommending the inclusion of Mr Zaiwalla in the next Honours List. In that letter he made no mention of his financial relationship with Mr Zaiwalla." You say as a Committee: "Mr Baldry now recognises that either he should not have supported the recommendation for an honour for Mr Zaiwalla, or he should have made the Lord Chancellor's Department aware of the financial relations between them." Then "Mr Baldry told the Commissioner twice that he had not recommended Mr Zaiwalla for an honour. This was wrong. He had provided the recommendation at someone else's request. It is important that Members give accurate answers to questions from the Commissioner. We consider Mr Baldry's inability to recall the recommendation surprising."—because it is 12 days—"He should have had the loan in his mind at the time he put forward the recommendation for an honour."—"He should have had the loan in his mind at the time he put forward the recommendation for an honour." - In doing so without disclosing a financial relationship be breached the Code of Conduct ...." That is where you start from. Mrs Filkin then says, "I agree, Mr Vaz did not make the nomination in exchange for any benefit or financial arrangement." Well, you did in your draft report. You nod your head, but—
  (Mrs Filkin) No, I did not quite say that.
  (Mr Vaz) Right, what did you say, then? This is important.


  256. She is not open to questioning. Please carry on.
  (Mr Vaz) If we can just have a reference, I will pick it up myself. Let me just see. This is what Mrs Filkin said: "Analysis." Mr Vaz—honours: 322 to 329. In 327 she goes into an analysis: "In my view, the evidence does not support"—the evidence does not support—"the allegation that Mr Vaz held out to Mr Zaiwalla the prospect of an honour either in return for a benefit he had already received from Mr Zaiwalla or in expectation of some future benefit. I am not persuaded that these factors were uppermost in Mr Vaz's mind when, during conversations with Mr Zaiwalla, he alluded to the honours list. It is more likely that Mr Zaiwalla's explanation is correct, namely that this was part of Mr Vaz's general attempt to cultivate good relations with prominent members of the Asian community." The first part of this—and this is important because it is going to affect all Members—is what is in the mind when the Member does the recommendation? If you accept that I recommended him in 1996 to Major—and I assume it is the same kind of letter, I do not know, I have not seen Major's letter, I am looking for it and I will find it and send it to you—if it is the same as I sent to Lord Mackay, I say, "Sarosh Zaiwalla is a jolly good bloke", blah, blah, blah. What is uppermost in my mind is that we need to get more Asian people like Zaiwalla, who happens to be a Conservative, who happens to know both Lord Mackay and John Major, and who actually, if anyone has had a benefit from them, it would be, in my view, the Conservative Party because he organised this event for Mr Major and he has been to more events for the Conservative Party than the Labour Party. But I still think that he is worthy of getting that recommendation. Lord Mackay knows him, because he is in that circle. So that is why I sent him in, because I think he needs to go in. Do you nominate a leading member of the Conservative Party to a Labour Prime Minister? Probably not, but you do do it to Lord Mackay who knows Zaiwalla, because Zaiwalla has appeared before him, so he knows him. That is what is uppermost in my mind. What is not even in my mind when I do this is a £200 plus a £250 payment for a calendar which I had long forgotten, that I did not want even to think about because it was such a disaster, handled by a completely different person two years before, if you take the 1996 date. So once you accept what was in your mind, the second thing is, is there a financial relationship? Mrs Filkin says "Yes." But what is "a financial relationship"? Clearly a loan is a financial relationship, because a loan is to you, you get the loan and you deal with it, but what is not a financial relationship is if you accept the two together—because Mrs Filkin rightly puts them together—this is £450 over 18 months, two years before I write to Major and three years before I write to the Lord Chancellor. Every Member of this House nominates for an honour only people that they know, and when you make that nomination, if you have just received something that is of financial benefit, you will think about it very, very carefully. That is what you are saying to Baldry. But you cannot remember, even if you had hospitality of £450 worth of stuff that does not even need to be registered according to Mrs Filkin; you will not remember that when you make that nomination, that will not be uppermost in your mind, especially if it was done in a way that was so divorced from you that it is really not part of your daily lives. So I cannot be, in my view and in my submission to you—I will come back on this—convicted of this or have the complaint upheld, first of all on the basis that I had a financial relationship, which I dispute, because that will apply to every single Member of Parliament who comes within the registration limit, and you will be setting a precedent, in my view, that will be really hard to quantify, because this was done in 1993/94, and the honour was recommended in 1996. I accept, if Rahal had taken the money for the calendar a week before or 12 days before, even if it was for £250, I probably would have had it in my mind somehow, even though he was operating from a different place, and he did not ring me up every day and say, "These people have advertised." He used to ring me up and say, "These people haven't paid, I'm going to sue them." I said, "Please don't sue them, because I don't want to end up in court." She accepted it was not uppermost in my mind, so Mrs Filkin accepts this was not in my mind when I made the recommendation. You must do, Commissioner. That is what she says in paragraph 327. Once you accept that, then she says, "But I'm sorry, Mr Vaz, this is still a financial relationship." I do not agree, it cannot possibly be a financial relationship on the basis of what we go through in our daily lives.

  Chairman: Thank you. The Committee will adjourn until after the division.

  The Committee suspended from 5.41 pm to 5.54 pm for a division in the House


  257. Mr Vaz, have you anything further to say?
  (Mr Vaz) No. Perhaps I may just summarise what I have been saying. First of all, when I nominated Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla for an honour, the payment for the calendars of £200 and £250 was not in my mind. He was nominated properly because he would make a contribution to public life. Secondly, I do not accept that there was a financial relationship because of these payments. I was not dealing with the calendars, I did not know of them, recall them, be aware of them, at the time the nomination was made. I think if we open it up, we have all—I have made this point—nominated people for honours. Some of these people we may have taken hospitality from which may well be registerable. We cannot be expected to remember this anyway. I think it is quite a different case from the situation where you make a nomination, you get a loan and you make a recommendation, because those are so close in the dates. That is what I want to say.

Mr Forth

  258. Just to set it in context, can you give us a rough order of magnitude of how many other such nominations or letters to Prime Ministers or Lord Chancellors you might write in a typical month, year or whatever—just an order of magnitude?
  (Mr Vaz) It has all changed now, has it not, because you have got self-nomination forms? So what you would do— I have not done any this year, for example, I have not done any since, I think, the end of last year. I have written a letter for someone who writes to me and says, "I want to nominate X, Y and Z for an honour. Will you write a letter in support?"

  259. I have just done one today, yes.
  (Mr Vaz) So, I think, not a huge amount. I just do not nominate everybody. I circulated to the Asian community in 1993 a letter from Major, one of the Major letters, saying, "Why don't you put yourself forward?", but nobody did. The form has changed completely. I would think now probably three or four, not many, because they can do it themselves. I mean, we do not have much say. We are the extra letter.

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