Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 500 - 519)



  500. If you go to the next page, Milne says, "I can remember on one occasion he insisted on cash, which I found very amusing at the time." You reply, "I think he always did."
  (Mr Brown) I think that was just an off-the-cuff comment. It was certainly nothing which I had any knowledge about.

  501. But you refused to talk to the press.
  (Mr Brown) The conversation I had with Milne was rather strange, because Milne was the person who was basically responsible for my demise at Zaiwalla, and I had not spoken to him since 1994. For him to ring up on the pretence of wanting a friendly conversation... My situation is that I wanted to get him off the phone as quickly as possible. It is not my nature to be rude and just slam the receiver down on people. As I said right at the beginning, the confusion between the amount of £1,000 and possibly £2,000 came because I think it was mentioned first in that telephone conversation. Milne has a dispute with Mr Zaiwalla, which I did not want to get involved in, and it just seemed to me that he was trying to smear Mr Zaiwalla's name by bringing this story to everyone's attention after he was dismissed, or whatever the circumstances were.

  502. Do you have any reason at all for wanting to damage Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Brown) None at all. I do not know the gentleman. Unfortunately, I have read all the press reports recently. My life now is up in the West Midlands. It is not down here. I have no axe to grind against him or Mr Zaiwalla or anybody.

  503. I was interested in two particular things you said in the conversation you had with him. Mr Milne refers to them going around a number of people to say he was in the habit of receiving cash, and you replied, "Maybe, maybe, but they won't get anything from me, I can assure you."
  (Mr Brown) I think that was just a generalisation, that I did not want and still do not want anything to do with the press.

  504. No, I am not getting at you for it, because you more or less said the same thing later on as well. "I am just not talking to them. If they turn up here I still won't talk," which would tend to lend force to your argument that you hardly knew and you did not want anything to do with it, but you were not out to get him.
  (Mr Brown) No. The reason for that—and the reason stands today—as I said, is I am trying to make a new life up in the West Midlands. I am living with my 83-year old mother. I have no connection with anything down south, and I feel that any bad publicity now, particularly about my conviction, will prove to be a setback for the last three and a half years that I have been up there. So I do not want to talk to the press. I was confronted by a gentleman out there this morning.

  505. Really?
  (Mr Brown) He just asked my name and what my business was here. I told him I was not supposed to speak to anybody.

  506. That is very concerning.
  (Mr Brown) He wrote his name and telephone number down on a piece of paper for me.

  507. You said the Telegraph, amongst others, had been pursing you.
  (Mr Brown) Just the Telegraph.

  508. Did anyone offer you any inducements?
  (Mr Brown) No.

  509. Did they just ask questions, or did anyone offer any inducement to you?
  (Mr Brown) The only offer that was made to me was that they would give me a letter of confidentiality, that my name would never appear in any story that I gave them. But I cannot tell them anything. That is the whole point. I do not want to speak to them because there is nothing I can tell them.

  510. But even with the offer of confidentiality, with you having something to tell them, which was the £1,000—we say £1,000 because it is the lower figure; we recognise the uncertainty about it—even with a guarantee of confidentiality, you still were not tempted to give them anything?
  (Mr Brown) No. The one thing which I want is to keep my name out of the papers. Nobody up in the West Midlands where I am at the moment knows about my conviction apart from my mother, and unfortunately, particularly reading some of the tabloids, as I have done, I am sure that for some reason or another, maybe because I will not talk to the Telegraph, they will try to stir up some other story about me.

  511. How did they actually trace you?
  (Mr Brown) I have no idea. My mother is ex-directory and has been for a long time. They said that they trawled through old telephone books to find her number, which they did not, because one of the things we did, for some other particular reason, was change her number soon after I went up there. So I have no idea how they found her number, but then it became common knowledge, because Zaiwalla had it. He rang me up to see if I could help him with his action against Milne, and Milne rang me, presumably from the Telegraph offices, but how they actually got the number I have no idea, and from that, of course, they got my address, because they came and camped outside my house.

  512. So Mr Zaiwalla rang you. Approximately when was that?
  (Mr Brown) That was about July last year. That was when his action with Milne was coming up before the courts.

  513. But he has not contacted you about the present inquiry?
  (Mr Brown) No.

  514. No other journalists have contacted you about it?
  (Mr Brown) I had a call from the Sunday Telegraph, I think ten days ago, but I was not home, and although they told my mother they would phone back, they did not, so I have not spoken to anybody.

  515. Which paper was it told you they would guarantee confidentiality?
  (Mr Brown) The Sunday Telegraph. Rajeev Syal I think was the reporter.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  516. Can I clarify again to what extent you were involved in actually handing the money over?
  (Mr Brown) I just withdrew the money from the bank and took it upstairs, a sum of £1,000. They put it in an envelope and I took it up to Mr Zaiwalla's office.

  517. You did not give it to Mr Vaz or anything like that?
  (Mr Brown) I honestly cannot remember whether I handed it to Mr Zaiwalla or handed it to Mr Vaz.

  518. So you would not even recognise Mr Vaz then?
  (Mr Brown) I knew who Mr Vaz was, because I had been introduced to him before I went to the bank. Mr Zaiwalla is a man who likes to have influential friends, if you like, and to introduce them around, and I am pretty sure that he called me in to Mr Vaz. He would have had to sign the cheque in any event, and he would not come out of his room to do that.

Mr Bottomley

  519. Is what happened that you were called up to a room where Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz were: Mr Zaiwalla writes out a cheque, you go off to the bank, bring it back to the room where Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz are?
  (Mr Brown) I had the cheque books with me, so I would have been asked to write out a cheque for whatever the amount was. Mr Zaiwalla would sign it. I took it down to the bank, which then happened to be on the ground floor of the building we were occupying, and took it back upstairs.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 16 March 2001