Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 680 - 699)



  680. Do you think that was calculated to be inaccurate?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I do not think I should comment on that.

  681. Carelessly inaccurate?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Carelessly inaccurate.

  682. Very carelessly in that it should have been obvious that it was inaccurate?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I have gone on record. I think it was grossly inaccurate because I have given my version of the event, which is also with the Cabinet Secretary and the court.

  683. You were saying how straightforward Ms Fernandez/Mrs Vaz is and that you have complete confidence in her. You were starting to elaborate on the points you would have discussed.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) It was at the British ambassador's residence. The event was the Indo-EU Economic Summit. I said I was very concerned that Mr Vaz had not responded to my inquiry or something of that sort, because I can obtain a statement from him. She very openly told me—it was not a privileged or confidential conversation—that Miss *** did not have Mr Vaz's authority to produce this letter. This was a very serious matter because that meant that the court had been misled.

  684. By?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) By the applicant in the employment tribunal dispute. This had become part of my grounds. I sought leave to amend my appeal to the employment tribunal. I then wrote a letter to Keith Vaz saying that Maria had said this to me. He then appointed solicitors and ultimately I am pleased to say that, after the matter went to the Cabinet Secretary, Mr Bindman wrote to me confirming exactly what Maria had told me: that Mr Vaz had not authorised her to use the copy of the letter for the Lord Chancellor's file, signed by Mr Vaz.

  685. Which matters? That he had not authorised it? Was the letter hostile from your point of view?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes, in the employment tribunal litigation.

  686. The fact he had written it did not worry you; the fact that it appeared in court did?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) From the point of view my application for leave to appeal that was a relevant point, not as evidence. It was not complaining directly against Mr Vaz but the circumstances in which the applicant had misused her position and her closeness to the Lord Chancellor's personal adviser to produce this evidence.

  687. When you wrote to him about this, instead of writing back to you, he took on legal advice?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.

  688. Would you not expect him just to pen a reply to you saying, "This is what happened"?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I would have expected him to do so. He first supported Mr Hart and then Bindman retracted after I wrote to the Prime Minister a formal complaint under the parliamentary ethics procedure. Then, surprise, surprise, a week later, after I had got leave to appeal, there was an attempt to retract again. That is a matter for the court to decide because I have got leave to appeal and I am in court now.

  689. Does it not sound like a bit of overkill? Mr Bindman is a very reputable and I gather somewhat legitimately costly lawyer. Does that not seem a bit of an over-reaction over something as simple as that?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, because I considered what happened to be quite serious at the time, very serious. Unless you want me to, I would not want to go into it.

  Mr Williams: If it is not relevant to the case, I do not. If it is, I do.
  (Mrs Filkin) Mr Zaiwalla did, as the Committee knows, tell me about this issue but asked that I did not take it forward, so I did not, at his request. Obviously, the Committee may wish to ask questions about it because these are two activities which this inquiry and the other inquiry were running in parallel.

Mr Williams

  690. If the Commissioner feels it is relevant, we would like to know.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) With the Chairman's permission, may I correct the Commissioner? What happened was that the Commissioner wrote to me that this was not a matter within her domain because it related to ministerial conduct, not a Member of Parliament.


  691. Are you sure this matter is not sub judice at the moment? Has it been set down for trial?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) It has been set down for trial. I have got leave to appeal.

  692. It is not sub judice?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  693. Is that yes, it is not?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I would have thought that, being a Committee of Parliament, you are governed by your own rules and you are entitled to investigate all matters, but that is a matter for you.

  Mr Williams: Sub judice applies to us as it does to anyone else.

  Mr Bottomley: We adopt it; it is not imposed on us.

  Mr Foster: I think it is two distinct things. If we are discussing Mr Vaz, that is not sub judice. What is sub judice is the decision of the court that might arise out of the issues Mr Zaiwalla has mentioned. If we keep clear of the merits of his case, we can ask questions about Mr Vaz's involvement.

Mr Williams

  694. Would you like to expand on what you have already told us?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I am in your hands. Things had heated up between Mr Vaz and myself, not surprisingly, not because the evidence of his was read out but because I thought it was inaccurate and I complained to the Commissioner. The Commissioner correctly told me that, as it concerned ministerial conduct and not a Member of Parliament's conduct, she referred me to some resolution of the House of Commons as to the code of conduct of ministers. I obtained that code of conduct and that required me to write to the Prime Minister because he is the sole judge on ministerial conduct. I wrote to the Prime Minister with a copy to the Cabinet Secretary. Mr Bindman came on the scene and I got a letter which I expected should have come in the first place.

  695. It was written in his role as a minister, not in his role as an individual?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, because he was a minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department at the time.

  696. He was not in the Lord Chancellor's Department; he was PPS to the Attorney General. He was not a minister, so he was not covered by the rules relating to ministerial conduct.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I may have it wrong but I think for a short time he was a minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department.

  697. This is really outside our area. You clearly feel—I do not mean this unpleasantly—that you have been a victim in this when you have seen turnover fall from *** million to *** million in the space of a year.
  (Mr Zaiwalla)—.

  698. Yes, from *** million to *** a million, ***. That is over a million fall-off. Who do you feel has imposed this hardship on you? Is it the press in misrepresentation or what?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I think it is the press in misrepresentation. As a citizen of this country, there is no adequate protection for an individual like me, against whom a vendetta is undertaken by another individual. A lot of my work comes from India. I am quite well known in India because I represented the Bachchan brothers in the Bofors libel action in the English court which my firm won in the early 1990s. All the Indian press know me. One of them said, "Baldry landed in soup because of Mr Zaiwalla" and they all alleged that I was guilty of corrupt practices. For a firm like mine, it is very difficult to give confidence to Indians that I, as a British Asian, will be able to represent them in the same way.

  699. Could you have taken a libel action against them because it was damaging you to that extent?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I cannot because these proceedings are governed by rules of privilege. If they report anything concerning these proceedings, it is under the rules of privilege. Unfortunately, I think Mr Milne knows the system very well and in the Baldry case he made personal allegations against me which were completely wild. Those allegations were attached to your report and the newspapers picked up those allegations which were entirely false and dishonest.

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