Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 720 - 739)



Mr Bottomley

  720. I am sticking to conversations that you may have had with Keith Vaz. The party on 22 September 1999 in New Zealand House, where the Lord Chancellor was officially giving it or guest of honour, I think was to celebrate Keith Vaz becoming a minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department. You were there?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I was.

  721. Did you talk to Mr Vaz at that party?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I do not think so. There were about 300-400 people there. He was the star. I may be wrong but my impression of that party was that it was for the Lord Chancellor, not Keith Vaz.

  722. I have not been able to find my copy of the invitation, so I cannot help.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I get a lot of invitations and I do not go. I went only because the Lord Chancellor was going to be there.

  723. Not because of Keith Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Not because of Keith Vaz, no.

  724. Was the employment tribunal case in your mind at that time?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) It was. One of the issues before the employment appeal tribunal is that Miss ***, the applicant, had come along with Keith Vaz. I had later discussed with Mr Hinduja the basis on which the applicant was present at the party. I had made investigations for the purpose of that. I had also asked the Lord Chancellor's Department to explain how a very junior civil servant could accompany the minister and the Lord Chancellor.

  725. This is after she had returned to the Lord Chancellor's Department from working with your firm for a short time?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) That is right.

  726. You are telling us today that on that occasion you do not remember speaking to Keith Vaz.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I may have just said, "Hello."

  727. You do not recall saying, "What is she doing here?" You do not recall discussing the merits of the case?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No. I saw her in the lift as I was leaving. I did not notice she was there until I left. A lot of these events I just drop into for five or ten minutes. I do not stay for long.

  728. Can I take you again to Lisbon? In one reference you refer to it as being May. If I put it to you that it was probably towards the end of June—?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) It is possible. I can check the date. It was the beginning of summer.

  729. You were there because of this Indo-European summit?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.

  730. Keith Vaz's wife was there, but not him?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) He was not there but she was there. She was quite an important person. I remember her asking me for advice because she was asked to ask the first question to the Indian Prime Minister. She quite sweetly came and asked me, "This is the question I am supposed to ask. What do you think of it?" She discussed it with me.

  731. Was your belief that she was there because she was a solicitor in her own right or because of her obvious connection with Keith Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Because of the obvious connection with Keith Vaz. She was one of the guests of honour.

  732. Do you recall discussing with her the employment tribunal case or the applicant?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.

  733. How would that conversation have gone, roughly?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I met her before the event. There was a reception given by the British ambassador. All of the British delegation was invited. We said hello to each other and we talked to each other. She knew that relations were strained between Keith and I. One of us raised this question. I said it was very naughty of Keith to give inaccurate evidence. She said, "Keith is not to be blamed" and I believe her even today. "He did not know this." She had obtained this letter from the Lord Chancellor's Department file without Keith's knowledge.

  734. She being Miss *** or Mrs Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Miss ***.

  735. Going back to the New Zealand House party, that was just before the Labour Party conference. Would you have met Mr Vaz at the Labour Party conference?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I did and that is where the whole controversy starts. I have a forum with Tony Baldry called the Asian Business Breakfast Club and the aim of the forum is to bring about an Asian economic community on lines of EU. It is a pan-Asian forum. One of the guests who regularly attends is Lord Clinton Davis. I have known Clinton Davis for about 25 years. When he was practising as a solicitor, we had a case against each other. He invited me on a reciprocal basis to a group called Europe 2000. I agreed to support Europe 2000. At one of the dinners for Europe 2000, next to me was a person who was the treasurer of the Labour Party. I forget his name. He invited me to come to the Labour Party conference to hear the Prime Minister. The reason why I went is that I was touched by the Prime Minister's gesture at the Asian Millionaires' dinner at the Cafe Royal. I had taken my young son. He waved to me and I went to say hello. His wife came and gave me a kiss. That is because the Prime Minister had worked with my firm as counsel. I thought it was a very sweet gesture. He invited me not for the conference but for the Prime Minister's speech. Then there was a dinner which he thought I should attend because I would meet rich businessmen and we all go for potential clients. I think it was £100 a ticket or something like that. I went for the Prime Minister's speech and in the afternoon I was moving around the exhibition because I did not know anybody there. I saw Keith and the owner of The Red Fort on the British Airways stall. I do not know whether I should say all these things but Keith said, "What have you been doing to Miss ***? You have taken her home and asked her to wash your clothes. She is spoiling your name." That is when the whole thing started.

  736. Can I return to the £2,250?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I have been very frank. I hope I am not criticised for that.

  737. Can I return to the sum of money that was above £2,000 but below £3,000.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) 2,450.

  738. Two of those payments, you have explained, were for the Asian Business Breakfast Club.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I started the Asian Business Breakfast Club as a pan-Asian forum. Possibly Keith thought it was the Conservative Party but it was non-political. Keith then started an Asian Business Network Group. Either Keith started it or he was connected with it.

  739. These payments were for his organisation, not for yours?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Not for my organisation.

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