Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 905 - 919)



  Chairman: Good morning. We are informed that Mr Conway has represented Mr Campbell-Savours in other matters.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: Over many years.


  905. Welcome to the Committee, Ms Maria Fernandes. You have your solicitor with you. He of course will be available to you for consultation but will not intervene in our proceedings except at the Committee's wish. The first question I have to ask you is about the company, Mapesbury. What was the purpose of the company? When was it established and has the purpose changed since the date of its establishment?
  (Ms Fernandes) The purpose of the company I believe has already been explained to you. It was set up in 1994. I agreed to be a director of that company because at that time the intention of the company was that it would fund the calendars which I think you have heard about. The calendars were produced for a period, I think, from 1994 to 1996 and that was the time when Keith Vaz was involved in that area, the calendars. The calendars were not very successful and in 1996 he gave up producing any more. There was a company there, I was a shareholder, I was a director, and I decided that I wanted to do something with it. I could have bought, and on reflection maybe should have bought, an off-the-shelf company and started a new business but there was a company there and I saw an opportunity to use it and I used it.

  906. The next question I have to ask you is that there was certain money related to Mr Vaz's calendars which was processed through the company, and we did ask you for extracts from the audited records which show these transactions, including details of who provided those contributions and the payments made from them. Do you have any difficulty in providing us with this information?
  (Ms Fernandes) I do have difficulty because, to start off with I was not really involved in the calendars project, if I can call it that. I understood that the accounts relating to the calendars in that period were sent on to the accountants and then returned by the accountants at the end of the accounting year to the secretary. The secretary then returned them to Mr Mahmoud who has since passed away. I have this morning telephoned his widow again and said, "Can we have a look around for these papers?" I did ask her for the papers but the problem was she was away for a period of time. Her husband died fairly recently and she went off for a little while. She has said she does not think there are any papers. I was specifically looking for papers relating to 1996. She tells me she cannot see any papers but she has invited me to go and have a look in her garage where she believes there might be some papers. But, to be quite honest, I have not been able to locate them.

  907. We have been trying to get hold of copies of the full audited accounts for each of the years Mapesbury has been in operation, with the underlying records which show all the payments into and out of the company since it was set up. Can you provide this for us? What is the problem here?
  (Ms Fernandes) I have no problem providing information relating to Mr Vaz's role. Mr Vaz's role ended in 1996. The problem I have is that this is my company and I do not know what it is you are looking for. If you identify a particular transaction that you are concerned about, if you can identify the areas of your concern, maybe I can help you, but I do not where to take this. It seems like it is too broad a request.

  908. But the full audited accounts are surely available, are they not?
  (Ms Fernandes) There are not audited accounts to start off with, the company was not required to be audited. I said that in my letter.

  909. There are no audited accounts because they were not required?

  (Ms Fernandes) The company is not required to be audited under the Companies Act and it was not audited.

  Chairman: There will be one or two detailed questions on this which I will ask the Committee to ask.

Mr Bottomley

  910. Just to get things reasonably plain, you are declining to let the Committee see the accounts?
  (Ms Fernandes) No, I am not declining to let the Committee see these papers. If I could locate them, and you have a particular concern about any particular transaction, then I will look into it myself. I am not declining to provide that information.

  911. Does the witness have the year end accounts for the company?
  (Ms Fernandes) Sorry?

  912. Do you have the accounts for the company?
  (Ms Fernandes) The accounts are lodged at Companies House.

  913. So the question is not whether the actual year end accounts are available, the question is whether there are particular details which can demonstrate where payments may have been received?
  (Ms Fernandes) Yes.

  914. So if we go back to the years of the calendar, which are the years when you were not particularly involved in the activities of the company although you were a director, we have been told, for example, that the payments that may have been made to or from Wilebury Printers (?) are not easily available.
  (Ms Fernandes) I do not know who Wilebury are.

  915. So if one of the things the Committee is trying to clear up is whether payments made by somebody, for example, to the Printers in connection probably with the calendars, neither you nor the company is able to help because those sorts of records were in effect before your active time and anyway—
  (Ms Fernandes) It is a long time ago.

  916. If the question came up as to whether anything in the recent trading of the company or activities of the company were linked to any of the suggestions which the Committee is having to look at, you would need to have a specific request to make a specific check?
  (Ms Fernandes) Yes, I would be very happy to provide you with the information, I have not come here to be obstructive, I have come here to be helpful, and I am very happy to provide information providing you identify the transaction you want information about. I think it is excessive to just ask me to produce all my records. We are talking about eight years.

  917. If you make a distinction between post-1996 and pre-1996, which is I think when in effect the company moved from Keith Vaz to Maria Fernandes, you are saying to the Committee that before 1996 you have not really got a clue as to what was going on in any detail?
  (Ms Fernandes) I knew but not a lot.

  918. So you would know it was not being a success and presumably you would know there was not a need to account to Customs & Excise for VAT or to the Inland Revenue for tax?
  (Ms Fernandes) Sorry, I do not understand the question.

  919. In terms of the details which a director would normally be aware of, a director would presumably satisfy themselves if there were a tax liability the company would satisfy it, so we have to work on the assumption you were satisfied there were no outstanding liabilities of that nature?
  (Ms Fernandes) Absolutely.

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