Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 1000 - 1010)



  1001. That is not the way I put it.
  (Mr Conway) No.
  (Ms Fernandes) I must say, I am a bit confused, because what I would like to know is, you have talked about "indirectly or directly". What exactly do you mean? I can give you confirmation of payments in and out of the company, as far as they affect Mr Vaz. I can confirm for you today that no payments were made for the personal benefit of Keith Vaz. No payments were made in, or no payments were made out. I can confirm that, and I am on oath now. If you are asking for indirect benefit, what exactly do you mean?

  Chairman: Can we have Michael coming in here.

Mr Foster

  1002. Chairman, I was really seeking your guidance. I think we are asking for negatives to be proven.
  (Ms Fernandes) Exactly.

  1003. That just is not possible. I think we have already asked this witness very specifically whether Mr Vaz had any benefit from this company. She said, "From 1996 onwards, for sure, no." She has also answered the question the other way around: was any money paid into the company for the benefit of Mr Vaz, which presumably the company would have benefited from, and to that she said, "No." Having said that very specifically, how can we possibly prove, without, as she has indicated, going through every single piece of paper, even if it were possible, that that is not the case? In any event, we would not be able to establish indirect benefit in that way. I think we are asking impossible questions.
  (Ms Fernandes) My concern is this "indirect", it is the "indirect benefit". It is too wide.

Mr Bottomley

  1004. If we are going to be taking the point which Michael Foster has raised, I suspect that the questions I am asking now could have been answered directly and willingly at some time in the past, but I leave that on one side. If the company has had, say, an income of £53,000, and it can be shown that that income is easily identifiable, and that no other income came in, that makes it easier to assert with confidence, by checking the accounts, that no payments could have come in from any sources linked to Keith Vaz. That is not what Mr Conway was putting back to me.
  (Ms Fernandes) Mr Bottomley, I am very concerned about the fact that this company has been dragged through the newspapers. I am being treated, in a sense, as a chattel of my husband. This company has an independent existence. I have an independent existence. I do not really want my records and the information about my company to be made available to the whole world. I have a problem with that. I am sorry, but if you are asking me specific questions, I will deal with them.

  Mr Foster: Chairman, I am sorry, can I come back in? What we really need to be doing, if we have any evidence, is to ask, "On 4 April 1997 was a payment made to you for Mr Keith Vaz?" That is the sort of question that this witness can reasonably be asked to answer: focused, definite, certain. If we do those things, then I think it is reasonable to ask this witness to answer them.

Mr Bottomley

  1005. I put my questions at Dale's request. The witness has answered them. What I am denied is that I want to see your paperwork.
  (Mr Conway) It is a distinction without particulars really. What you are saying is that of the £53,000 that came in, say, in 1998, how was that money received, who was it received from? It may be, I do not know, that there may be three or four invoices which show how the £53,000 is earned by the company. It may be as simple as that, and it may be finding three or four pieces of paper, but I simply do not know.

  1006. In which case an assurance can be given that no—
  (Mr Conway) That information is based all on the hypothetical case that the income of the company derived from three or four transactions which can be evident from three or four bits of paper. Are you asking to see those bits of paper, or are you saying, "Having looked at those bits of paper, can you confirm to us, effectively on oath, that it was not for Mr Vaz?"? I think that actually we are agreeing, but perhaps in a slightly— We need to look at all the bits of paper to give you exactly what you want.
  (Ms Fernandes) Can I just say this: that I would not want my pieces of paper to be floating around. I am not confident that this forum or any forum is confidential. But I am happy—and I want to be helpful to this Committee—to have my accountant look through the payments and to confirm what you are requiring confirmation of.
  (Mr Conway) Mr Bottomley, I think that hopefully we are actually at one on this. Is that sufficient? Is that all you are asking for? I got the impression you were wanting physically to see the documents.

  1007. I never asked physically to see the documents. I do believe that all this could have been sorted out by co-operation much earlier, but that is an outside remark.
  (Ms Fernandes) You have said that. Can I just say, Mr Bottomley, I was contacted at the beginning of January over this. How can I possibly have responded to you and provided you with the information earlier than now? I was contacted at the beginning of this year.

  Chairman: Could you put your question once more, as succinctly as you possibly can.

  Mr Bottomley: I do not want to go further than what I have said, because I am not the Committee, I just put my question in a simple way. If the accounts have been checked—and if they have not, could they be checked—so that a reasonably independent professional confirms that they cannot show payments (significant payments, I am not asking for the last £50, but significant payments); that can establish that payments from people associated with Mr Keith Vaz may have come to the company, or that the company spent significant sums of money which may have been for the benefit of Keith Vaz, because it is not clear it was spent in other ways? That is the way I put it. That, to my mind, does not necessarily mean showing the accounts to somebody else, all the detail, but it means they have been gone through and they have been checked.

  Chairman: We shall be sending you a letter on this, setting out what is asked for and what anybody else has asked for. You will be receiving this in the next day or so—by fax this afternoon—and an immediate response would be very welcome.

Mr Williams

  1008. Can I ask something that I am not sure has precisely been asked? It is entirely at your discretion, I realise that. Would you have any problem in providing not the Committee, but the Commissioner—on an understanding that unless it is relevant to a key element of our inquiry, it would remain sidelined and therefore private—with Mapesbury's client list?
  (Ms Fernandes) No, I am not happy to provide any information to the Commissioner, because I have no confidence that it will remain confidential. I am sorry. I want to be helpful, but I do not feel confident, with everything that has happened, that my documents are going to remain confidential.

  1009. May I just say, Chairman, that I think one really has to make a very important point here that the witness is alleging apparently that she feels the Commissioner herself might leak, or her office might leak, this information.
  (Ms Fernandes) I am not here to make allegations, I am here to answer questions, but I can tell you about my feeling of confidence, and the fact that I do not feel comfortable about my documents being available, in no way.

  Mr Bell: Perhaps we could just tell you of our feeling of confidence in the Commissioner, as a matter of courtesy to her.


  1010. If there are no further questions, thank you. You will be getting this fax, and your immediate answer will be very welcome.
  (Ms Fernandes) Thank you very much.

  Chairman: Thank you.

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