Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 17

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Keith Vaz MP

  Thank you for your letter of 8 March 2000. I am astonished, but in view of the nature of this complaint, not surprised at the extracts of the alleged conversation between Mr Andrew Milne and Mr Brian Brown which is supposed to have taken place on 14 January 2000.

  Can I refer you to my letter of 16 February 2000 to you when I was asked about Mr Brown by Chris Hastings from the Sunday Telegraph.

  Can I confirm:

  I do not know Mr Brian Brown, I have never met Mr Brian Brown, I have never spoken to Mr Brian Brown, I have never received any envelope containing cash or anything else from Mr Brian Brown or anyone else. This is a malicious falsehood, for which not a shred of evidence has been produced.

  Since you wrote to me I have been told that Mr Brian Brown has served a prison sentence for false accounting. I now know that he is a convicted criminal. You are aware from the correspondence you have had that Mr Milne has been subject to legal proceedings in respect of his employment with Mr Zaiwalla.

  You asked me to comment on the "transcript" which you say was at variance with my statement. Of course it would be. I am telling the truth and Mr Brown and Mr Milne are lying and they seek to cover up their lies by manufacturing a telephone conversation between themselves. They have provided no evidence of what they have said, they are merely confirming to each other events which they have invented.

  You will no doubt remember that in the statement to you dated 22 February, Mr Brown says a £1,000 payment was made to me by Mr Zaiwalla and that a third party has stated to him that cash was required rather than a cheque. He goes on to say "this may or may not be the case, but I simply cannot be certain".

  Yet in his conversation dated 14 January he says "Well however much it was it was to him personally" and the figure mentioned by Mr Milne was £2,000. These two statements are not compatible and indeed if the conversation took place on 14 January I would ask the following:

    1.  Why did Mr Brown say in his statement to you that this was done by a third party?

    2.  Who is the third party referred to in the letter of 22 February?

    3.  Why did he say it was £1,000 when he had said it was £2,000?

  On 14 January Mr Brown says he was handing out the money but this is not what he says on 22 February.

  3.  Mr Brown says in his statement of 22 February that the third party alleges that he (The third party) went downstairs withdrew the money and came upstairs and handed the envelope to me.

  Yet on 22 February he says he did this "just going collecting, taking it up, getting it done".

  4.  Mr Milne in his complaint dated 4 February states that a young man from Mr Vaz's office called to collect the cash. Yet if we are to believe Mr Brown and Mr Milne he knew that this was not true as he asked "do you remember the name of Vaz's assistant you handed the cash to". He is told that it was given to Vaz personally. If he knew this why did he tell you on 4 February that it was an assistant who called to get the money rather than Vaz. Surely he should have said that it was Vaz there in person. He should have said as Mr Brown has done that "this may or may not have been done".

  5.  This has now become a fiasco, on 4 February Mr Milne says it was £2,000 on the 22 February Mr Brown says it was £1,000 and on 14 January Mr Milne says it was £2,000 and Mr Brown says it was £2,000. On 4 February 2000, Mr Milne says it was an unidentified young man, and on 22 February Mr Brown says it was a third party.

  Yet on 14 January Mr Brown says it was me. Vain though politicians undoubtedly are I would not describe myself as a "young man".

  May I suggest to you the following scenario, two journalists from The Sunday Telegraph Rajiv Syal and Chris Hastings have orchestrated with the help of Mr Milne and Mr Brown two bitter former employees of Mr Zaiwalla to assist in printing articles which are defamatory, but once these allegations are sent to you as soon as you confirm that you have received them they become protected by privilege.

  As you said to me on Saturday 5 February, you believe Mr Syal had a copy of Mr Milne's letter to you. I consider that it was conveniently faxing to you to fit into the papers deadline. As I said to you in my letter of 16 February, Chris Hastings has asked me to comment on Mr Brown's statement before you received it. Each of these allegations have produced not a shred of evidence. Now that they have decided to provide you with a transcript of a conversation which they allege has taken place on 14 January, which shows them in their statement of 4 February and 22 February to be even the most charitable, untruthful. They are attempting to string this out with more unsubstantiated nonsense.

  Two people, one a convicted criminal, the other whose conduct has been described as being "unbefitting of a solicitor" have decided to collaborate with each other's inconsistent

  Even the cursory reading of Mr Milne's comforting words to his friend can be seen through as a set up.

  His opening statement he says he finds reference to me "concerning". But why? He is the complainant and he should be delighted if any information is discovered. He has already named one Member of Parliament and wants to involve others—the more the merrier. If he listed all those members of Parliament who attended Mr Zaiwalla's parties or events he would be naming at least 20 MPs and a number of Judges including the former Lord Chancellor.

  Mr Brown has been convicted of false accounting. Without knowing anything of the circumstances of the conviction somehow a reasonable person would suspect there is a significance in the £1,000/£2,000 payment. They allege to a cash drawing with no indication of where it's gone which they seek to say was Mr Zaiwalla's payment to me. It may be as Mr Brown has been convicted of false accounting that the police statements relating to his case that led to Mr Brown's conviction should be disclosed to you.

  The transcript does not mention the basis of Mr Milne's original complaint that the payment of "£1,000/£2,000" had failed to be registered and was related to a question over Mr Zaiwalla's tax affairs. What has become of this allegation?

  It is clear from the questions put by Mr Milne that the purpose of them was to elicit the responses that were given. I would not be at all surprised if Mr Syal was with Mr Milne and Mr Hastings was with Mr Brown or perhaps they were in the same room together.

  If these were legal proceedings, I would have a legal redress because by their own inconsistencies it can be argued that they are seeking to pervert the course of justice. If this was printed in the newspaper I would be able to sue them for defamation. These people are seeking to destroy the reputation of others reputation on evidence that is not subjected to any burden of proof indeed, Mr Brown was convicted on the higher burden of proof required in criminal proceedings.

  I am sorry to go on at such length, but I have read their statements very carefully. It seems that anybody can make up statements about any Member of Parliament without producing a shred of evidence and provoke an investigation into an MP. I know you have said there is no sanction.

  However, having had a conversation on 14 January presented to us as apparent fact did they go on to make two statements totally contradictory of each other and of their statements on 14 January. If the statements of 14 January are correct they have deliberately mislead you, the Parliamentary Commissioner—does that attract some sanction?

  Are they not in contempt of Parliament for seeking to mislead the Parliamentary Commissioner or is there no rule containing frivolous or vexatious complaints?

  I will be writing to you separately concerning Mr Gosling another friend of Mr Syal.

13 March 2000

  Handwritten note: I am sorry to go on at such length, but I just had to go through their allegations in detail.

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