Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 33

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


  29 JUNE 2000


  ...Mr Bindman wrote to me with some concerns about the proposed meeting on 3 July. I had almost completed my letter of 29 June and list of questions—so I informed him that I would fax those to him prior to answering his questions in his letter.

  He telephoned me on receipt of my letter and questions and I answered the new questions in his letter of 29 June. I said that I hoped that I would not need to see Mr Vaz again after Monday but if I had any small points that I thought of subsequently, I would put them to him in writing and as I had confirmed—if I got any other small factual pieces of information that were at variance with his account, I would let him have those for comment.

  Mr Bindman asked whether there were any other allegations that I had knowledge of and I said no, and I said that I had not put in the letter matters where I had no evidence that was at variance with Mr Vaz's. So he asked—could he assume that the other matters have been settled. I repeated that I had no information that I was aware of which was at variance with Mr Vaz on those matters and therefore I had nothing further to put to him.

  He said Mr Vaz was most concerned about the idea of having the meeting taped as he felt this would create a precedent for other Members. I assured him it would not, that interviews with my predecessor had been taped. But he referred to the published document on investigations. I said that was based on a report I had made to the Committee about my processes and I to date had not needed to tape a Member, since I had not been asking a rather large number of questions but in this instance it was different. I felt it would help me and Mr Vaz if it could be taped, as then we would have an accurate record. I repeated that I was more than happy to ask the shorthand writer to withdraw at any point, or to stop taking notes. I repeated that I was only concerned to get a totally accurate and full record of what Mr Vaz had to say in response to the questions. Mr Bindman said that he thought the best thing might be for Mr Vaz to produce a written response in the first instance, and to bring that to the meeting and then have a discussion about procedures. I said I was more than happy to receive his answers in writing but that of course I might still wish to ask some follow-up questions as I had indicated. I said it might well cut down on the time if Mr Vaz did prepare answers in writing. I said that I would only go ahead with a shorthand note taker present with Mr Vaz's agreement, because I felt that was courtesy to an MP—to put it in those terms, but that I did request it because I felt it would lengthen the meeting and make it much more difficult for me to have a proper conversation with Mr Vaz if I was also required to take a note.

  Mr Bindman made it clear that Mr Vaz was adamant at the moment that he would not take part in the meeting that was taped. I asked Mr Bindman to put the request to him and to let us know by tomorrow if Mr Vaz was unhappy about going ahead with a shorthand writer there, so that we could cancel the writer. Mr Bindman asked if he could assure Mr Vaz that I would not use the transcript without his permission. I said no, I was happy to give an assurance that I would not use it until Mr Vaz had had the opportunity to correct and clarify it, but that it was my process and my responsibility to be in charge of that process and therefore I could not let Mr Vaz determine whether or not I used a record of a meeting. I said I hoped Mr Vaz would understand that in his case, I would be happy to agree it but that I could not agree it because if I was dealing with some Members it would be quite appropriate. Mr Bindham agreed to put my point of view to Mr Vaz and to let my office know if he was not happy to go ahead with a shorthand taker present.

  We concluded the conversation by agreeing that we would meet on Monday at 11am, that unless I had heard from Mr Bindman tomorrow, the shorthand taker would be there, but that it was always open to Mr Vaz to ask for me to remove her at that point. We said goodbye to each other and said we would meet on Monday 3 July.

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