Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 20-39)



  20. 21 March
  (Mr Vaz) That would be exactly the position in replying to both the Chairman and Mrs Filkin, I would give them whatever information I had available to me. That is that my wife does not discuss her clients with me. If I say to my wife "Can you tell me whether the Hindujas have made you any payments?" my wife will say yes or no.

Peter Bottomley

  21. Is that you saying "Yes, you did tell the Commissioner you would ask your wife about any payments she might have received from the Hinduja family", business or foundation?
  (Mr Vaz) If there was a file reference saying that I would ask my wife, I would have asked my wife because I would only reply by saying what my wife told me. My wife is not subject to scrutiny by this House, or by this Committee. What is subject to scrutiny is me, and what I know. Mrs Filkin knew on 15 February that the Hindujas were clients—not the Hinduja brothers but various members of the family. This should have been brought out and told to me. She should have told me then and I could then have said "Well, put it to my wife", but she did not do that. She kept it from the Committee and kept it from me.

  22. Can you just say either yes or no to the statement: you told the Commissioner you would ask your wife about any payments she might have received from the Hinduja family, business or foundation?
  (Mr Vaz) If that is what I put, the answer is yes, of course. I have already answered the Chairman's question on this. I have asked my wife about the payments, no payments were made to her and, therefore, I do not see what the point is.

  23. The initial question is not whether you asked your wife—that is the question the Chairman asked—my question to you is this: did you tell the Commissioner that you would ask your wife about any payments?
  (Mr Vaz) If it is on a piece of paper saying that I would do so, of course I would do so. Why are you asking me a question based on what I have said I would do? If it is down on a piece of paper and I said I would do something I would have done it.

  Chairman: Any more questions on this?

Richard Ottaway

  24. Mr Vaz, when you wrote that letter on 20 March saying "Neither my family nor I have received any payments from the Hinduja brothers", when you used the expression what was on my mind at the time?
  (Mr Vaz) Family. It is a very interesting question, Mr Ottaway. My children, who are aged 6 and 4, and my wife, my sisters, my—

  25. I am sorry to interrupt, I did not mean what is the definition of "family". What was your thinking behind the use of the expression "family"?
  (Mr Vaz) In accordance with what is required by the rules: any registerable payments or donations that have been made to the Vaz family by the Hinduja brothers or foundation.

  26. When you wrote it, did it occur to you that "oops, am I over-stepping the mark here because I have not consulted any of them"?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I did consult them. I would know if somebody had made a donation to my wife. I would know whether the Hindujas had made a donation to my wife, my mother, my sisters or my children. I would not need to consult—

  27. But you did consult them.
  (Mr Vaz) I asked. Of course I asked. I did not ask my children. It would not have occurred to me in a million years that what Robert Sheldon was referring to was a client who did not happen to be a Hinduja brother who may or may not have worked - may or may not have been a client of my wife. It would never have occurred to me.

  28. So your wife said to you "I have not had any payments from the Hinduja brothers" and then was silent on the question of the practice?
  (Mr Vaz) No. I cannot remember exactly where we had this conversation, but I would have ascertained that there were no registerable benefits that need to be paid. I did not discuss her clients or her firm. I would not dream of discussing her clients or her firm.

  29. She remained silent. She said "I have not received any payments from the Hindujas personally" and remained silent on the question of her practice?
  (Mr Vaz) She did not mention the practice. I did not discuss her practice. I have never discussed her practice. The Hinduja brothers have never been clients of my wife. This is why this whole process is ludicrous. The Hinduja brothers have never been clients of my wife. They had never been clients of my wife.

Mr Levitt

  30. Very briefly. Two words have entered this discussion which appear to be being used interchangeably—the words "payment" and "donation". If I look at your response to the draft memorandum, on page 17, you remind us that in the earlier investigation questions were about donations, and you said that "no donation has ever been made to me by the Hinduja brothers". Are you now distinguishing between payments of any kind and donations? Donations would appear to be a benefit, payment would appear to be for a professional purposes. You are telling us categorically there has been no donation but there may have been payments from some members of the Hinduja family for professional services to your wife's company?
  (Mr Vaz) No, Mr Levitt, you have seen my wife, she has given evidence before you. She is not the kind of person who I can give instructions to.

  31. I am not suggesting that.
  (Mr Vaz) She has sworn an affidavit to this Committee on one of her previous clients. So she has been able to discuss her professional activities with the Committee, as she has done in the past.[1] I would regard the word "payments", "donations" or "benefits in kind" as being exactly the same. What is registerable—what the code says—is what do you register? If a member of my family had received a payment from the Hindujas or any kind of benefit I would look to see what is registerable and I would register them, but none had been received. I think when we get our piece of paper at the end of the year and the paper says "What benefits have you received?" it surely must mean registerable benefits. When I receive that paper I have never gone to my wife over the last eight years that I have been married to her and said "By the way, dear, are any of your clients people I should put down on this?", because whoever it is, they just do not do that. There are four or five lawyers on this Committee and there is no question of you putting your clients down on the register except if you do something for them in the House, for example the Baldry case. Otherwise that is separate.


  32. I am minded to move on, but can I be clear in my own mind? You say, in defence of the statement "Neither my family nor I have received any payments from the Hinduja brothers", firstly, that because your wife was a solicitor and her practice is confidential you would not have known and you would not have asked about any payments. Secondly, you are saying "Even if payments had been made, not from the Hinduja brothers but from the Hinduja family", you would not have thought of including that in your reply because you excluded it because you felt only donations and registerable benefits was what the question applied to.
  (Mr Vaz) No. The first point is right. The second part is a conclusion that Mrs Filkin has reached, which makes this questioning—although obviously the Committee can ask whatever questions it wants and I am happy to answer them. Mrs Filkin has reached a conclusion that none of the payments to my wife's firm by members of the Hinduja family were registerable. That is her conclusion. Mr Bottomley nods his head, but of course I am at a disadvantage—

  Mr Bottomley: Forgive me—


  33. That is not the issue. In your reply to us you have said—and I use my own words—"I would never have dreamed that the question applied to payments made by the Hindujas to my wife as a solicitor".
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  34. That is the answer to my second question, then, that even if you had known that there were payments you would not have thought them relevant because you thought the question only applied to donations and benefits.
  (Mr Vaz) No, I would have said to Robert Sheldon—and we are talking about the letter back to Robert Sheldon—on 20 March (which was replied back on the same day that he wrote to me) that my wife has acted for the Hinduja brothers and I suggest that—which she has not but if that was the information that was given to me—or the Hinduja family, I suggest you write to her, which is what I have said throughout. In any answer to these questions I have said "My wife's clients are her own". I have said that if you have any questions to put to her, write to her. Sir George it is very important because of the defamatory statement that Mrs Filkin has made about me and my wife, which I hope the Committee will explore.

  35. The object of this oral session is just to allow the Committee to ask questions which we feel will help us reach our own conclusions. I plan to move on to the next issue, which is Mapesbury.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, this is actually—I am sorry to interrupt you—this is my only opportunity because I have not held press conferences, I have not gone to the press and discussed these matters. It has been a matter of public discussion, as you know because you have started the inquiry. It is extremely important that this point is made, and that is that Mrs Filkin has never asked me in the five months that she has conducted this inquiry about my wife's clients. She has never asked me about this. She has asked my wife on 4 July 2001, 5 months after Mrs Filkin received the information, which she is perfectly entitled to do, but she has never asked me. In answering Robert Sheldon's question I was being absolutely truthful as to the information that I had. If I had discovered on that day that she had acted for members of the Hinduja family, in my reply to Robert Sheldon I would have said "But my wife tells me she has acted for members of the Hinduja family and I suggest you write to her". Is that clear?

  Chairman: Thank you very much. I now plan to move on to Mapesbury Communications. Perhaps I can ask colleagues if there are any issues they want to raise on this matter.

Mr Williams

  36. This is an on-going mystery: find the records and find the money. You will remember that when you first came before the Committee in the first hearing you did indicate that this company was purchased by yourself—although it was an off-the-shelf company—to process the money you received from your non-Parliamentary work and to use it to support your Parliamentary work. That was in the first inquiry. That is correct, is it not?
  (Mr Vaz) That was the hope.

  37. That, as an explanation, is why we continue to press on it, because despite the fact that your wife, you say, took it over, there was no apparent change confirmed by her and by her solicitor in any stated objectives and so on of the company. That is why we have continued to niggle at this. You confirm that it was a very small company and remained a very small company right throughout?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  38. Although you said that when your wife took over it continued to trade with new officers, in fact your wife and your mother remained two of the officers at that time, and it was your long-term family friend, I think, who was the additional officer who joined.
  (Mr Vaz) Her mother, my wife's mother, was the director and then it changed. That is what I meant. The officers changed.

  39. But there has been a considerable degree of continuity, and it had been small both in personnel terms but, also, in turnover terms. Why do you think it is so difficult for us to obtain any information as to the extent of the income it received, the sources of the income and where that income went?
  (Mr Vaz) It has not been difficult, Mr Williams. There are accountants who have provided reports.

1   Note by witness: Affidavit concerning clients of Mapesbury subject to client confidentiality. Back

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