Examination of Witness (Questions 120-139)|
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
120. Did Mrs Matin work in the Bengali restaurant?
(Mr Vaz) Her husband owned the restaurant.
121. And she actually worked in the restaurant
(Mr Vaz) I do not know.
122. As far as you are concerned she gave no
assistance to your household at all?
(Mr Vaz) No, not in the way you describe it.
123. Well, you describe to me what she did in
(Mr Vaz) She did not do anything in the household,
she was a friend, she visited. We visited and chatted to her.
She is very fond of us and we are very fond of her. I attended
her wedding. I signed her witness statement because I was glad
she found a love with a new husband and Mr Matin is, was, a very
124. So what Mrs Gresty says is entirely fabricated?
(Mr Vaz) Entirely. Mrs Gresty is motivated, as I have
said quite clearly, by absolute, blind hatred of my wife, and
that is why she went to Max Clifford and that is why she went
to the Mail on Sunday, and that is why she has been pursuing
this campaign. If you look at the statements there is actually
very little criticism of me, and she should not criticise me because
I actually helped her with her financial problems.
125. And Mrs Matin has not done any cooking
or helped with the children at all?
(Mr Vaz) No, she is our friend. If you were to visit
my houseand I hope you would regard me as a friend as would
all members of this Committeeand my children were thereshe
would speak to them and chat with them and play with them.
126. In what language?
(Mr Vaz) You do not have to have a language to play
with children, Sir George.
127. You said "chat with them".
(Mr Vaz) Yes. My children are very young. If we are
taking it from the time she knew my childrenI do not want
you to assume thatthe last time Mrs Gresty spoke to Mrs
Matin was a year and a half ago. People do have to make progress
in this country and she has learnt English; she is not completely
without knowledge of English. She does not have long discourses
with my children about matters of state you know. She is a friend.
Chairman: Any more questions on Mrs Matin?
Can we then go on to the allegations concerning Mr Graeme Peene?
128. When Mr Peene first came to see you, how
did he strike you?
(Mr Vaz) Very angry, as most people do when they have
problems. Very angry, very angry with the DTI, very angry with
the Metropolitan Police, very angry with the system. A classic
constituent who has a problem but he is a good writer. I do not
know about you, Mr McNamara, but where there is a complicated
saga that is told to you as an MP, what I tend to do is say to
the constituent, "Why don't you put this down in writing
and I will forward your letter to the relevant minister",
and that is exactly how he would have been treated when he came
to see me, obviously with courtesy but he would have no more time
than anyone else as far as I was concerned. It would be that kind
of a case.
129. But you did not doubt his integrity?
(Mr Vaz) The word "integrity" never crosses
my mind. As an MP I regard myself as standing in the shoes of
my constituents so however bizarreand I'm not saying his
complaint was bizarre because I will not make a judgment about
thathowever odd the constituent isand I am not saying
Mr Peene is oddI would do exactly as they want. I never
secondguess my constituents. I would always get them to put it
in writing and then I would send it off, I would not even have
a stab at trying to deal with complaints about corruption in the
Metropolitan Police or the DTI or the Attorney General's Department,
I would just let them do it.
130. In your evidence however, your rebuttal,
you say, ". . . Mr Peene has succeeded in ensuring he has
a platform, protected by Parliamentary Privilege, on which to
make highly defamatory statements about a number of individuals
and government departments. I think that this is indeed a misuse
of the process."
(Mr Vaz) I do now.
131. You think he set out with that intention?
(Mr Vaz) No, I do not. What has happened is that with
the huge amount of publicity I had in March of last yearand
all these complaints I put on the table are related to this mountain
of hostility as a result of the publication of the first report
and the off-the-record briefings and the on-the-record statements
of members of this Committee, Mr Bottomley and Mr Bell as I have
indicated, and I have said who they areI think everyone
decided they would like to jump on the bandwagon and say whatever
they wanted to say, and I think he did.
132. But you say, "Mr Peene has succeeded
in ensuring that he has a platform", as though he was in
fact engaged in achieving a platform.
(Mr Vaz) Well, there are two provisos to that, Mr
McNamara. The first is that if the Committee publishes everything
that he has said, then the DTI, the Attorney General's department,
the Metropolitan Police, the Intervention Board, will have had
thingsand this company,
***, which I have just incidentally looked up and
got the accounts for , horrible things would have been said about
them and they would never have had a chance to reply.
133. But you were prepared, until you became
a minister, to allow Mr Peene to write parliamentary questions
which you would then table
(Mr Vaz) Draft them, yes.
134.on his behalf, thereby supplying
him with this same platform and this same privilege.
(Mr Vaz) No, because parliamentary questions are not
defamatory. Parliamentary questions are only allowed to be tabled
if they are to elicit information. If you put down an EDM, I agree,
you can defame people, and I think this whole system allows people
who do not like you to defame you without ever being sued, and
that is why we should look at what we publish very carefully.
But I do not think Parliamentary QuestionsOf course, I
would go along with him. If Mr Peene came to me today and I offered
to see him and said, "I have a complaint about whatever",
I would write for him, but what I would not do is publish the
information, protected by privilege, which would enable his statement
to be made.
135. No, but the question is put down, and it
is a hook for seeking information to substantiate what Mr Peene
is saying one way or the other.
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
136. That has the protection of parliamentary
privilege in exactly the same way.
(Mr Vaz) Yes, but not his statements though. I can
certainly ask the Attorney General, as he was asking me to do,
"Will you publish your guidelines", and that is not
a defamatory statement. I can certainly say to the Metropolitan
Police I do not know what he was proposing to write on the DTI
because in that very short period I became a minister. I actually
did take advice from the Attorney General's department, and I
am sure Mr Cranston is about to declare an interest here because
he was the Minister
137. I have already done that.
(Mr Vaz)who replied to me. That is why I wanted
you to see the file.
138. I have read the file, that is why I raise
the question that you were prepared to put down questions for
him which would give that particular position.
(Mr Vaz) But only questions to elicit information.
139. I see. You invited Mr Peene to come and
see you. Do you as a normal course ask people to come and discuss
with you copies of letters or correspondence you have received
from departments for them?
(Mr Vaz) Yes.