Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 180-199)



  180. But there is nothing unusual and in the time from April 1999 to early 2001 there was no suggestion to you or, as far as you can tell, to anybody else, other than that he reported to his superiors, that you had said anything improper or unusual at that constituency interview.
  (Mr Vaz) No.

Mr Dismore

  181. Just to complete the story, your story is, if he had made his complaint to the Intervention Board, they would have logged it in documentary form?
  (Mr Vaz) I do not know why he would have made a complaint to the Intervention Board. There are many reasons why he could have come and then gone off and made a complaint to the Intervention Board. I do not now Mr Peene personally that well. I just invite you to look at his file of correspondence and what he was saying. I do not know what he did and why he did it and what the purpose of making a complaint to Mrs Filkin was in January of this year, I have no idea, but I just think it puts Members of Parliament at risk if a whole inquiry can take place on the basis of words said at a surgery without any supportive evidence.

  Chairman: Any more questions on this particular matter? If not, I propose to move on to something which need not take us a long time, which is the alleged failure to register a remunerated directorship with General Mediterranean Holding.

Mr Heath

  182. Can I, for the sake of completeness, because I know it is a matter of concern to you, Mr Vaz, say that I was a member of the Audit Commission and that my tenure of that post coincided with Sir Peter Soulsby. I do not think it in any way affects my judgment on any issue but I wished you to know that was the case. I simply want to tidy up this matter of General Mediterranean Holding. Can I ask you explicitly, did you at any time receive any payment, either direct payment or through benefit, from General Mediterranean Holding or from any subsidiary or associated company or directly from Mr Auchi?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  183. That is very explicit and helpful. Can I refer you very briefly to your initial response to the Parliamentary Commissioner's draft memorandum? I am at page 17. I know you will have been very careful with your words in drawing up that. R52 states the position, "that Mr Vaz had failed to register a remunerated directorship with a company, General Mediterranean Holding or with subsidiaries of that company." Then in R53, about the fifth line down, you state "I received no remuneration from this company or any other registrable benefit." We know this is a fairly complicated group, we have General Mediterranean Holdings SA, we have General Mediterranean Luxembourg, General Mediterranean UK Ltd, Compaigne Internationale de Participations Bancaires et Financieres and Tucan Investments; there is a myriad of companies from which payments were made. Did you for a particular reason say in your response, "I received no remuneration from this company" as opposed to "from any of the companies which were associated", or was that simply the way you chose to express yourself?
  (Mr Vaz) Only because that is the only company I was asked to be a director of. I do not know about all these other subsidiaries. For example, when I was offered the directorship I thought this was the same company that Lord Steel was a director of, but only in the correspondence does it work out that other people are directors of other companies. This is what I would be a director of. I have not had any other directorships.

  184. No directorships, no payments, no benefit of any kind, other than you mentioned a dinner you attended?
  (Mr Vaz) This was the first remunerated directorship I was offered. I know Mrs Filkin refers in her statement to Skillshare Africa, which is a charity, and the Pushba Loomba Trust for orphans and widows in India, but those are not remunerated. This was the first one I was offered, so there was a lot of correspondence and a lot of calls with Roger Willoughby because I had never done it before.

  185. Can you think of any circumstance which might cause either Mr Kennady or Mr Sackville to reasonably come to a conclusion that you had received remuneration from this group of companies?
  (Mr Vaz) No, because they do not say I have. Mr Kennady spends 32 pages in his interview talking about Iraq and other matters, and my name is not even mentioned. Even Mrs Filkin is frustrated with him and says, "What has all this got to do with Mr Vaz" on three occasions. He says, "I have heard rumours". Then Mr Sackville, who was brought to Mrs Filkin by the Observer, says, "I have heard rumours. I do not know but this is what I have heard." That is it. They both have left the company. Mr Kennady has not been employed for ten years. It is another case of people who have grievances against third parties who wish to bring in members and air their grievances.

  186. It is a strange thing for rumours to be flying around about the company and you.
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  187. I do not believe there are rumours suggesting that I have had payment from this company.
  (Mr Vaz) You have not been a director of it.

  188. No.
  (Mr Vaz) So they would not say anything about you. Who knows why people say things. I have not seen Tom Sackville since he left the House in, I think, 1997, and I have never met Mr Kennady, and I have never been to a board meeting of this company. I was appointed, I sought advice, I was asked to be a consultant for a law firm, I was told this was not a good idea because I was PPS to the Law Officers. I accepted that, I wrote to Roger Willoughby, who wrote to me, and Roger said it should not be. I am quite happy for it to go on the register.

  Mr Heath: That is very fair. Thank you.


  189. Any more questions on this issue? We are approaching the end of our questions. Are you happy to go on or do you want a comfort break?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  190. Can we move on to the alleged pressure on and harassment of witnesses. You will have seen in the Committee's last report that intimidation which comes to our attention will be dealt with severely.
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  191. You have made a very serious allegation against one of the complainants against you, Miss Eggington, that on 4 October she made a harassing telephone call to your mother, claiming to be acting on behalf of the Commissioner. You reported it to the police. You asked the Commissioner to pursue the matter.
  (Mr Vaz) No, I did not.

  192. Yet, as you know, we have very reliable information that no such call was ever made. I would like to ask you to reflect and then answer whether that call was indeed made.
  (Mr Vaz) It was not made to me, I was passing on the information to the police. The advice of the police was no action should be taken.

  193. The question I am putting to you is, and I am asking you to reflect on this, is it the case that your mother reported to you—
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  194.—a call had been made.
  (Mr Vaz) Yes, it is the case. It is borne out by the pattern of contact of witnesses of Mrs Eggington, as she sets out in her statement. She has contacted witnesses throughout this inquiry.

  195. The alleged phone call to your mother was made on 4 October, on 5 October you told the police. In response to an earlier question you criticised Mr Peene for not immediately raising the matter with the appropriate quarters, why was it not until the Monday you raised the matter with the Commissioner, on whose behalf Miss Eggington allegedly was telephoning your mother?
  (Mr Vaz) Because the advice of the police was very clear and I followed it. My mother was taken from her house into intensive care and was put on a ventilator for three weeks. I am not interested in point scoring against witnesses, I did what I had to do, which was to pass it on and seek advice. I was not making a complaint about it, I said, "What advice should I take?" The advice the police gave was that she should not answer her calls. Better than that, she was not even in the house, for three weeks she was on a ventilator. They could not interview her because she was very ill[6].

  196. Subsequently you have not allowed the police to interview your mother?
  (Mr Vaz) That is not true.

  197. Can the police interview your mother?
  (Mr Vaz) My mother has written to the police, through my sister. My mother is suffering from cancer. She has been on a ventilator for weeks. She was on morphine. I do not think this is the most important thing in the world for my mother, Sir George.[7]

  198. That is a matter for the Committee.
  (Mr Vaz) No, it is a matter for me and my judgement on my mother's health.

  199. The issue of whether there has been intimidation of witnesses—
  (Mr Vaz) If it is a matter for the Committee, is the Committee doing anything about Mrs Eggington's contact with Mrs Matin?

6   Note by witness: I have subsequently discovered that following a call from Mrs Filkin two officers called at the hospital and were sent away by the consultant as she was in intensive care. Back

7   Note by witness: She did not know until I gave her the letter on 18 January that this had been progressed. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 8 February 2002