Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 300-313)



  300. Can I respond and give just one example. On 26 October last year the Commissioner asked you whether you had "organised any other events for the Asian Business Network since 1997 and if so please list them". Your reply was, "I have attended many events over the last 14 years. I cannot give you a list of each organisation's events." So it was a specific question about organising and a specific date, and your answer was not about organising at all, it was about attending.
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  301. Why not?
  (Mr Vaz) Of course it is, because it is how you use language. I have not organised any events for the Asian—Because people would think, as Mr Zaiwalla did on the last occasion, because I happen to chair an event, I am organising it. That is why I gave the answer about attending Asian community events. Organising requires you going around and organising things, but as Mr Ottaway has correctly pointed out, if somebody in the cash book puts a donation to a calendar and he puts my name against it—

  302. Why not say, "I have not organised any events"?
  (Mr Vaz) Because then Mrs Filkin will write back and say, "You say you haven't organised it, but Mr Zaiwalla said you had," and we are then into this long discussion as to what my role was in these various events.

  Chairman: Are there any questions other members of the Committee want to put on the generalities leading to these events?

Ross Cranston

  303. Could I pursue something which was mentioned earlier. Could you turn to Ms Filkin's annex which is at page 26?
  (Mr Vaz) My annex?

  304. No, Mrs Filkin's annex which is at page 26.
  (Mr Vaz) Sorry, Mr Cranston, annex what?

  305. Page 26.
  (Mr Vaz) My pages are not numbered.

  306. Annex i6. That is a file note by Ms Filkin of a conversation with you on 26 March. On page 2 of that, two-thirds of the way down, about halfway through that paragraph, there is a sentence that starts halfway across the page: "I said, for example, there were claims that the Hindujas had paid Ms. Fernandes for help with immigration. I fully understood that that might have been in her capacity as a lawyer, but I thought he ought to be aware of that." Then she goes on later on, towards the end of the paragraph: "but I said that I felt, since these matters" were "circulating, he might be best advised to set the records straight on all of them." In the light of that, is there anything that you want to correct or change in your earlier evidence this morning?[20]

  (Mr Vaz) No, because the letter that was referred to by Mr Sheldon was on 20 March when I replied to him. Mrs Filkin, as I said, knew about this on 15 February. She asked me about Ms Fernandes' immigration help, and I made it very clear in the response that I gave to her throughout this whole inquiry, once I became aware of it—and I was only aware of this when she wrote to me with the allegations, which she did on the 26th. She met me on the 26th, and she handed me a letter from Mrs Gresty. On 20 March I could not give evidence on this. She had it since 15 February. So this does not affect it, absolutely. If you look at the history, 26 March, 3 June, this all became in the public domain. That is why I am so incensed by this allegation that anyone has tried to conceal this information from Mrs Filkin. No one has sought to conceal this information; first of all, because Mrs Filkin has the information already; secondly, it has been in the public domain; and thirdly, because it is also, frankly, a slur on my legal adviser, because I have discussed all matters with Mr Bindman, and there is no question that he has ever advised me to conceal anything—on the contrary, he has advised me to give as much information as possible, which is what I have done.


  307. Mr Vaz, before I ask you if there is anything else you want to say to the Committee, can I say that we all hope that your mother does make a good recovery from what is obviously a serious illness. Are there any other questions my colleagues want to put? If not, is there anything else you want to say to the Committee, Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Vaz) Only to the extent that the comment that Mrs Filkin has made about deliberate collusion to conceal is a very serious defamatory comment that has been published in a number of newspapers; that I have sought legal advice, and my wife has sought legal advice, about taking legal action against the Sunday Times or indeed The Independent which published it last Saturday. If you accept what The Independent says last Saturday, the Committee has already met and indeed decided on a conclusion to all this. I would just like to know what is happening about the leak inquiry, and whether or not we are going to get the chance to answer the serious allegation which Mrs Filkin has made about concealment, because I believe, having looked at the correspondence, that in her capacity as a solicitor my wife has been very open with both you and Mrs Filkin; she has sought the advice of the Law Society, she has not concealed anything, and I have not concealed anything. Mrs Filkin's statement is not borne out by evidence.

  308. As I think you know, the Committee is going through the right process in response to the leak of information which I very much regret. The Committee will come to its own conclusions and publish them in due course, in the light of the exchange that we have had. If there is nothing else to add to that—
  (Mr Bindman) Could I just have a word with Mr Vaz, as there is one other matter I want to take up?

  309. Very quickly. (Mr Bindman consulted with Mr Vaz)
  (Mr Vaz) I am just reminded of one very basic and fundamental issue, which is that I have not received a copy of Mrs Filkin's conclusions. When I appeared before the Committee—I think it is the practice of the Committee that when witnesses appear, before they even start giving evidence, they are given a copy of the conclusions. I have not, but the Sunday Times has received it, of course.

  310. Mr Bindman wrote to me asking for an opportunity to submit fresh evidence with a view to changing the conclusions. This is his letter to me of 13 December: "May I therefore respectfully suggest that the matter should proceed as follows: 1. The Commissioner is invited to consider Mr Vaz's preliminary response to the draft memorandum, which will be provided to her and to you before 18 December, and make any changes to her report which she considers appropriate."
  (Mr Vaz) Right, so she has not concluded.

  311. In the light of that, do you want to change her conclusions, though those conclusions have not been circulated?[21]

  (Mr Vaz) Sir George, this is very important as far as process is concerned, so that people understand the process that is going on, especially me. Are you now saying that the document that was circulated as Mrs Filkin's final memorandum and conclusions is not her final memorandum and conclusions, and on the basis of these documents that I have submitted and on the basis of the evidence session today, there are going to be fresh conclusions?

  312. The position is that Ms Filkin has an opportunity to change her report in the light of the extra evidence that you have submitted.
  (Mr Bindman) Would it help if I just summarise the point, because there is another factor?

  313. I am anxious to finish.  (Mr Bindman) I know you are anxious to finish, but I have not spoken up to now, and I know I am not entitled to, but I think there is an extremely important point here that the draft report was given to Mr Vaz on 30 November, and he was given five days in which to respond to it. He then asked the Committee for an extension. Having first been refused an extension by Mrs Filkin, he then asked the Committee to extend the time, and the Committee did extend the time. However, Mrs Filkin submitted her full report. We have not seen the full report, so we do not know what differences there are between the draft report and the full report. We believe, because of what appeared in the newspapers, that there is a conclusion or a suggestion of collusion which was not in the draft report. The letter that you quoted of mine was simply referring to the draft report and whether that could be amended in the light of the submissions we had then made, but we had no opportunity of making submissions on the additional material that Mrs Filkin added after the draft report when the full report was submitted to you, and I suggest that it would be only fair that we should have an opportunity of seeing the full report, in case there are additional observations which we want to make.

  Chairman: The Committee will consider that request at its next meeting. The meeting is adjourned. Thank you. Can I just say that of course the proceedings that have just taken place are confidential Select Committee proceedings.

20   Note by witness: This of course came after the letter from Robert Sheldon and my reply to him and after my reply to Mrs Filkin. Back

21   Note by witness: Her conclusions had been circulated a full month before. Back

previous page contents

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 8 February 2002