Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


(v)  Complaint against Mr Vaz alleging that Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes had employed an illegal immigrant as a domestic servant and that Mr Vaz held her passport in his constituency office as a means of exerting improper influence over her

543.  On 11 June 2001 Miss Eileen Eggington wrote to me to allege that "from 1995/6 until at least May 2000 Keith and Maria Vaz employed an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh [Mrs Mary Matin/Ahmed] as a nanny..." and that Mr Vaz "kept Mary's passport in his Leicester office" (Annex v1). Miss Eggington attached a document which she had prepared following conversations with her friend, Mrs Rita Gresty, a former personal assistant to Mrs Maria Vaz (Ms Fernandes) (Annex v2). The document was signed as a correct record by Mrs Gresty. Miss Eggington explained in her covering letter that Mrs Gresty was in hospital receiving in-patient psychiatric treatment.

544.  I considered carefully whether there were any matters raised in this allegation into which I was required to make enquiries. I decided that there were—for two reasons. First, there is an implication in this allegation that Mr Vaz may have used his position as a Member of Parliament improperly to obtain preferential treatment from the Immigration Service to assist clients of his wife's solicitors' practice, thereby increasing the family income. Secondly, in this particular case if, as alleged, Mrs Matin was working for Mr Vaz in his home or in his wife's office either for nothing or for low wages in return for Mr or Mrs Vaz's [Ms Fernandes's] intervention with the Immigration Service, this would constitute a benefit to Mr Vaz arising from his position as a Member of Parliament which had not been entered in the Register of Member's Interests.

545.  The document supplied by Miss Eggington stated that in 1998, when Mrs Gresty took up employment with Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes], Ms Matin was already working as a nanny for Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] and that Mr Vaz held Mrs Matin's passport in his Leicester constituency office. In a further statement taken by Miss Eggington on 25 June 2001, Mrs Gresty said that Mrs Matin was employed as a nanny by Mr and Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] from 10 August 1998 until September 1999 and that she undertook housekeeping and office duties for them (Annex v3). Mrs Gresty added that she discussed with Mrs Matin the wages she [Mrs Matin] was paid by Mr and Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] in that employment. Mrs Gresty said that Ms Fernandes paid Mrs Matin £1.50 an hour, cash in hand, and that Mrs Matin had complained to Mrs Gresty about her low wages.

Mr Vaz's response

546.  On 28 March 2001 I had written to Mr Vaz about the allegations contained in Miss Eggington's letter of 26 March 2001 (which related to the Hinduja brothers)[145] and the accompanying statement by Mrs Gresty.

547.  On 19 June 2001 I wrote to Mr Vaz (through his agent Mr Bennett, as Mr Vaz was ill) (see Annex v5) to inform him of the second complaint from Miss Eggington based on the information provided by Mrs Gresty, which I attached. I asked for his response to this allegation so that I might decide whether any investigation was necessary.

548.  I asked him in particular to let me know:

    "1.  Whether you [he] and your [his] wife ever employed Mrs Mary Martin[146]/Ahmed at any time for any purpose?

     2.  If so, whether you [he] were [was] aware of the immigration status of Mrs Martin?"

549.  Mr Vaz raised concerns about Mrs Gresty's health in letters dated 9 July 2001 (see Annex i21) and 13 August 2001 (see Annex i23).

550.  In his letter of 13 August 2001 (see Annex i23) Mr Vaz said:

    "Mary Matin has never been employed by me or Ms Fernandes and we have always been fully aware of her status. She is and remains a friend of our family..."

551.  Mr Vaz made no comment on Mrs Gresty's allegation that he had kept Mrs Matin's passport in his constituency office and that while working in Ms Fernandes's office Mrs Gresty had been required to confirm to the police that Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] employed Mrs Matin.

Further Enquiries

The Immigration Service

552.  Miss Eggington, in her letter of 11 June 2001, said that she had copied to the Home Office Nationality Division the documents signed by Mrs Gresty. I therefore wrote on 25 June 2001 to Mr Stephen Boys Smith, the Director General of the Immigration Service (Annex v6). I asked Mr Boys Smith to provide me with information about Mrs Matin's case to allow me to decide whether I was required to make any further inquiries.

553.  Mr Boys Smith replied on 1 August 2001 (Annex v7). In his response he said that Mr Vaz had made a number of representations on Mrs Matin's behalf to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) and to Ministers. He also provided a note of Mr Vaz's involvement in the case, showing that these representations were made by Ms Fernandes and Mr Vaz from 1997 to 2001 (see Annex i30 [table]).

554.  Mr Boys Smith went on to say that the IND were aware of the allegation that Mrs Matin had worked as a nanny for Mr Vaz but that their files dating back to 1992 held no evidence to support this allegation.

Ms Fernandes [Mrs Vaz]

555.  When I interviewed Ms Fernandes [Mrs Vaz] on 4 July 2001 (see Annex i15) I asked her whether at any time she had employed Mrs Matin. She replied "No" .[147]

556.  I also asked Ms Fernandes [Mrs Vaz] the following questions:

    "MS FILKIN: Did you, through Mapesbury Communications or, indeed, through your practice, because then I will be able to clear it out of the way, help her with her immigration issues?


    MS FILKIN: So you have never done work for her?


    MS FILKIN: In any capacity. Thank you..."[148]

557.  On 10 September 2001 (see Annex ii58) I wrote to Ms Fernandes to ask her to explain the discrepancy between information I had received about the representations she had made on behalf of Mrs Matin and the account she had given to me on 4 July. I quoted from the transcript as in the above paragraph and continued:

    "I have subsequently received information that you did make a representation on Mrs Matin's behalf about her immigration status.

    In the light of this information I would be grateful if you would explain this discrepancy."

558.  On 11 October 2001 I wrote again to remind her that she had not responded to this request.

559.  On 13 October 2001 Ms Fernandes replied (see Annex i29) saying:

    "With regard to Mrs Matin you have asked me to explain a discrepancy without stating what the discrepancy is. I maintain what I said at the meeting. You have never explained why this is relevant to your inquiry."

Mrs Mary Matin

560.  On 10 and 25 September 2001 (Annex v10 and v11) I wrote to Mrs Matin. I asked her for information about:

    —  whether she had ever been employed by Mr & Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes];

    —  whether, and if so what, information she had given to Mrs Gresty about any such employment or the whereabouts of her passport ;

    —  her immigration status; and

    —  whether Mr or Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] had ever provided her with assistance on an issue relating to her immigration status.

561.  On 15 October 2001 I received a letter dated 11 October 2001 (Annex v12) from the solicitors Coker Vis Partnership, who were acting for Mrs Matin, promising me a reply to my letter. My office telephoned Coker Vis on 30 October 2001 and were told that a reply would be forthcoming after 9 November 2001.

562.  On 9 November 2001 I telephoned Coker Vis. Ms Coker's secretary said Ms Coker was out of the country until that day. I was then telephoned by Ms Vis who told me that the reason for some of the delay was that this firm was waiting for the papers on the case to be forwarded by Bindman & Partners. Ms Vis said that Coker Vis were only dealing with this matter because there had been "conflict between Mr Vaz and Mrs Matin" and that therefore the case had been transferred to Coker Vis from Bindman & Partners (who represent Mr Vaz).

563.  On 10 November 2001 Ms Coker telephoned me (Annex v13). She said that she would ask Mrs Matin to come to her office as soon as possible so that she could write to me in response to my letter of 10 September 2001. She said they were no longer waiting for papers from Bindman & Partners in order to deal with my letter, as those papers related only to the issue of Mrs Matin's immigration status.

564.  Ms Jane Coker wrote to me on 20 November 2001 to confirm that she had taken instructions from Mrs Matin and had sent her a draft response for checking. Ms Coker expected to be able to send me a formal reply within the next few days.

565.  On 23 November 2001 I telephoned Ms Coker who said she hoped to let me have Mrs Matin's response by 28 November 2001.

566.  On 29 November 2001, after a delay of more than two months, Mrs Matin's reply through her solicitors was as follows (Annex v18):

    —  that she had no recollection of any conversation with Mrs Gresty and had not talked to Mrs Gresty about her employment or passport;

    —  that it would not have been practical for them to have a conversation as Mrs Matin's first language was Bengali which, as far as she was aware, Mrs Gresty did not speak;

    —  as far as she could recall, Mr Vaz never kept her passport in his constituency office;

    —  Mr Vaz took up her case as a Member of Parliament; and

    —  she had never been an illegal immigrant.

Additional Information provided by Mrs Rita Gresty

567.  On 11 October 2001 I was telephoned by Miss Eggington to say that Mrs Gresty was home from hospital and wished to see me. I met Mrs Gresty that day and she said (see Annex i19) that Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] and Mrs Matin had told her that Mr Vaz held Mrs Matin's passport in his Leicester office, as he was dealing with the matter of her immigration status. She understood that Mrs Matin believed Mr Vaz was helping her with this matter.

568.  Mrs Gresty said that the arrangement for Mrs Matin to work for Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes as a nanny had been made by a mutual friend and that afterwards Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes helped Mrs Matin to resolve her immigration status.

569.  Miss Eggington also wrote to me on 13 November 2001 to draw my attention to other correspondence relating to the employment of Mrs Matin which she said came to light as she reviewed her papers on this case. In particular she cited a letter dated 9 June 2000 from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty (Annex v15A) which includes reference to work done by Mrs Matin for Ms Fernandes.

570.  Miss Eggington said that the letter of 9 June 2000 from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty corroborated the statement that Mrs Gresty had made to me on 25 June 2001 that Mary Matin was working in the solicitors' office for Ms Fernandes.

The letter reads at paragraph five:

    "The volume of work has increased, as I would expect it to but only to the point where it needs a part-time additional member of staff. Mary was already doing some work and I know that Rita found that it helped her."

571.  Miss Eggington also provided a copy of a letter dated 24 May 2000 (Annex v16) from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty confirming a conversation in which Mr Gresty had told her that Mrs Gresty would be ready to return to work part-time in around three months time. Ms Fernandes says she would like to see Mrs Gresty and says Mary will be preparing some food for him.

572.  On 19 November 2001 Mr Gresty wrote to me (Annex v17) to confirm the information about the employment of Mrs Mary Matin and to describe a lengthy conversation he and his wife had with Mrs Matin at Mrs Matin's late husband's restaurant about Mrs Matin's and Mrs Gresty's mutual employment with Ms Fernandes. Mr Gresty said that Mrs Matin was employed by Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes at least from September 1998 to May 2000 and that when Mrs Gresty arrived for work before 9 am in the mornings Mrs Matin would often let her into the office of Fernandes Vaz through the home of Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes. Mr Gresty added that on two occasions he was invited into the home for coffee by Mrs Matin when Ms Fernandes was present.

573.  On 24 November 2001 Mr Gresty wrote to me again. He said:

    " recollections of our dinner at the Bina Restaurant as guests of Mary Matin and her husband may be of help to you in your enquiry.

    My wife, Rita, had been working for Ms Fernandes at her * * * [Middlesex] home, and frequently came into contact with Mary in her capacity as a nanny and housekeeper for the Vaz children. Rita and Mary struck up a friendship, and Rita often reported that she would sit down with Mary in the kitchen and talk about their relationship particularly with Ms Fernandes. Rita took sandwiches from home for her lunch, as it was neither practical or (because of the pressures of work) possible for her to come home. Because Mary could not drive, Rita's duties frequently included taking and collection the Vaz children to and from nursery and school. I was often in contact with Rita during working hours, and am able to confirm without hesitation, that when Rita was out of the office, (which was sited in a 'shed' in the Vaz garden), Mary would answer the phone at the house, enabling me to leave messages.

    Mary invited us both to the Bina Restaurant, in Northwood High Street, where her husband worked, and they lived in the flat above the restaurant. We were greeted by Mary, and she spent a large part of the time with us, whilst we were eating and during coffee afterwards. I recall very vividly that the main part of the conversation was her work for Ms Fernandes. Mary did not work at the restaurant whilst we were there, but acted as our hostess for the evening.

    She spoke about the long hours she was required to work, giving details of how she got from Northwood to * * * [Middlesex] (on most occasions by bus: she was responsible for meeting her own travel costs) but occasionally Rita gave her a lift home if she had her own car with her. Her wages seemed to be pitifully low for what was required of her, (I think under £2 per hour), and I recall trying to offer her encouragement by telling her that the new Labour government was in the process of introducing legislation for a minimum wage, and I was sure that her employers would honour whatever level was agreed.

    Whilst writing, I can confirm that Mary often took items of Indian food to the * * * [Middlesex] address for Rita and I to share at home. Immediately after the onset of Rita's illness, a large serving of food was delivered to us, prepared by Mary, at Ms Fernandes' request."

145   See paragraphs 45-51. Back

146   Or Matin. Back

147   (Annex i15) transcript of interview between the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan, p.42. Back

148   Ibid, p. 42. Back

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