Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Keith Vaz MP
Thank you for seeing me last Tuesday 20th March concerning
the complaint made by Andrew Lansley MP, the Shadow Minister at
the Cabinet Office. As you know, before seeing you I had already
replied to the chairman of the Committee on 20th March in response
to his letter of the same date. In addition to the points he raises
in his letter to Ms Fernandes, I have as agreed at our meeting,
incorporated the points in my original response as well as the
answers to the verbal requests you made for as much information
as possible assist you in considering this matter.
In giving you the information I hope that you will
bear in mind: (i) the fact that this event took place 6 years
ago; (ii) that it was one of numerous events which I have attended
over the last six years; (iii) that I have therefore asked others
to obtain information for me; (iv) that I have no personal knowledge
of the details of the organisation of the event in question other
than that it took place and I was present; (v) that I have taken
it upon myself to obtain as much information from the company
as possible to save you having to go through this process; and
(vi) in doing this, I believe that I had your approval in taking
I therefore propose to look at the specific questions
and the points in Mr Lansley's letter.
1. The purpose of the payment
The payment was made by the Hinduja Foundation to
cover the costs of a lecture given by Dada J P Vaswami of the
Sadu Vaswami Mission. I enclose a copy of the invoice which I
have obtained for you from the Mission (Annex A). As you aware
there are no copies held by the company. The costs of the event
are listed. The donation from the Hinduja Foundation was solely
to cover the costs of the event.
2. The details and date of the event
The event was a lecture which took place on 6th July
1995 in the Jubilee Room of the House of Commons. Annex B sets
out who Dada Vasmami is. I have met him only once (at this event).
The title of the lecture was "World's Greatest need-Love
in Action". The event was attended by a number of Members
of Parliament including: Toby Jessel MP, Sir Rhodes Boyson MP,
Greville Janner MP, Lord Butterfield, and the High Commissioners
for India and Bangladesh. I suggested in my previous letter that
Mr Bottomley had attended. Have now checked this and although
he was invited he did not attend this event but another Hinduja
event (see below). Annex B also sets out the purpose of the mission.
The meeting was co-chaired by myself and Nirj Deva MP the Conservative
MP for Brentford. How this worked in practice I simply cannot
recall but the meeting was jointly convened by us.
You will note that this Swami is not the same Swami
that has been mentioned in the press. The second Swami was Sri
Chinmoy (I have attended many meetings for religious figures).
But this event had nothing to do with the Hinduja Foundation.
My only other dealings with Dada J Vaswami was a
request made by the Mission when he celebrated his 80th Birthday.
I do not know whether the text of this message was published but
I reproduce it for what it is worth (Annex C).
3. The terms and the amount of the payment
/ the amount, the date paid and details of the account it was
paid into / Did the Hinduja Foundation make a payment to Mapesbury
I am not sure that there were "terms" if
there were I had no knowledge of them. Mr Mahmoud would have dealt
with the event himself possibly with volunteers in my office,
since I would not have regarded this as a priority. The amount
of the payment was £1196.10p (this is confirmed in
the books of the Charity Commission). I have no personal knowledge
of this. I have been told that the reasons for the reprint was
that there several spelling mistakes in the original invitation.
I understand that the payment was made to "Mapesbury
Communications" (this was the information on the invoice).
If verification of this is important I will request a statement,
but I have no reason to doubt that this was the case. There was
no benefit to the Company from this payment since it only covered
costs incurred. In fact, the company made a loss that year.
The company accounts will bear this out but clearly, I do not
have them to hand.
4. Did Mr Vaz sponsor the event?
Both Nirj Deva and I issued the invitations: we were
joint sponsors. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to check which
of our offices booked the room but computerised records go back
only 2 years. We both acted as Co-Chair as this was an all party
event. Neither Mr Deva, his office, or myself or my office benefited
from this event.
5. Extract from the list of clients
The extract read "Dada J Vaswami event-lecture
and reception". There were no funding details. In its report
of 9 March, the Committee "appreciated the difficulties of
obtaining information about the early years of the company's operations".
I have not received any payments from the Hinduja
family neither has my family as far as I am aware. This also applies
to the Hinduja Foundation. I may well have attended Hinduja Foundation
events: the Hinduja family were involved in a number of religious
and community events. I have attended many religious and community
events, but I would not be aware of any particular funding arrangements
or agreements about these matters. But I have not received any
payments from them.
I consulted the Registrar about an event which took
place in September 1999. This was an event held in honour of the
Lord Chancellor and was also to welcome me as "Minister of
the Lord Chancellor's Department". A copy of the invitation
is at Annex D. I asked whether this constituted a benefit. The
Registrar informed me that events of this kind would only be a
benefit if the person was involved in drawing up the guest list.
Neither I nor the Lord Chancellor was involved in this process.
Indeed Mr Bottomley attended this event, and though I have the
greatest respect for him I would not necessarily have him on a
guest list of an event designed to promote me. I have been told
that when I was Secretary of the Indo-British Parliamentary Group
and Toby Jessel was Chairman we served ex-officio as members of
the Advisory Board of the Hinduja Foundation along with Sir Richard
Luce, Lord Slynn of Hadley, and Elizabeth Estelle of the Vand
A. I am not aware of attending any meetings of the Advisory Board.
There was no remuneration and no activity as far as I am aware.
A week after this event another event was held in
honour of William Hague and the Shadow Cabinet which may or may
not have been attended by Mr Lansley, I do not know. However I
think that the advice of the Registrar on this party was probably
the same as that given to me. This was verbal advice. I have not
had an opportunity to write to the Registrar.
Turning now to Mr Lansley's points,
Paragraph 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are narrative of existing statements
and are repetitions of what has already been said.
Page 2 Para 1 restates
the facts but does not refer to the fact that two chartered accountants
have stated that neither I nor my office has benefited from this
Paragraph 3 is a little
confused setting out a number of arguments but not a complaint.
It is difficult to comment on three different scenarios. My approach
to the Commissioner as it is to you or the Registrar is that if
a benefit should be registered I will do so. This does not apply
in this case. I have received no benefit from this payment as
set out above. I was not involved in the details of the arrangements
for the visit and I do not believe that the company benefited,
even if it had (which it did not) the benefits did not accrue
to the director or shareholder as there has never been a dividend.
The answer to your question in March 2000 was fully accurate and
even if it was posed as the Hinduja Foundation it would be the
same: I have received no payments or benefit from this charitable
You further asked me whether there were any other
any payments or benefits. The answer to this question is no.
Please let me know if you wish me to provide any
I look forward to seeing you.
26 March 2001