Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Keith Vaz MP
Thank you for your letter of 27th September 2001.
The purpose of this letter is to summarise my response
to the outstanding matters raised by you in your various series
of letter and accompanying documents beginning with the complaint
from Andrew Lansley MP to the extent that I have not already answered
your question in any correspondence, I hope to do so in his letter.
I am waiting for your response to my letter of 27th September
2001 which obviously crossed with mine.
38. Andrew Lansley (who, incidentally, did not
afford me the "basic courtesy" of sending me a copy
of the letter of complaint: See paragraph 47 of the Committee's
Fifth report of 2000/2001) refers to your invitation to me in
your letter of 14 March 2000 to respond to the allegations that
I have not registered "substantial donations". Payments
made to me as MP by inter alias; the Hinduja Brothers. My reply
was that "No donation has ever been made by the Hinduja Brothers".
That statement was true and remains true.
39. Andrew Lansley suggests that the payment
of £1196.10 made by the Hinduja Foundation to Mapesbury Communications
Limited on 5 July 1995, undermines my statement unless:
(a) The Foundation is not interpreted as the
Hinduja Brothers or
(b) That I did not and could not have benefited from the payment
(c) That the payment solely reimbursed costs and did not include
any element or profit payment in respect of my own time.
40. I have given a detailed account of the matter
and my recollection of the Dada Vaswami event in my letter of
26 March 2001, but I take this further opportunity of summarising
my comments on the three options listed by Mr Lansley as follows:
41. As to (a) I would certainly have regarded
the allegation as covering the Foundation as well as the brothers
personally and would have answered informatively if I had been
aware of it and had received any donation either from the foundation
or the brothers themselves or anyone of them. You defined the
"brothers" to me as SP, GP, and AP and PP Hinduja.
42. However in relation to (b) it is the case
that I did not and could not have benefited from the payment for
reasons which I have already given. I had no right to any profit
or benefit from the company because I was neither director or
shareholder nor did I have any contractual or any other arrangements
with it, save in relation to the calendar, which of course I discussed
fully with Sir Gordon Downey and two Registrars.
43. I followed Sir Gordon Downey's advice and
that of the two Registrars to the letter.
44. In relation to (c) it is clear that the payment
was solely reimbursed costs and included no profit payment in
respect of my time. I was co-chairing this public meeting with
a Conservative MP. I certainly received no payment or other professional
benefit as a result of the reimbursement by the Foundation to
45. The Committee has already received evidence
concerning the company and unchallenged evidence from the company's
accountants that no payments were made to me.
46. In your letter of 3 May 2000 under the heading
"Replies outstanding". You include "your review
of all the transactions for any purpose between you or Mapesbury
Communications or Ms Fernandes with the Hinduja Family or Foundation.
I can state categorically that I am aware of no "transactions"
other than those referred to in this letter and my other communications
with you and the Committee.
47. I now deal with Rita Gresty's complaints
transmitted by Mrs Eggington. In your letter of 28 March 2001,
you say that you are drawing my attention to particular allegations
made by Mrs Gresty, which apply not solely to me but to other
members of my family because the Chairman has asked me to state
whether any member of my family has received any payments or benefits
provided by the Hinduja family or Foundation. I have already made
it clear that I have received no such benefits.
48. The Hammond Inquiry examined my position
in relation to the Hindujas and I was found to have acted entirely
properly. The issues and comments of Sir Anthony Hammond QC are
in Chapter 7 of his report.
49. I have already written to you concerning
Mrs Gresty in paragraphs 8, 20, 21, 22. The three examples given
by Mrs Gresty are nothing to do with me. Mrs Gresty is a former
employee of my wife. I have already explained to you that I am
reluctant to enter into a dialogue with her because of her mental
illness, and especially when her statements made on her behalf
by Mrs Eggington represent hearsay upon hersay. Mrs Eggington,
who I believe is being paid by a national newspaper to give them
stories about me and my family, claims to communicate information
given to her by Mrs Gresty who in turn claims she received the
information from someone else.
50. In her letter of 11th June 2001 Mrs Eggington
who claims to have worked for Margaret Thatcher, says that Rita
"Has been receiving
psychiatric care as an inpatient since July 2000. * * * She remains
in a seriously depressed state." And then goes on to
say that Rita Gresty is "an excellent witness".
I am sure that you can draw your own conclusions from that.
51. My wife was an experienced solicitor before
I met her in 1992. She has her own Practice in which I have no
involvement or role of any kind. She is a leading specialist in
Immigration Law, she is a member of the Council of the Law Society
and chairs its Immigration Committee. She does not discuss her
clients with me and it would be improper and in breach of professional
rules and confidentiality for her to do. I have never introduced
potential clients to her.
52. Of course this raises an important question.
Many Members of Parliament have spouses or partners who carry
on legal or other professional practices, including the Prime
Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Liberal
Democrats. This is also the case for one of the complainants Andrew
Lansley. I am aware of no previous suggestion that the Rules or
the Code of Conduct requires any disclosure by his/her spouse
of their clients or that the Parliamentary Commissioner's remit
extends to reviewing the professional activities of spouses or
53. I cannot see how I can comply with a such
a request, as to do so would require me to persuade my wife to
violate rules of professional practice.
54. The remaining allegations of Mrs Gresty in
respect of the Hinduja's are that I accepted invitations and received
hospitality from them and that they provided me with large quantities
of flowers. Mrs Gresty is clearly reacting to the widespread press
comment that was made since these matters entered the public domain
in January of this year. All this information had been given to
Sir Anthony Hammond and has been published by him.
55. Andrew Lansley should be aware (and it is
already in the public domain) that like many other Members, including
Peter Bottomley and Virginia Bottomley, and the entire Shadow
Cabinet I have attended social events hosted by the Hinduja brothers.
I have been advised by the Registrar that it is not necessary
to register such attendances. If you take a different view, please
let me know. I have no recollection of ever receiving flowers
from any member of the Hinduja family. I believe I may have received
sweets at Diwali as have Peter and Virginia Bottomley as this
is common practice amongst Asian families. It is my practice to
distribute sweets received as gifts at Diwali amongst elderly
56. Rita Gresty says that I received regular
provisions of pre-packed frozen foods. This is untrue and there
have never been such arrangements. I do recall an occasion when
Mrs Gresty was given frozen foods from our freezer, which had
broken down. It was our own food, which we had purchased. Perhaps
that is what she is thinking of. I still have the list of food
that she received, would you like a copy?
57. As requested by you I enclose the documents
concerning Mr XY. As my Agent has been in conversation with him
I have asked him to prepare a note of the conversations. The gist
of the allegations are that when you were in Liverpool you passed
confidential information to your then husband Geoffrey Filkin.
As you know I know Geoffrey Filkin very well. I am concerned that
by this action I am going to be involved in the legal proceedings
between yourself and Mr XY which appear to be ongoing. I will
be unwilling to give evidence on behalf of either party as a result
of the communications with me on this subject which were entirely
unsolicited and were passed to you at your specific request. Please
will you confirm that this is the case.
58. Turning now to Andrew Robathan's letter of
26 April 2000 he like Andrew Lansley also failed to send me a
copy of his letter of complaint. (See paragraph 47 of the Committee's
Fifth Report 2000-2001).
59. First he raises a matter which is now 14
years old. Sir Peter Soulsby made these allegations when he saw
you on 14th March 2000. You sent me a copy of his statement in
your draft report to the Committee nine months later on 20th December
2000. You presumably studied it carefully as you quoted from it
very extensively, giving his comments even more coverage in your
report than mine. Is Mr Robathan suggesting that you have not
60. No evidence was provided by Sir Peter Soulsby
to support his allegations. No questions were asked of me about
61. I respectfully suggest that it is not appropriate
to investigate a complaint after so long. When I was elected as
a Member of Parliament, I informed the Law Centre of the fact
that I had become an MP, though this was also a matter of public
knowledge. I would have explained to them that I wish to give
up my employment with the Law Centre. I would imagine that even
newly elected MPs would have to give some kind of notice to their
62. I would have taken the substantial holidays
due to me (as I had not taken any since I joined the Law Centre
in 1985) and any flexitime that I was entitled to. As this was
a Law Centre my removal from the Law Centre would necessitate
the employment of another solicitor with a practising certificate.
63. Sir Peter Soulsby claims that I received
letters from the City Attorney. This is untrue. He also claims
that he wrote to me, but has provided no letters to confirm this
and I do not believe there are any. Perhaps you could ask him
to provide you with copies of his letters.
64. Since preparing the above I have now received
your letter of 27th September 2001. You say that "the complaint
is that you misled the Committee during the last inquiry".
(However, Mr Robathan himself does not say that the Committee
was misled). The sequence of events is as follows:
(a) You interviewed Peter
Soulsby on 23rd March 2000 when he made this statement to you.
You did not feel that it merited any further examination. You
sent my solicitor this statement on 20th December 2000.
(b) You interviewed me on 3rd July 2000. You
did not mention this allegation.
(c) Between the commencement of your first inquiry
and the conclusion I answered over a hundred questions. You did
not feel that it was serious enough to ask a question on this
(d) The Committee examined me and Peter Soulsby
yet did not feel that this matter merited examination. You also
did not ask Peter Soulsby to provide copies of his alleged letters.
I believe there is some confusion on Mr Robathan's
part or perhaps he was not aware of the sequence of events.
65. Secondly, Mr Robathan complains that I failed
to register a donation by Lord Paul of St Marleybone (as he is
now known) in 1993. He relies on a report in the Sunday Telegraph.
I have known Lord Paul and his family for many years and I regard
him as a close family friend. He is the godfather of my son, who
is named after him. Lord Paul has been a strong and generous supporter
of the Community causes and is widely known as a supporter of
the Labour Party having publicly made substantial donations to
the Labour Party.
66. The matter came to my attention before the
Report appeared and before Mr Robathan's complaint. I consulted
the Registrar about it; no doubt you have seen a copy of my letter
to him confirming my conversation. The statement attributed to
me in the Sunday Telegraph article is correct, save that I was
not aware that a Register was published in 1994. I was telephoned
while I was at a European Council meeting in Stockholm. Access
to Registers on a Friday night in Stockholm is not good.
67. As I explained to the Registrar, Lord Paul's
two donations were used for computer and electronic equipment,
the first in 1993 and the second in 1995. The total donation was
registered in 1995. If there was an unreasonable delay in registering
the first part of the payment I cannot explain it after this length
of time, but I did register it and the purpose of it. Lord Paul
made further donations all of which have been registered even
though some did not need to be.
68. My relationship with General Mediterranean
Holdings is set out in correspondence with the Registrar and I
followed his written and oral advice about registration. During
the short time I served as a Director I did not attend a Board
Meeting, I did not take part in any decisions nor did I participate
in any company business, nor would I have been aware of any relationships
the company has. As far as I am aware I have not received any
benefits save that I attended a celebratory dinner for the company
with other Members from both Houses of Parliament who I know,
including Lord Dholakia the President of the Liberal Democrat
Party and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party.
69. Regarding the complaint by Graham Peen I
sent you my complete file of papers relating to Mr Peen and I
have no other records. I do not understand the nature of his complaint
and what he is accusing me of doing.
70. Notwithstanding this, and in the spirit of
full co-operation the answers to your questions in your letter
of 7 August 2001 are as follows:
1. The letter is
a routine letter to any constituent who asks how his matter is
progressing. It is for him in response to make an appointment.
2. There was no "meeting" on 17
April 1999 it was a normal constituency surgery. People telephone
my office, they are given faxed appointments and I dictate on
a recording machine in their presence and hearing any letters
that I am sending. That acts as a record of what happens at the
meeting. Mr Peen did not challenge any of these records but thanked
me for my help.
3. No, he seems to be suggesting that I
had some independent knowledge of the matter other than what he
has told me, but I only knew what Mr Peen told me himself and
what is contained in the correspondence. All letters from Ministers
concluding with the letter from the Solicitor General, Ross Cranston
QC were passed to him with comment.
5. Everything Mr Peen raised with me is
in the correspondence. All his questions were passed on at his
request to all the relevant authorities. He confirmed all conversations
in writing and I responded as quickly as I could.
6. No. Save to repeat my incomprehension
of this complaint.
71. The above was prepared before your letter
of 27th September 2001. I am still puzzled about this. You asked
for my casefile and said that Mr Peen had given you his consent
to receive it. Mr Peen approached me as his MP and if my dates
are correct he had ceased to be a civil servant before he approached
me. Therefore your statement that he alleged that I intervene
improperly when he was a civil servant cannot be sustained. As
you will see from the correspondence all the letters sent were
at Mr Peene's own request. Is there some other letter that have
not seen which will give a complete picture of what he wants?
72. As regards the information provided by the
BBC you have stated in your letter of 23 August 2001 that I need
not check the electoral information, however for completeness
I believe it is important to check the information that they have
provided and to make sure that it was accurate. As I have already
explained to you the BBC has relied on information that is inaccurate
as can be seen from the plethora of office copy entries that have
nothing to do with me that they sent you.
73. My Agent and indeed I cautioned them that
they were dealing with matters that were not correct. As has become
clear from the replies I have received so far from the Electoral
Registration Officers, the information is indeed inaccurate. Local
electoral registration officers require that a form is filled
in every year. However, I believe that it is important to stress
that electoral registers are not always reliable because a person
tends to be assumed to remain in occupation unless a positive
step is taken to alter the assumption. This was confirmed by all
the EROs that I have written to.
74. I discussed all property issues with the
Registrar when invited to do so by the Committee. I further discussed
them again following media comment. I discussed them a third time
in June 2001. The first two occasions were in person and the third
was on the telephone. I remain very grateful to the Registrar
for his advice. As a result of his advice I registered my office
at 144 Uppingham Road, Leicester.
75. I have explained to the Registrar in correspondence
the purchase of 75 Vanburgh Court was in 1988. I have no personal
knowledge of who was registered there when I was not in occupation
but I confirm that I received no rent. I continued to use this
property as a second home. The words "transferred without
payment" is misleading. Payment was not required when it
is a transfer to the beneficial owner for the reasons I gave to
the Registrar when we discussed these issues.
76. 70a Teignmouth Road was a garden flat and
my first matrimonial home. My wife and I lived there from 1993
to 1996. It was sold subject to contract in 1996 when we purchased
our home in *** the proposed purchaser then withdrew and it was
sold to a new purchaser in April 1997. None of the persons named
in the last column lived in the garden flat when we owned it.
As it is clear from the flat numbers stated in most cases those
named were occupying other flats in the building. I have asked
for a missing office copy entry from 1997 and 1999 which the BBC
has not supplied , this will tell you the identity of the purchaser.
For completeness I would be glad to receive this. The information
from 192.com is four years out of date. They informed my assistant
that information is acquired from a number of sources and informed
her that they only change information when they get new information.
77. As my Agent explained to the BBC and to The
Times I have never met the *** family. The explanation as
to why they remained on the register is given above (para 73).
I have subsequently checked with the previous owners of our house
and was told that the *** family occupied the property in 1995
before it sold to us (there were no tenants when we moved in).
They ran an organisation called the London Life Christian Centre.
Post for them is still delivered to our address. The other person
named was our live in nanny.
78. * * * was purchased in April 1999 as a new
second home in London after family members indicated that they
wished to move into the studio flat. *** and *** are the previous
owners as the office copy entries show, not tenants, their registration
was not removed. The registration of my name for 2001-2 was made
by a canvasser and not made by me and was removed at my request.
79. 144 Uppingham Road was purchased before I
became an MP when I moved from London, I have explained at length
what it was used for and from time to time it was used living
accommodation and may be so used in the future. I have not yet
received any rent. 146 Uppingham Road was purchased from a Mr
Murphy. As I have explained various persons including a former
member of staff and one member of the Labour Party, Mustapha Kamal
stayed there, the Labour Party had their offices there from 1994-5.
I have received no rent. It was sold at full market value in April
2001 for the reasons I explained to the Registrar when I saw him
80. In your schedule you use the word "empty".
With respect I believe this is the wrong description. Your last
column is based on electoral registration for the relevant date,
10th October in each year. The correct description is that no
person is registered to vote, at that property, on that date,
in that year.
81. I hope I have clarified the errors that were
contained in the information that was given to you.
82. As regards the comments you make concerning
my relationship with your husband Michael Honey I do think to
protect yourself and myself from any subsequent criticism that
you or I are "suppressing" information it really ought
to be dealt with. I will check my notes regarding our three conversations
about him and I will write again. If you have any further information
on this please let me have it. For completeness could you let
me have the appropriate reference to Mr Honey in the last Report.
83. This now completes the information you require
from me. The difficulty has been the lack of specific complaints,
the abundance of personal opinions and the absence of facts. Nevertheless
I have done my best to provide you with the information that I
have or that I am aware of given that some of these matters go
back 14 years. Please let me know if there is anything further
than I have inadvertently omitted and please let me know which
complaints you are pursuing.
28 September 2001