Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex ii14

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


21 MARCH 2001


On receipt of the Chairman's letter and having received the fax copy of my letter, Mr Vaz asked to see me at 6:00 p.m. Mr Vaz was friendly and helpful throughout the meeting. He said on several occasions that he was very keen to co-operate and to co-operate fully. He said he was sorry that there had been so many difficulties. I suggested we drew a line under the previous inquiry and started off by putting that behind us. I assured Mr Vaz that my only concern was to get correct and accurate facts from him.

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Mr Vaz assured me that he had not been running the story about Michael Honey to the newspapers. I said I fully accepted that as he and I both knew what we had said to each other about his time in Richmond.

He said his wife has been particularly incensed by the suggestion that Mr Zaiwalla might have made payments to Mapesbury Communications, * * * and he certainly had not made any payments. Mr Vaz said he did not intend to have any further contact with Mr Zaiwalla in the future because of everything which had happened.

Mr Vaz told me of his mother's illness and how upset she had been in seeing these matters running on television.

Mr Vaz had provided some of his answers to the questions in his letter to the Chairman and undertook to go away and search for all the other items and let me have them. He asked whether he could provide all the answers direct to me and I drew his attention to the letter which the Chairman had sent to him, suggesting that that was what he should do.

He said that he was trying to track down the volunteer who had run the event in question and then he would be able to answer the questions more precisely. He said it was some six years ago and he had been involved in various other spiritual events with Swami Vaswami, over the years, but he thought that he co-sponsored this event with Nirj Deva. Mr Vaz said that, when he tracked down this volunteer, he would be able to provide me with precise information.

He said he was working with his wife to look at the details of this event and he hoped that she would help him to find this information but he did not want anybody to think that he was the person running the company. I said I was clear that it was her company and I was glad that she was helping him find this information. He asked me whether there was any other information I required and I said that I had only put to him the allegation which was supported with evidence and that was what I had tried to do throughout. However, I said that, as he was aware, various other allegations concerning the Hindujas payments to him had been circulating and I did know of some of them. I therefore said that he should bear that in mind while the records of the company were being scrutinised and try to draw a line under this enquiry by providing me with full information of any payment to him or to his wife's company which was in any way connected with the Hinduja family or the Hinduja Foundation, otherwise I was fearful that these allegations might surface again. He said he accepted this and said he would do his best and that he would try to provide as complete answers as he could.

He said that one of the problems was that the information might not be there because of the age, etc. I said I fully understood that and that, if that turned out to be the case, he should say so. He said he did not wish to ask his mother for any information, who had been secretary of this company for a period of time, because of her illness.

I asked him whether the records which has been referred to as being in the garage of the person who died, Mr Mahmoud, had come to light. He said those were not available and that none had been found.

Mr Vaz informed me that the payment which related to the reception was to cover a range of costs which had been paid by Mapesbury Communications for food and refreshments. I explained that it was important that those items were itemised to show that what had been covered, was only cost and that there had been no payment to the company other than that. Mr Vaz said he understood the issue.

We also talked about trying to get some clarity about whether or not Mr Vaz has received any benefit whatsoever from Mapesbury Communications. Mr Vaz said that he has received no benefit whatsoever and no payment from Mapesbury. I drew his attention to the fact that, sometimes, assets of the company are used to benefit other people, for example cars, telephones, heating, lighting if a home is used as an office. I suggested he think about that carefully and if that was the case, that he put that in the letter of reply to me.

I stressed that he should make his letter as full and as detailed as he possibly could and if he could do that, I would not need to come back to him and I would be able to process the matter quickly. I said that, if was able to get satisfactory information on all these matters, I would of course report it to the Committee at the earliest possible time, which would be Tuesday of next week.

Mr Vaz concluded by stressing his intention to be fully co-operative and provide me with full information and I thanked him for this.

Mr Vaz then said that it was quite difficult to be clear about what benefits should be registered. He had taken advice from the Registrar of Members' Interests and he wanted to check it with me. He checked with me what hospitality was registerable. He then asked me whether, if he had received a loan from his mother to pay his solicitor's bills which had been considerable, whether he should register that. I said that, if it was a concessionary loan and it was given to him entirely as mother-to-son it would not be registerable, but if it related in any way to his activities as a Member of Parliament, that my advice would be to register it. I said that I believed that a concessionary loan to cover the costs of his solicitors during this enquiry would certainly be wise for him to register.

Mr Vaz said that he thought that we should run seminars for "old" Members as well as for "new" Members because the rules were very complicated.

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