Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex ii46

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


23 JULY 2001


Address   * * *

Mr Fellstrom had informed me that Mrs Williams would be happy to give me evidence and on that basis I telephoned her.

Mrs Williams gave me the following information during our conversation and in her reply to the draft file note of the conversation:

1.  Mrs Williams worked on a voluntary basis in Mr Vaz's Leicester office from April 1999 to January 2000. She was asked to work as a volunteer by Mrs Vaz senior and did so as she believed working for an MP would be a great opportunity as well as a good experience. In her role she took telephone calls from constituents and referred them to the appropriate member of staff, provided filing and administrative backup, sent out letters in reply to correspondence and helped with the administration of conferences.

2.  Mrs Williams said that during the period she worked in the office

BJ was the Director of the Leicester Constituency Office. BJ had overall responsibility. BJ's office, which had filing cabinets under lock and key, was situated upstairs in the back room.

Hanif Pathan was the Director of Events and Communications. Mr Pathan was in charge of all events. Mr Pathan's office, which was out of bounds to Mrs Williams, was situated upstairs in the first front room. Mrs Williams was told to leave all correspondence addressed to Mr Pathan unopened at the bottom of the stairs. Mr Pathan would always turn up to the office at approximately 10:00 am every morning, pick up his mail and go straight to his room. Mr Pathan was also in charge of renewing the stationery, which was often stored at 146 Uppingham Road. Mr Pathan also stored excess bottles of wine from venues and other items at this address. On two occasions Mr Pathan brought back several Christmas stockings which were ordered for the Westminster's Kids club. Mr Pathan would swear a lot when things were not running smoothly.

AA was promoted to caseworker during Mrs William's time spent there and was situated in the downstairs room opposite to Keith Vaz's. AA was put under a lot of pressure from both BJ and Mr Pathan and on one occasion she was brought to tears.

Mrs Williams had started off in AA's room then was given the conference room as her office, which was situated behind Mr Vaz's, leading onto the back garden. During Mrs Williams' time at 144 Uppingham Road, Mr Vaz had his entire office redecorated, carpeted throughout and new desks in all rooms apart from his own. Mr Vaz used 146 Uppingham Road as a storage place and a place for students or office staff from his London office.

Mrs Williams said that her role at Mr Vaz's office consisted of the following —

    ·  Taking telephone calls from constituents and referring them when necessary to the appropriate members of staff

    ·  Answering all voice mail messages

    ·  Sorting out the mail

    ·  Providing filing and administrative backup

    ·  Signing for the post when Mr Pathan or BJ was too busy to do so

    ·  Sorting out all Mr Vaz's photos from all his venues and placing them in albums

    ·  Making sure that Mr Vaz's briefcase was topped up with stationary, plus a regular supply of IND forms

    ·  When the cleaner didn't turn up or there were pots in the sink from others, she would do the cleaning up

    ·  Taking care of all office plants

    ·  When the office was being refurbished, she had to pack everything away, lift heavy furniture such as tables

    ·  Fetching stamps, newspapers (to check for local issues as well as articles on Mr Vaz ), ordering photographs from the Leicester Mercury signed for as Sally Walker as these were to be used in Mr Vaz's bulletins

    ·  Making a weekly report to update Mr Vaz

    ·  Replying to all diary declines

    ·  Organising Mr Vaz's surgeries. Mrs Williams said she was told that if it was a three-hour surgery then she was to give the first hour to the whites and the remaining two hours to the Asians. When she asked why, Ms BJ replied it was because the Asians' cases were more complicated than the whites'. Mrs Williams said she found ordering a regular amount IND Forms a little strange because being in charge of Mr Vaz's surgeries she was fully aware of each constituent's case that was going before Mr Vaz as she had to pull out their files. Nearly every time several IND forms would have disappeared but no entries were made on any of the files for new applicants wanting indefinite stays in the UK. She said she had noticed this particularly when a certain constituent called MPS of * * * attended. She said she felt very anxious when this constituent needed a surgery appointment because he wouldn't say what his case was regarding or whom it was regarding. He would just reply in an abrupt manner "Mr Vaz knows" and ask to be put through to BJ. After transferring his call BJ would come back to Mrs Williams and say "Keith knows, just book him in at the end of the surgery". Even if the surgery was full he would always get seen. Anyone else would have to call the office again.

Mrs Williams said she became more anxious when she overheard a conversation between BJ and AA. They used a word which she had not come across to describe MPS's conduct. When Mrs Williams asked AA, who worked part-time in the office, to explain what it meant and what it had to do with MPS, AA replied that the Home Office believed that MPS was involved in bringing illegal immigrants into the country for money.

Then, during the Christmas of 1999, Mr Vaz had arranged to go to India with MPS. Mrs Williams said she started to get a little frightened as both Mr Vaz and his members of staff were at that time fully aware of what the Home Office has said about MPS and Mr Vaz still arranged to go to India with him. Mrs Williams also said that whenever the Leicester Office needed any help with stuffing envelopes at election time, MPS was always there with a group of Asians who did not speak English.

3.  Mrs Williams helped with various conferences organised by Mr Vaz's office. She gave as examples —

    (a)  1999  a Leicester East Annual Labour Party Dinner attended by Lord Falconer Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, and Margaret McDonagh, General Secretary of the Labour Party. This was held at the Safari Club in Leicester. Mrs Williams had a security role and had to make sure all members were satisfied. She sold raffle tickets. She said the following about the raffle —

    With the help of SW approximately £300.00 was raised. This money was, she believed, for the Labour Party, but the amount that was raised was not announced at the venue, which she thought a little strange. The following day she was given the money back by Mr Pathan who was in joint charge of this venue with BJ to count out the proceeds. The money was then handed to Mr Pathan.

    (b)    1999  The Intto Leadership Conference held at the Connaught Rooms in London on the 23rd June 1999. On 22nd June 1999 Mrs Williams met BJ together with Mr Vaz's mother (Cllr Merlyn Vaz) and his sister (Valerie) at the London Road railway station by 9:45am. She said they were all picked up by one of Keith Vaz's chauffeurs then dropped off at different points in London. She was dropped off at the Connaught Rooms where the Inter Leadership Conference was to be held on 23rd June 1999. Mrs Williams had to assist with preparing the registration room, which consisted of setting up tables in alphabetical order, preparing name tags, literature, goodie bags (containing a wooden foot massager, programs that supported the event, etc.), she had to wait until earlier hours of the following morning before having a small slice of pizza and a can of pop. She was driven to a small hotel where she had only 1 hour to rest and freshen up then she was taken back to the Connaught Rooms for a quick briefing with BJ and Mr Pathan and approximately 2-3 members from the London Office along with approximately a dozen student volunteers. This was a large conference with over a thousand delegates organised by Mr Vaz. Her key task was to ensure the smooth running of the registration room. Mr Vaz gave everyone a quick guide around the building where everyone was going to be positioned and then gave a last minute briefing as to their responsibilities. Mr Pathan had overall responsibility as he had made the arrangements for the conference, booked the rooms and taken cheques from the delegates at Keith Vaz's Leicester Constituency Office. The cheques were made out to the Inter Leadership Conference. Mrs Williams said she knew this because she was asked by Mr Pathan to make photocopies of all cheques and then file them into black Arch lever folders in numeric order. A Diversity Gala Dinner followed the Conference on the same evening. Delegates would pay one price for the Conference itself and an additional sum for the Diversity Dinner.

    (c)         Mrs Williams said there were other conferences organised by the Leicester office.

    On one occasion Mrs Williams referred to a conference as being "organised by Mr Vaz" and she was told by one of the workers in Mr Vaz's London office that she should not refer to it in those terms. When she inquired why, she was told that Mr Vaz could get into trouble if he was seen to be organising conferences.

4.  Mapesbury

Mrs Williams said she didn't know anything about Mapesbury but she had heard it mentioned during her time in the office. She said that she was told she didn't need to know anything about it.

5.  Wildberry

Mrs Williams did not know of a company called Wildberry.

6.  Immigration cases

Mrs Williams said there were a lot of files marked as SF (meaning special friends) of which BJ had stored several upstairs under lock and key. There was one large and one small cabinet, which was, marked OS (meaning outsiders). She said she could not understand why Mr Vaz had taken on so many outsiders when Members of Parliament usually only assist constituents in their own constituencies. During her time in the office she received at least a dozen phone calls from people who do not live in the Leicester East constituency wanting Mr Vaz to help them. Every time she brought this matter to BJ's attention BJ would ask Mrs Williams to type up a polite letter quoting the Parliamentary rules to the constituent and then a further letter to their MP stating that Mr Vaz's office had received a telephone call from one of their constituents and asking if they could look into this matter.

Mrs Williams' further concerns were that —

    ·  she was very concerned when she had calls from a couple of students wanting to shadow Mr Vaz and she was told that Keith Vaz does not take on students. Then some time later in 1999 she was given a box file from BJ containing what looked like records of students who had been accepted by Mr Vaz as volunteers and she was told to destroy everyone by ripping them into tiny pieces

    ·  she had come across development plans for building Temples which were addressed to Mr Vaz and Mr Vaz forwarded them onto the Asian community.

7.  I asked Mrs Williams why she left the voluntary job working for Mr Vaz. She said that she was concerned about a number of things "going on in the office". She was concerned about the secrecy. There were many things going on in the office which she was told she did not need to know anything about. She was concerned about the practice of signing letters with a non-existent person's name, Sally Walker. Although she was told that this was done to protect workers from problems with constituents, she was unhappy about this practice. She was concerned about the use of 146 Uppingham Road for storage. This property was used to put up students and helpers from London and for storing things. For example, when receptions were organised, the drink and other items left over would be stored in that premises and then distributed to people who worked in the office. Mrs Williams felt that this was not right. Mrs Williams was particularly angry when her husband has been booked in to see Mr Vaz as a constituent to consult about Library closures in the area and was told that his appointment was to be cancelled in favour of somebody whose problem was more urgent. Mrs Williams felt this was not the correct way to treat her or her husband. Mrs Williams therefore resigned as a volunteer worker.

I said that, when I had written a file note on our conversation, I would send it to Mrs Williams for her to correct so that I had an accurate record of what she felt I should know. Mrs Williams asked me about the procedure and I explained the procedures relating to my enquiries and the role of the Standards and Privileges Committee. Mrs Williams said she would check the note and return it to me. I thanked Mrs Williams for the help that she had provided.

Signed as a correct record [Mrs P E Williams]

14 August 2001

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