Memorandum submitted by Mr Keith Vaz MP
Response to Draft Memorandum of Elizabeth
dated 30 November 2001
My preliminary response to Mrs Filkin's draft memorandum
was delivered to the Clerk to the Committee on Monday, 16 December
2001 under cover of a letter from Geoffrey Bindman, and was circulated
by Alan Sandall to the Committee on 17 December 2001. The preliminary
response dealt with the significant shortcomings in the investigation
procedure adopted in the first Inquiry, and also contained a summary
of my responses to the assessment of the evidence.
In this document, I respond in detail to the specific
allegations (made in the draft memorandum). This document is supported
in full by an Annex of additional documentation which deals with
matters raised with me by Mrs Filkin for the first time
on 30 November 2001. I have not seen Mrs Filkin's conclusions,
although a copy has been leaked to The Sunday Times.
A full and frank response
I have attempted to put forward my comments in a
full and frank way to assist the Committee as it begins detailed
consideration of the draft memorandum. As with other investigations,
the manner in which Mrs Filkin has conducted her investigations
has resulted in a huge volume of papers submitted to the Committee.
I apologise for adding to the Committee's burden with more papers.
However, as Mrs Filkin herself has acknowledged, it is important
that allegations that are unfounded should be rebutted vigorously
and in detail. Thus, if any Member of the Committee feels, after
having perused this material, that my observations and criticism
are less than fully substantiated, I shall be very willing, in
the interests of completeness, to provide sourcing, if it is not
apparent from this document.
The Committee's assessment of the evidence
The procedure now enables the Committee itself to
weigh the evidence against Mrs Filkin's conclusions. Mrs Filkin
accepts that the Committee can come to conclusions that are completely
different from hers. As she said on the BBC's World at One on
Friday 22 December 2000:
"... Well, when you have a system such as
the House has set up, it of course allows for two different sets
of people to come to different views on the same evidence."
The Committee will no doubt weigh the evidence with
extreme care and reach its own conclusions.
The evidence is set out in full in her Annexes not
in her memorandum. As expected the press reports that we have
seen so far bear little relation to the evidence submitted.
The background to the current complaints lies in
the publication of the last report, on 9 March 2001, and the hysterical
media reaction to it. Neither I nor any member of the Committee,
apart from Peter Bottomley and Martin Bell, has commented on its
conclusions in any detail. This is my first opportunity to do
so. However, two former Committee members have expressed to me
their shock that the press comment focused not on the conclusions
of the Committee and the report (i.e. the facts of the case),
but rather on certain comments made by Mrs Filkin. One said that
it showed that the commentators had not actually read the Committee's
The press hysteria surrounding the publication of
the Hammond Inquiry (also published on 9 March 2001) manifested
itself in an avalanche of hostile comment towards me despite my
complete exoneration by Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC. Throughout
the period between 9 March 2001, the date the first report was
published, and the end of the general election campaign on 11
June 2001, this press campaign continued unrelentingly, in complete
disregard of the facts.
I fully expected that Conservative MPs and sections
of the press would combine to bring more complaints against me.
In a preelection period any complaint against a Minister
would inevitably generate anti-government publicity. It did.
Mrs Filkin continued to speak to the press and confirm
that complaints were being investigated before I was even aware
that a complaint had been made. The most notable example of this
occurred four days after the General Election on 11 June 2001,
when I read on CEFAX that Mrs Filkin would be looking into complaints
made by the BBC's Today programme before I had even been informed
on this. I was in hospital at this time.
The common interests of complainants
There are some common threads to these complaints,
and I list them as follows:
1. The involvement of certain Conservative MPs:
Andrew Lansley MP, Andrew Robathan MP, and the former Conservative
MP, Tom Sackville.
2. Angry and bitter former employees or political
rivals from Leicester: in particular, Pauline Williams and Peter
Soulsby (a former colleague of Mrs Filkin).
3. The bitter recriminations against third parties,
usually exemployers: in particular Mr Kennady and Mr Peene.
Mv wife's ex-employee
In the current report, unlike earlier reports, complaints
are made by Rita Gresty, a former employee of my wife, Maria Fernandes,
against my wife. Mrs Gresty is, in Mrs Filkin's
view, a key witness, who gave Mrs Filkin evidence about the Hindujas
(which subsequently Mrs Filkin had to reject) and about my domestic
arrangements (which are not substantiated). Mrs Gresty worked
for my wife for 18 months. For the nine months from May 2000 until
February 2001 Mrs Gresty initially pursued a campaign to gain
compensation from my wife, first through solicitors, then through
her husband, via the secretary of Max Clifford, through the Mail
on Sunday, and finally through a police officer who claims
formerly to have been a protection agent for Margaret Thatcher
and Salman Rushdie. Subsequently she pursued complaints against
I deal with Mrs Gresty's mental illness later in
the submission. The Committee and Mrs Filkin have always maintained
that matters to do with the conduct or professional activities
of spouses are outside the scope of any inquiry. Inexplicably,
in the present matter, Mrs Filkin has chosen to override the Committee's
judgment and the Code of Conduct in this respect.
The involvement of the press also follows a pattern
and it has been all encompassing. All but one of the complaints
is in some way related to newspaper articles. Despite the clear
statement in the "Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct
of Members" that newspaper articles should not form the basis
of a complaint"Both the Commissioner and the Committee
on Standards and Privileges will be guided by the view of the
former Select Committee on Member's Interests that they would
not normally regard a complaint founded upon no more than a newspaper
story or television report as a substantiated allegation"
(See Annex with extract from the Code)no attempt has been
made by Mrs Filkin to follow this advice, and the activities of
the press and the investigatory process have become increasingly
Mrs Filkin openly acquiesced in the close press interest,
apparently colluded in it, and, quite frankly, encouraged it,
as can be seen by the way in which she appears to have requested
the complainant journalists to find out more information for her.
This happened, for example, in the case of Mr Syal and Mr Hastings
of the Sunday Telegraph (see Mrs Filkin's minute of her meeting
with them on 29 March 2001). Preparatory work by Carl Fellstrom
(a journalist) created the opportunity for Mrs Filkin to speak
to a witness, Pauline Williams. She said:
"Mr Fellstrom had informed me that Mrs Williams
would be happy to give me evidence, and on that basis I telephoned
her." (23rd July 2001 Annex i46)
She is also fully prepared, indiscriminately, to
include, as part of her investigation, journalists who have written
articles, and to allow them to attend jointly with a witness (Martin
Bright of The Observer was involved in the Mr Kennady interview)
and to become witnesses themselves.
These same journalists are now understandably at
the forefront of the press campaign to have Mrs Filkin reappointed
to her post. All have written articles in the last few weeks saying
what a good job she is doing, but failing to mention that they
are working with her on a number of cases, and are and have been
the beneficiaries of this mutually supportive process of investigation.
In this dual process, newspapers first create
the complaint (the Sunday Times and the Lansley complaint, The
Observer and the directorship complaint), then provide
the evidence and access to witnesses, then comment
on the complaint throughout its progress, then announce the 'leaked'
results in advance of publication (Sunday Times, 23 December 2001,
The Observer 23 December 2001) and, finally, prescribe
the penalty. They then use the results to safeguard and advance
the case for Mrs Filkin to continue in office (Editorial in the
Sunday Times, 23 December 2001).
When challenged, some blatantly deny having any involvement
in the process. On 22 December 2001, Anthony Barnett of The
Observer said to my Agent: "There is no connection between
The Observer and the allegations made by Mr Sackville."a
statement that is manifestly untrue. The coauthor of the
article that appeared on 23 December 2001 in The Observer
was none other than Martin Bright, the same Martin Bright who
attends an interview with Mrs Filkin on 2 September 2001 and cites
Mr Sackville as a potential witness, but then goes on to describe
Mr Sackville's claims as "unsubstantiated", a claim
not repeated in the article itself. This level of duplicity is
Then there is the BBC team. The selfsame journalist,
Mr Andrew Hoskins, who had undertaken so much, albeit misdirected,
research for Mrs Filkin on the property issue in June (evidence
which she was compelled to reject) pops up on 5 December 2001
to interview her about the reasons why she has not been reappointed
(See Annex for text of interview).
I wrote to the Chairman about this apparent complicity
between Mrs Filkin and the press on 22 October 2001, saying:
"The involvement of journalists in the inquiry
process in this way puts MPs in an impossible position, especially
when journalists benefit from the release to them by the same
people of "exclusive " articles about inquiries. In
such circumstances, they obviously cannot be said to be acting
in the public interest; they are, quite evidently, simply seeking
to bolster their sales."
Sir George wrote back to me on 24 October 2001:
"Occasionally (my emphasis) if the Commissioner
sees that information has been published which might be relevant
to a complaint that she is investigating she might ask the journalist
to send her the information. Information provided by journalists
is weighed and tested as carefully as information provided by
anyone else. Nothing that is published is protected by parliamentary
Evidence of the central involvement of the press
in all but one of the current complaints against
me will doubtless, therefore, come as a shock to the Chairman
and the Committee. Considering this degree of press involvement,
one might well ask what role is left for the Committee on Standards
and Privileges when it is the newspapers themselves, working formally
or informally with Mrs Filkin, who evidently aspire to run the
whole process. It is now undoubtedly a firmly established twoway
processa transparently reciprocal arrangement at the expense
of the integrity of the investigation. The newspapers get their
story, and give Mrs Filkin even bigger headlines for her 'findings'
which the newspapers have themselves helped to define.
The previous Speaker, Baroness Boothroyd refers to
Mrs Filkin's contacts with the press in her book, 'The Autobiography':
"I wrote to her about the Commission's concerns
about accessibility to journalists, which was a serious step for
me to take... . Our attitude was that we were anxious to help
but that she could reduce the burden herself if she did not talk
so much to the press." (Page 281)
However, Mrs Filkin has evidently always believed
that her role is to inform the public through the press, via her
memorandum for the Committee. Notable, for example, is her broadcast
from Jerusalem in December 2000 on the BBC's World at One
programme, commenting on the John Reid case [22.12.2000] (See
Annex 16 for transcript).
The Committee and Parliament appear useful only to
the extent that they provide the total protection
of Parliamentary privilege. In other words, Mrs Filkin and others
can say whatever they want and never be the subject of legal action.
Indeed, irrespective of the outcome of an investigation, Mrs Filkin's
wellprotected position by virtue of the office she holds
and the assured standing she has achieved through the stakeholder
interests she has provided for the press, make it quite possible
for her personal opinions about a case to achieve greater publicity
than the actual results of her enquiry based on verifiable facts.
That is why it is so important that words should be chosen with
If proof of this is required, one need only read
the cuttings from The Sunday Times of 23 December 2001,
from The Observer of the same date, and from The Guardian,
The Times and The Mail of 24 December 2001 . Apart
from the headline in The Guardian, there is little if any
interest expressed in the fact that Mrs Filkin has found no
evidence of any benefits from the Hindujas, or that, according
to the last paragraph of the report, I had been exonerated. It
is apparently Mrs Filkin's personal antipathy (expressed in the
face of her own findings) towards me, my wife and other witnesses
that excites them. As there is no factual basis to support these
attacks the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are
written for this purpose.
The 'nexus' effect
An analysis of the complaints currently under investigation
shows the way in which very old events are typically networked
through the media in order to make them look like new allegations.
These are then passed on to Mrs Filkin for investigation.
Years since event
The Hinduja complaint
Andrew Lansley MP
The Sunday Times/Mail on Sunday
The Peene complaint
The GMH complaint
The Sunday Telegraph
Law Centre complaint
Andrew Robathan MP
The Lord Paul complaint
Andrew Robthan MP
The Sunday Telegraph
The Gresty complaint
Mail on Sunday
The Property complaint
BBC Today Programme
Mrs Filkin's non-reappointment
Another current, complicating and indeed dominating
factor that appears to have affected Mrs Filkin's attitude to
me has been her nonreappointment as the Commissioner. I
am afraid her attitude to me and other Members has become very
hostile. My initial concerns put to the Committee about a lack
of fairness and impartiality have only increased. The actual words
used by her in her resignation letter point to her unhappiness
with MPs, Ministers and civil servants.
Mrs Filkin's observable disappointment at the way
she feels she has been treated is carried in the press on a daily
basis. In response to the Speaker's request to find out who had
leaked her letter indicating her own decision not to reapply for
the post, Mrs Fikin stated that, in fact, she had given
it to the media. It is regrettable that this issue has become
implicated in the report.
The 'Whispering Campaign' and the issue of Bias
Recent press articles, notably from David Henke of
The Guardian (which I reported in full to Mrs Filkin and
to the Chairman, and which I append here, although for some reason
these do not form part of her Annexes) suggest that I am
in some way part of a "whispering" campaign against
Mr Henke suggests that I am one of the "chief
whisperers". This is completely untrue. When I have had criticisms
to make about Mrs Filkin (for example, with regard to her obvious
unwillingness to adhere to the accepted procedures of the investigation
process) I have put them to her directly or to the Chairman in
the full knowledge that she would be informed of them.
On 18 December 2001, the Clerk of the Committee wrote
to me to inform me that Mrs Filkin denied saying that I was part
of the "whispering campaign", though it is unclear when
this statement was made. At the same time, Mrs Filkin wrote to
the Speaker in response to his letter to her, enclosing unexpurgated
cuttings from newspapers, all of which include my name. Mrs Filkin
cannot have it both ways. Either she regards me as being part
of the whispering campaign or not. To the Speaker, it would appear
that I am; to the Clerk, I am not. I have written to the Chairman
to seek clarification of this point.
In any event, this public obfuscation of my role
by Mrs Filkin is a serious cause for concern. Making allegations
without substantiating them is clearly unacceptable conduct in
any public official, let alone one whose principal function should
be to distinguish fact from fiction when dealing with evidence,
witnesses and ultimately people's reputations. Even Sir Gordon
Downey thinks that this is the wrong way to approach matters.
"I hold no particular brief for or against
Elizabeth Filkin. But I hope she will fulfill her promise to name
those who have undermined her. The blanket media attacks on MPs
and civil servants are very damaging. They put at risk the whole
process of selfregulation and give a distorted view of parliamentary
standards." (The Guardian, 13 December 2001)
Since the contents and the conclusions of this report
have clearly become enmeshed in Mrs Filkin's very public campaign
to keep her job, I should like to see a definitive letter from
her, stating once and for all what she believes my role to be
in the 'campaign'. If, during the process of preparing her report,
she believed I was in any way part of this campaign she cannot
possibly be expected to have written an unbiased report, given,
additionally, all the other conflicts of interest that I have
already drawn the Committee's attention to in this case.
The leak of the Report to The Sunday Times, 23
Nothing sums up the seriously inappropriate practices
of this investigation more than the publication by the Sunday
Times of the 'leaked' conclusions of Mrs Filkin's memorandumconclusions
which I was expressly told by the Clerk of the Committee that
I was not allowed to see.
The Sunday Times itself
provided the information concerning this complaint (through Andrew
Lansley MP) originally claiming that a donation of £1,196.10
which was paid to cover the cost of an event at the House of Commons
on 5 June 1995 benefited me. This was the means by which the second
inquiry was opened.
At 19.54pm on Saturday 22 December 2001, David Cracknell,
the political editor, rang me to say that he had received a copy
of Mrs Filkin' s report and conclusions. He asked for comments
about statements in the report concerning my wife. He quoted Mrs
Filkin's words "deliberate collusion to conceal", which
I will examine in greater detail below.
I said that I could not comment on something that
I had not seen. In any event, the document was a parliamentary
document. However, I pointed out that the words being used were
defamatory and that if they were published they would not be covered
by privilege. I asked him what evidence he had to support such
a statement. He offered none, either on behalf of Mrs Filkin or
The Sunday Times. Clearly he had spoken to Mrs Filkin.
I pointed out that details of my wife's clients had
been widely circulated on 3 June 2001 in The Mail on Sunday
by an exemployee of hers. I told him that my wife's clients
were her own and what I knew from the information that Mrs Filkin
had sent me was that she had never acted for the Hinduja brothers.
I reminded him, further, that many MPs had spouses or partners
who had professional and commercial interests that were not registrable.
The Sunday Times nevertheless
published their story, despite offering no evidence to support
what they had said about Mrs Filkin's comments.
The language of Mrs Filkin
Mrs Filkin writes her reports not as statements of
fact, but in sound bites. She plainly knows how to ignite interest
in the press and she therefore tries in what she writes to be
as damaging as possible to the Member concerned. She is aware
that she does so behind the shield of parliamentary privilege:
her defamatory statements are not actionable, and no one can ask
her to justify her statements.
Under the process that the Committee has established
in Stage II, although Mrs Filkin is present during the examination
of the Member by the Committee, and appears to be drafting questions,
she cannot be asked by a Member to justify any assertion she makes.
The former Chairman said, on 30 January 2000:
"She is not open to questioning."
The Member's opportunity to challenge criticism is
thus severely curtailed. Indeed, Mrs Filkin's opinions have taken
on the status of oracles: a Member can never challenge her on
any statement she makes (she is equally reticent as to how such
opinions are weighted) and the press do not do so out the need
to safeguard their own selfinterest.
While it is fully accepted that any independent investigatory
process should come to its own conclusions, there is a shared
understanding amongst all those participating in such a process,
that these conclusions are based on facts, which are gathered
through a set of accepted procedures adhered to throughout the
If there is additional comment, by way of opinion,
from the Commissioner, since her standing is beyond reproach,
this should also be based on facts, and the criteria used in reaching
that opinion clearly explained. Statement of opinion can therefore
not be simply a vehicle for personal indignation, which has no
place in such an investigation, and can easily conflict with the
Commissioner's own results, undermine the integrity of the member,
and be perceived, perhaps quite unjustifiably, as vindicating
complaints (in my case, all but one of which had come via the
Scrupulous detachment in such a context is obviously
an even stronger imperative where opinions about individuals and
their actions are expressed under the protection of parliamentary
Mrs Filkin gave me only five working days
to respond to her memorandum, and this reinforces the impression
that things are being deliberately rushed through. This impatience
to publish, while having the benefit of keeping the issue alive
in the press, puts at risk the process of thorough and proper
investigation. The likely consequence of this will be lack of
attention to points made, which if left unaddressed inadvertently
may easily give rise to further allegations, and additional complaints,
whilst damaging still further the reputations of Members under
The more inflammatory Mrs Filkin's statements are,
the more dramatic the headlines in the press. The current climate
renders this inevitable.
'Deliberate collusion to conceal'
I am going to examine in detail Mrs Filkin's assertion
that my wife and I have been guilty of a "deliberate collusion
to conceal", a phrase which was widely publicised in The
Sunday Times on 23 December 2001 and reported in the following
day's Guardian, Mail and The Times.
Mrs Filkin's accusation is completely untrue and
defamatory. I am going to examine the events of the last few months
in detail to show that no reasonable person acting in an unbiased
way can come to the conclusion that there was in fact any deliberate
collusion between myself and Ms Fernandes to conceal anything
from Mrs Filkin.
I shall also demonstrate that Mrs Filkin herself
could be said to have concealed information from all the
parties to this matter.
The common definition of these words is to 'conspire
together for a fraudulent purpose' (in this case, to conceal information).
Collusion, in this context, means two people agreeing to stop
some fact or facts from emerging which would otherwise have been
My relationship with the Hindujas
Amongst other issues the inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond
KCB QC examined my relationship with the Hinduja brothers in detail.
I was interviewed by Sir Anthony for three hours in total and
I gave him written evidence. This included letters which others
had lost or misplaced.
By contrast, Mrs Filkin, on 14 March 2000 (Annex
18 p. xxxiii of Vol II of the previous Report), asked me to comment
on 'information' alleging that I had not registered "substantial
donations" from the Hinduja brothers. I replied on 19 March
2000 that "no donation has ever been made (to me) by the
On 20 March 2001, Mrs Filkin sent me a copy of Mr
Lansley's complaint, and asked me to discuss it with her, which
I did on 21 and 26 March 2001 . The issue was the payment to Mapesbury
by the Hinduja Foundation in relation to the Swami Vasami meeting
I again confirmed that I had received no payment in any way connected
with the Hindujas. In my letter to Mrs Filkin of the same date,
I again stated "I have not received any payments from the
Hinduja family. Neither has my family, as far as I am aware."
On 20 March 2001, the former Chairman, Mr Sheldon,
had also written to me, asking about the payments to Mapesbury.
In his letter, he also said "Please would you also state
whether you, or any member of your family, has received or been
associated in any way with any other payments or benefits provided
by the Hinduja family or their Foundation, and, if so, provide
full details." I replied that neither my family nor I have
received any payments from the Hinduja brothers, and I referred
to my explanation in response to the question asked by Mrs Filkin
on 14 March 2000. I also confirmed that we had received no payments
from the Hinduja Foundation.
I had no knowledge of any instruction received by
my wife from anyone connected with the Hindujas, and it did not
cross my mind that Mr Sheldon's question could relate to any such
possibility. In fact, if he had wished to know about my wife's
professional activities, his question would necessarily have had
to be put directly to her, and not me. It appears
from Annex i25 to Mrs Filkin's Draft memorandum, that the instructions
all related to employeespresumably of the Hindujas or of
companies associated with themand not to the Hinduja brothers.
When Mr Sheldon wrote to me on 20 March 2001, Mrs
Filkin had already on 15 February, been informed by Mr Gresty,
that Ms Fernandes had acted professionally for persons associated
with the Hindujas. If this information was known to Mr Sheldon
when he wrote to me, it is surprising, to say the least, that
he did not mention it so that I should have had an opportunity
of taking it into account when responding to his question. The
Committee may wish to investigate whether Mr Sheldon was provided
with this information by Mrs Filkin.
In oral evidence to the former Committee, I was quite
willing to discuss openly my relationship with the Hindujas. When
I addressed the Committee early this year at the height of the
Hinduja inquiry, I said this:
"on the Hinduja caseI know this is
not an issue for the Committee, because there is an inquiryI
have any letters that this Committee may want. It is no good wrapping
up this inquiry and something else being produced later. If the
Committee wants the letters that I wrote I should be happy to
supply those letters. I have just gone through them so I know
what they are." (30 January 2000Oral evidence
to the Committee)
No questions were put to me by the Committee.
When I first went to see Mrs Filkin on 21 March 2001,
I pointed out that this issue had been examined at length by Sir
Mrs Filkin's questions to me on that day about the
Prime Minister's relationship with the Hindujas and their relationship
with Mr Mandelson seemed to be asked more out of a consuming natural
curiosity than out of any relevance to the points she had initially
asked me to focus on. For the record, Sir Anthony Hammond's conclusions
concerning me are set out in Chapter 7 of his report, and I have
attached them in full in the Annexes.
Sir Anthony said this:
"Because of the prominence which Mr Vaz has
received in connection with the subject matter of this review,
it is I believe appropriate and also fair to him, to described
his role in the history of the applications for naturalisation
by the Hinduja brothers and to put it into the context of the
position that he holds in the Asian community in this country.
I have interviewed Mr Vaz and he has supplied me with a file of
his correspondence. Some of it is contained in the files of the
Nationality Directorate. I think that it is right to place on
record my impression that he has been open and frank in the way
in which he has approached my Review and has willingly provided
me with all the information which I have sought."(par. 7.1)
He goes on:
"Mr Vaz was first elected as a Member of Parliament
in 1987. He was the first Asian Member of Parliament since 1922
and until 1992 was the only Asian Member. As such he became (in
his own words) something of a magnet to members of the Asian community,
who looked on him to represent their interests, whether or not
they happened to be his constituents.... As well as being a wellknown
figure in India, he has effectively acquired a national constituency
in this country." (par. 7.1)
He says this about my conduct:
"I have dealt at some length with Mr Vaz's role
in the applications for naturalisation by the Hinduja brothers
because of the comments that this has excited. It is clear that
he made representations and enquiries on behalf of the brothers,
particularly Mr G P Hinduja. He also made representations on behalf
of many others, both individuals and organisations in connection
with immigration and nationality matters. It is also clear that
a number of other prominent figures made representations on behalf
of the Hinduja brothers. Some of these are mentioned in earlier
chapters. It is true that Mr Vaz was probably more vigorous in
his representative role than most of the other people who made
representations. But I believe that it is legitimate to view Mr
Vaz's role in the context of his unique position in the Asian
community, which I have already described. I have been able to
find nothing improper in his relations with the Home Office over
I asked Mrs Filkin specifically to define whom she
meant when she referred to the Hindujas. She said she was only
interested in the brothers: SP and GP.
I will now go though the chronology which will show
Mrs Filkin's statement, reported in The Sunday Times, that
there has been a 'deliberate collusion to conceal' to be without
What the various parties knew and when
I shall deal with each of the events in the last
year in turn and what was within the knowledge of each of the
parties: Mrs Filkin, myself and Ms Fernandes.
30 January 2001
I gave oral evidence to the Committee. I asked the
Committee in the light of the media interest if they had any questions
to ask of me regarding the Hindujas. No questions were asked of
me, and there was clearly no attempt by me to collude in concealing
15 February 2001
Before the previous enquiry was completed and at
the height of the media interest in the Hindujas, Mrs Filkin received
information from Ms Femandes' exemployee's spouse that Ms
Fernandes acted for the wife of a Hinduja. This information
was neither passed to the Committee nor to me for comment.
19 March 2001
I have a meeting with Robert Sheldon and the Clerk.
Mr Sheldon assures me that he regards the inquiry as closed. He
said: "There was nothing in the intray." Apparently
Mrs Filkin was in Moscow advising the Russian Parliament on Standards
and Privileges. I offer him my evidence to the Hammond inquiry
and he says he does not want it.
20th March 2001
Robert Sheldon wrote to ask if any member of my family
had received benefits or payments from the Hindujas. I know of
no benefits or payments that were received. I cannot conceal what
does not exist or what I do not know, and there has been no collusion
to conceal anything.
26 March 2001
Mrs Filkin received another letter from Mrs Gresty,
my wife's exemployee, revealing (yet again) inaccurate details
about members of the Hinduja family being clients of Ms Fernandes.
It is worth noting that the names of some of Ms Femandes' clients
were already in Mrs Filkin's possession at this time, having been
given by Mrs Gresty, and that this information was not disclosed
to Ms Fernandes by Mrs Filkin. I cannot see any evidence to support
the view taken by Mrs Filkin of collusion to conceal. The information
was given to me by Mrs Filkin herself and not concealed
by me from her.
3 June 2001
The Mail on Sunday produces
a full page spread on me and my wife (attached), four days before
the General Election. The article refers to Mrs *** as a client
and has other confidential information about my wife's clients.
There is still no indication of collusion to conceal: these matters
are very much in the public domain, as was pointed out to The
Sunday Times on 23 December 2001.
Moreover, there was no collusion, or attempt of any
kind, to prevent publication of this information. Ms Fernandes
would have been entitled to apply for an injunction, but did not
do so. Mrs Filkin is fully aware of the article as she refers
to it in her memorandum, although in contradiction of this she
claims in her meeting with Ms Fernandes never to have seen it
(4 July 2001).
23 June 2001
Mrs Gresty passes on more information to Mrs Filkin.
Mrs Filkin does not ask me any questions about my wife's clients
because she knows that I would not be able to answer.
There is no remit for the Commissioner to do this
under the Code, and therefore it cannot be regarded as collusion
or concealment. In any case, the information is in the public
domain and is readily available to Mrs Filkin. Furthermore, as
Mrs Filkin has not asked Ms Fernandes a single question about
this, she cannot be said to have concealed the information, nor
would it be a realistic expectation for me to have requested or
ordered her to do so.
2 July 2001
Mrs Filkin saw Mr SP Hinduja and Mr GP Hinduja, neither
of whom was a client of Ms Fernandes. They produced a list of
four cases stating that they were legally privileged. They pointed
out that they used a number of solicitors and had an independent
relationship with Ms Fernandes.
No questions were put to me by Mrs Filkin, and, indeed,
I knew nothing of this until 30 November, after the report
was written. There were thus no grounds for Mrs Filkin's allegations
of collusion to conceal.
It is somewhat bewildering, in the circumstances,
to recall, therefore, Mrs Filkin's own hesitancy about the appropriateness
or otherwise of pursuing this matter, when she says to Ms Fernandes
(who was never sent the list to verify) that she does not wish
to interfere in her practice.
In their interview on 2 July, GP and SP Hinduja make
clear that they use at "least 13 or 14 law firms" on
their work. They are clear that she had been consulted because:
". . . she has been known as an expert in immigration."
4 July 2001
Mrs Filkin interviewed Ms Fernandes about "Mapesbury".
In her letter calling her for a meeting, no mention was made of
the Hindujas. She said to Ms Fernandes, "I do not wish to
poke into your private practice." She stated she had information
about Ms Fernandes' clients from a "good source". Ms
Fernandes asked her to write, and reminded her of her duty of
confidentiality. Ms Fernandes also pointed out that she had legal
proceedings which were pending. Mrs Filkin said that she did not
want to "jeopardise them".
As the matter was in the public domain, it cannot
be said that there was an attempt to collude in concealing the
information. I had no right to see or sanction the publication
of any document. For Ms Fernandes' part, as a solicitor she is
duty bound to her clients not to release confidential information
to a third party. Nevertheless, it appears that Ms Fernandes checked
her obligations with her professional body, the Law Society. The
Law Society made clear that the duty of confidentiality is absolute.
However, she was as helpful to the inquiry as she was able to
be. She wrote to the Chairman and said she was happy to discuss
this matter in private with the Committee if they so wished. Given
the constant leaking, she no doubt felt this was the best way
to do so.
6th August 2001
Ms Fernandes wrote to Mrs Filkin:
"As to questions about my law firm I shall be
taking legal and professional advice on the points that you have
put and I will respond as soon as I have done this."
3 September 2001
Mrs Filkin wrote to Ms Fernandes and thanked her
for her cooperation with the inquiry. No questions were
raised directly or alluded to about any concealment or collusion.
This letter is missing from Mrs Filkin's annexes.
13 October 2001
Ms Fernandes wrote to the Chairman, Sir George Young
MP, clearly setting out in great detail her professional obligations
in great detail, and saying that if the Committee would like to
know anything about her firm she would be happy to assist them
provided this could be done in private. Mrs Filkin said only the
Committee could possibly decide if information was to be excluded.
Ms Fernandes showed a willingness to discuss these matters, subject
to the normal constraints of confidentiality.
So where is the collusion and concealment?
It is quite apparent that there is none. Allegations by Mrs Filkin
of 'colluding to conceal' are not borne out by the facts. Given
her professional obligations to her clients, as confirmed by the
Law Society, Ms Fernandes was professionally prohibited from providing
information about clients to Mrs Filkin. Mrs Filkin has interpreted
her failure to override the confidentiality of the solicitor/client
relationship as arising from a deliberate attempt by Ms Fernandes
to frustrate the investigation. This suggests a serious failure
of objectivity, as the evidence she was requesting from Ms Fernandes
was manifestly already in the public domain, and there was therefore
no obstacle to prevent her investigation from continuing.
But was Mrs Filkin hampered in any way in conducting
her inquiry? How could she have been? The reality was that she
had the information given to her by a third party. It was published
in a national newspaper, and she even had the amounts charged
in each case. Furthermore, at no time did Mrs Filkin put this
information to me. She was well aware of the fact that I was simply
not in a position to be able to answer the questions.
Could it then be argued that as the list was already
with Mrs Filkin there was no point in refusing to tell her? How
can I possibly be accused of refusing to tell her, when I did
not have that information until Mrs Filkin sent me the list on
30th November as an Annex.
This history shows very clearly that there was neither
collusion nor concealment. If Mrs Filkin is of the personal opinion
that there was, she will need to specify at which time and on
what occasion this occurred and to indicate the nature of concealment,
bearing in mind the information was already, in all its meticulous
detail, in her possession.
Mrs Filkin has not in my experience been hesitant
about accepting and using information available to her from whatever
source, whether verifiable or not. She had the information, and
I did not. No amount of personal indignation on Mrs Filkin's part
can alter the ethical codes that prevent professionals from making
client information freely available to anyone, even spouses.
Same and related matters
The Sunday Times quotes
Mrs Filkin as stating that the cases taken up by Ms Fernandes
were "the same or related". This is wrong. Ms Femandes
has never acted for the Hinduja brothers. If it is suggested to
the contrary, then perhaps such suggestions can be accompanied
by supporting evidence. In any event, this is contrary to all
the evidence given by Mrs Gresty. It is a matter of fact that
Ms Fernandes has been practising immigration law in her own right
for 16 years.
Implications for spouses and partners of MPs
Both the Registrar and Mrs Filkin have stated that
the conduct of spouses of MPs is not the subject of scrutiny.
Mrs Filkin went further and said to Ms Fernandes:
"I do not wish to poke into your private
practice." (4 July 2001)
This statement turned out to be completely untrue.
By implication, therefore, an ex-employee of the spouse of an
MP can now make unsubstantiated allegations against that spouse,
and extend these allegations to include the MP and cause an investigation
to be commenced. If the spouse then refuses to release information
on the grounds that it is professionally confidential, Mrs Filkin
will say that she is trying to conceal something. It is a bizarre
conclusion and demonstrates defective logic.
Implications for MPs who are lawyers
This will also certainly apply to Members of Parliament
who continue in practice as lawyers, and, as I understand it,
this will affect at least two members of the Committee. If an
employee of their law practice makes a complaint about the practice
and then goes on to make unsubstantiated allegations against the
Member, according to the logic adopted by Mrs Filkin in investigating
the complaint, they will have to reveal details of their clients.
If they refuse to give details, Mrs Filkin will then accuse them
Mrs Filkin and Michael Honey
The issue of spouses was first raised by Mrs Filkin
when I met her in February 2001 . She told me that her husband
remembered me from when I worked for him at Richmond Council.
My mother was also employed there. In July of that year I raised
the fact that the press had made an issue of my relationship with
Michael Honey at a minuted meeting between Mrs Filkin, my solicitor
and me. These minutes were the only document that Mrs Filkin refused
to publish at the end of the first inquiry. Mrs Filkin said to
me that she never discusses her cases with her husband.
One of the three complaints that I had received about
Mrs Filkin is related to her time at Liverpool University where
a Mr XY stated that Mrs Filkin had passed confidential information
from the University to her then husband, Geoffrey Filkin, (now
Lord Filkin) who was then the director of a local housing association.
Mr XY was a tenant of Geoffrey Filkin's housing association. I
have sent all the information to Mrs Filkin's solicitors at her
My wife's legal practice
My wife has been a practicing immigration lawyer
for the last 16 years, eight years before I had even met her.
She never discusses her clients with me. To do so would not only
be a breach of confidence, but because most of her clients would
be involved in legal action against the Government, it would place
me in an impossible position. This must apply to the spouses of
other MPs who do similar work. If her clients believed that she
was passing on information to me no one would want to consult
her. If it became known that a complaint against me could
end up with her giving out information about her clients
then her entire practice would be at risk.
This situation reflects the experience of many working
spouses of MPs. It is a convention that they do not discuss their
clients with their spouses. If Parliament wishes to change the
Code of Conduct then this should be debated by Parliament itself.
Mrs Filkin is well aware that I had nothing to do with my wife's
practice. Her key witness, Rita Gresty, confirms this in her interview
on 11 October 2001. Despite attempts by Mrs Filkin to suggest
otherwise Mrs Gresty is very firm that I had nothing to do with
any of my wife's cases.
Delay and Cooperation
Mrs Filkin makes constant reference to experiencing
delay in getting her responses. Mrs Filkin's own words, and the
way in which she conducted the inquiry, show this to be without
Throughout this enquiry I have tried to ensure that
Mrs Filkin is provided with a full and accurate picture. In the
last enquiry, I asked her for the relevance of certain questions
to the complaints that were made, or others that were not made.
I did not do so in this inquiry. I wanted to cooperate fully
with her, as I have always done. Whatever questions she put to
me, however bizarre and irrelevant, I answered them. (See the
questions about me being 'showered with flowers and sweets by
the Hinduja brothers'.)
The main reason for the delay (if there was any)
relates to two matters which I deal with below:
- A failure by Mrs Filkin to provide me with the
information she had to enable me to answer her questions fully.
- A failure by Mrs Filkin to disclose the fact
that she had information that she had intentionally held back
prior to the conclusion of the last enquiry. Had I been given
this information earlier there would have been a quicker response
and many of the significant errors of fact made by Mrs Filkin
in her memorandum would not have occurred.
- In the Peene complaint, only on the 30 November
did she inform me that she had contacted the Intervention Board.
(Details of this conversation were mysteriously missing from the
- Only on the 30 November did she inform me that
her line of questioning in respect of 70A Teignmouth Road was
based on an inaccurate statement by Mr Hastings and Mr Syal that
I still owned Teignmouth Road until 1999, a fact that is obviously
not true, given the office copy entries supplied by Andrew Hoskins
of the BBC which she had had in her possession.
I was at pains to ensure that the answers were full
and accurate. I therefore wrote to the Chairman (Annex vi17):
"I wrote to Mrs Filkin on 3 November 2001
with all the answers. There is one outstanding matter concerning
a volunteer in the office. As soon as I have obtained this person's
consent I will send the reply, but to save time I have already
prepared the reply."
Moreover, I wanted to be sure that there was nothing
further Mrs Filkin needed to put to me at any stage which would
have prevented her in any way from giving the Committee a full
I wrote to Mrs Filkin on 22 August 2001 and
asked her if there was anything left to put to me, and if so could
she please do so. She responded on 23 August 2001 and said
I then took legal advice to ensure that everything
was accurate and that there was nothing more that I should give
her. If, on the basis of that advice, any further registration
had been required, I should have ensured that this was done.
I replied to all of her points on the 28 September
2001. Expecting this to be the end of the matter, I then received
a further letter from her on the 19 October 2001 with a
further 38 questions, some relating to matters from 15
It was only on the 30 November that I discovered
that these 'further questions' related to matters that she had
had on her file since January 2001, but had, for whatever
reason, failed to put to me. Again I did not challenge the relevance
of any of this. I merely answered all her questions in a full
and accurate way.
It is also clear from the documents that I received
on 30 November 2001 that she only started to conduct her interviews
in September 2001 even though, on 23 August, she
had told me that she had nothing further to put to me.
The sheer volume of the property information supplied
by the BBC was breathtaking. They had spent several months obtaining
Office Copy entries of blocks of flats that I had nothing to do
with. All these required replies. If I had failed to go through
them meticulously I would at some later date have been criticised
for ignoring complaints, and a further complaint might have been
made on exactly the same basis as the Law Centre complaint. In
addition, the electoral registration information had to be checked
as it was inaccurate.
General failure to provide me with information
By far the most serious problem that I have encountered
with this process has been Mrs Filkin's failure to provide me
with the information which would have enabled me to respond more
fully to her questions. It was like participating in the dance
of the seven veils.
I wrote to her and asked if she could let me have
an indication of any information that she was going to give me
which I needed to respond to when looking through her draft report.
She replied to me on the 15 November (Annex ii86):
"Finally I feel I must correct this point.
You say I withhold information until after my draft report is
published. This is not so. I have put the complaints with any
supporting evidence to you on the receipt of confirmation that
they will take matters forward. I have also put the information
to you which I collected after I have considered it and thought
In other words, on the 15 November 2001, there was
no new information to give me, but by the 30 November 2001 she
presented me with 136 new annexes (700 new pages of text)
which required my response in five working days. Failure
to respond would open up the possibility of a further complaint
that I had misled the Committee, while failure to respond within
the specified time would make me vulnerable to further complaints
of delay. Furthermore, in this enquiry we were not just dealing
with complaints, we were dealing with rumours. I did not
mind this as I saw it as an opportunity to clear up the misinformation
that had been circulating in the press.
When we met for the second time, on the 26 March,
she said this:
"I ran through the list of rumours
that I knew about, none of which appeared to surprise Mr Vaz,
but I cannot be sure that he had heard of them. But I felt that
since the matters were circulating he might be best advised to
set the record straight on all of them."
Thus the investigation process as defined by Mrs
Filkin had changed beyond recognition. No longer was she restricting
herself to investigating a complaint in writing supported by evidence;
she now saw fit to extend her remit to dealing with rumours.
However, I now discover that far from telling me
of all the rumours that were circulating to enable me to
put the record straight and conclude the enquiry speedily, Mrs
Filkin was withholding much of the information about complaints
that she intended subsequently to investigate. Some was held on
file by her and not disclosed to the Committee. It is hard to
believe her, then, when she says that this was to be an informal
process designed to get at the truth.
Here are just some examples:
- The Gresty and Egginton correspondence had been
with her since the 15 February 2001, before I gave evidence to
the last Committee. Indeed it is clear from Mrs Filkin's letter
of 26 February 2001 that Ms Egginton came to meet her even before
that, allowing plenty of time to put the allegations to me and
to inform the Committee so they could be cleared up.
- The directorship complaint had been known to
her since her telephone call with Andrew Parker (Financial Times)
on 29 January 2001.
- The Mapesbury Complaint had been with her since
the 15 February 2001.
- Lord Paul's letter had been held since 9 February
2001. Had this been put to me during the last inquiry I should
most certainly have answered it. Instead, mysteriously, the letter
of 7 February, together with its reply, found its way to Mr Syal
and Mr Hastings, who then went to see Lord Paul and published
a story about it. Lord Paul replied on the 9 February and responded
to the letter of 12 February on 14 February. Since Mrs Filkin
was in the process of conducting an inquiry there was no reason
why this could not have been dealt with when the Committee was
considering the last inquiry. I agreed to deal with other points
even though they were not complaints when I gave oral evidence
to the Committee (Tuesday, 13 February 2001):
Mr Foster: Let me help. The reason I have asked
these questionsand I prewarn there is no complaintis
that I have no doubt that there will be a complaint at some time.
Mr Vaz: Yes, fine.
- The continued criticism of Ms Fernandes for not
giving Mrs Filkin information about her clients in numerous letters
to Ms Fernandes, when all along Mrs Filkin had already held the
information since 2 July 2000.
- Information relevant to the property complaint
which she has held since 5 June 2000 was not put to me until 30
November (Annex 1 31). "Indeed the organization was run
from his own home". This statement was made on 5 June
and was not put to me until 30 November (70a Teignmouth Road,
and the ABN).
- The telephone call with Pauline Williams (Annex
ii46) which took place on 23 July 2001, but was not put to me
until 19 October 2001 three months later, despite my plea to Mrs
Filkin on 22 August to give me any information that she
Repeatedly giving Mrs Filkin information which
Throughout this inquiry, Mrs Filkin ignored information
that was given to her that would have cleared up matters promptly.
- We have now established that this property
was actually owned by Keith Vaz until 1999
(an inaccurate statement made by the Sunday Telegraph). This is
not true, and she had this information provided by the BBC (Annexe
- Some of those contacted confirmed the cheques
were made out to David Golding acting on behalf of the ABN. (Inaccurate
statement made by Sunday Telegraph) This was not true and was
never put to me.
- There is also reference to anonymous people who
never materialise. This has been a feature of the investigations
by the Telegraph.
On 29 March 2001, Mr Syal and Mr Hastings
went to see Mrs Filkin with a statement from Mrs Gresty and Ms
Eggington, yet this was not put to me until 19 October 2001.
Mrs Filkin was rather disappointed with what the
Telegraph had turned up. She said:
"I had the impression when this meeting was
requested that considerable information was available which would
be given to me. However, no further information was given."
(However, I am at a loss to know how she knew this
on 29 March) I can only conclude that this minute was written
in November and not in March as is claimed.
- Evidence from the Home office that Ms Fernandes
was not involved in making representations in Mrs Matin's case
given by Mr Boyes Smith (Annex v7) is completely ignored. He actually
"I can certainly confirm that Mr Vaz has
made a number of representations." (corroborating my
statement and that of Jane Coker, Mrs Matin's solicitor). No mention
of Ms Fernandes ever making representations or doing any work
for Mrs Matin. In the annexes there is reference to one telephone
call which was never followed up, and which clearly states that
Mrs Matin's solicitors were someone else. Yet Mrs Filkin maintains
that Ms Fernandes did do work for her.
· Despite repeatedly telling Mrs Filkin
that the BT website was different from 192.com and that the information
on 192.com was 4 years out of date, and describing the method
by which this information was gathered, she chose to ignore this
and chose instead to rely on inaccurate information given by the
Sunday Telegraph. To highlight the point, I informed her that
the website listed four Elizabeth Filkins, and that since Peter
Bottomley were registered in three different properties as living
there on the same date and at the same time.
There is ample evidence to show that due process
was not followed in this inquiry.
The conduct of the investigation process was set
out by Mrs Filkin, agreed by the Committee and accepted by Parliament
in the Ninth Report of the Standards and Privileges Committee
(2000-2001). This followed widespread concern amongst MPs that
they were being asked to participate in a process that had no
These procedures were published during the John Major
Report, and both I and other Members have referred to them believing
that as they had been laid before Parliament without dissent that
this was the process to be followed. Indeed the Committee described
them as such:
"We have received a paper from the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards setting out the procedure she follows
when investigating complaints against Members of Parliament.
We are publishing it as an Appendix to the report for the information
of Members." (Opening statementpublished on 4
April 2000. The emphasis is mine.)
Despite drawing attention on numerous occasions to
the fact that the investigation process was not even followed
by Mrs Filkin herself, no comment was ever made by her about it.
It is surely not unreasonable to expect that when the process
was drawn up it would be adhered to. It has been breached in almost
every respect. It has not even been mentioned by Mrs Filkin to
justify anything she does or says.
Dealing with the process in this investigation has
been like going on a journey without maps.
The process requires the following steps:
1. A complaint
2. In writing
3. Supported by evidence
4. Put to the Member
5. The Member responds
6. The Member is told that what he or she has
said is at variance with what the complainant says
7. A draft memorandum is then written by the
8. The draft is then shown to the Member to correct
mistakes (no time limit is set down for this).
9. It is then submitted to the Committee.
10. The Committee considers the memorandum and
This is in essence a simple and straightforward process.
However, as I have already pointed out, this process was never
followed. Indeed, constant material breaches by Mrs Filkin occurred
at every stage which she completely ignored, even when these were
drawn to her attention. Furthermore there were breaches in relation
to the treatment of witnesses. In the interview with Ms Fernandes,
she is tape recorded without her consent. The following exchange
shows the scant knowledge Mrs Filkin has about her own procedures:
MF: You did not tell me at the start of the meeting
that you were actually taping. I think in your complaints procedure
you actually say if you are taping people you offer them an opportunity
to decide whether they are going to be taped or not
EF: That is for MPs, yes.
This is untrue. The process set up by Mrs Filkin
states as follows:
"If I interview a witness I make a note of
the meeting or ask the person if I may record what they are
saying on tape. If a person chooses not to be taped I always
send them the note to check that it is correct before use."
(Paragraph 12 of the procedure) (My emphasis)
Another example of disregard for the process is where
the member is only told of the complaint at the very end of the
inquiry, a procedure that even the Sunday Times itself would not
adopt if one of their journalists had a complaint made against
him. In respect of the Peene complaint, the Gresty complaint,
and in fact all except the Robathan and Lansley complaints,
the actual breaches of the Code were only explained to me on 30
November after the inquiry had closed and the memorandum
and its criticisms written.
I know of no complaint procedure in the free world
where you are only told what the actual breach is by the investigator
after the inquiry has been concluded, and where the investigator
has the triple function of investigating complaints, advising
on the Code, and identifying any breaches of it.
It is little wonder that Mrs Filkin has made so many
significant mistakes of fact and so many value judgments that
are not based on facts.
My attitude to the Inquiry
I had made up my mind from the very start to cooperate
fully and to provide as much information as possible. As stated
above, whereas, in the previous inquiry, my solicitor and I were
puzzled by being asked questions that seemed completely irrelevant,
after taking legal advice, I decided to answer any questions that
Mrs Filkin put to me, no matter how apparently irrelevant or bizarre.
The last Committee made three suggestions:
1. That they preferred Members to write to them
and to Mrs Filkin direct, not through solicitors.
2. They wanted "full" and "prompt"
3. They wanted to see full cooperation.
In total I have spent 350 hours of my time on dealing
with this inquiry. I wrote 50 letters, made 156 telephone calls.
I gave Mrs Filkin over 178 separate pieces of information. I provided
two confidential files after receiving the consent of my constituents
and I made myself available to deal with any points she raised.
I met her in her offices on two occasions, each lasting more than
an hour. My solicitor, a senior partner who the last Committee
said was "courteous and efficient", has been engaged
so far for 70 hours. Mrs Filkin never asked to see me to clarify
any points. Had she done so, I should have gone to see her immediately.
When she wrote to me on l9 October she said that
she was only prepared to complete the inquiry if I gave her "comprehensive
replies". It is safe to assume that she received them, as
she closed her inquiry shortly afterwards.
For the last two years I have dealt with matters
concerning Mrs Filkin on a weekly basis. At some stage, the Committee
should examine the amount of time taken by these inquiries for
the Member, for witnesses and for the Committee itself, and the
drawn out way in which the process has been implemented.
Mv dealings with Sir George Young Bt MP
As I was very concerned at the lack of process in
the inquiry, I spoke to and wrote to Sir George Young on a number
of occasions. I found the Chairman to be courteous, available
and helpful. I did not discuss with him in any way the details
of the case; it was too long and complicated for me to do so,
and it would have been out of keeping with what we both understood
the process to be.
I was aware that he would be passing on my comments
to the rest of the Committee and to Mrs Filkin. I went to see
the Chairman because each report is prefaced by the words:
"The Committee on Standards and Privileges
is appointed by the House of Commons ... to oversee the work of
the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards."
I raised the following important issues with him:
(a) Mrs Filkin's use of the phrase "full
and accurate". I said that having studied most of the previous
memoranda that Mrs Filkin had written, when she said "full"
it did not necessarily mean accurate. For example, if he was asked
the question by Mrs Filkin:
"Did you have lunch in New York on 4 January?"
A full and complete answer would, of course be, either 'Yes' or
'No' (Both Sir George's and my answer), but I explained if it
was a 'Yes', then in order to satisfy Mrs Filkin's definition,
she would want to know what was on the menu; who else was in the
restaurant; how you got there; and where you went after the meal.
If the answer was "No", she would require a full explanation
of where you were on that day.
I pointed out the irrelevance of such information,
as a result of which inquiries were being painfully and unnecessarily
My points on process were reported to the Chairman
who listened carefully and took note I was very grateful for this.
(b) I also emphasised that inquiries never
ended. Once one was completed there was no "drawing a line
underneath". If one piece of information was not addressed
(in the last case, the Law centre issue) someone would bring it
back and say the Member misled the Committee.
My comments have been shown to be correct in the
present inquiry. The factual complaints (the Law centre and Lord
Paul donations for which I have provided an explanation) are dwarfed
by the allegations which Mrs Filkin has made that I may
have misled her or the Committee, based on unsubstantiated and
uncorroborated comments (I cannot use the word 'evidence' because
they are not evidence).
If we accept this, then no inquiry can ever be
closed. The issue of misleading appears
to be not a question of fact but opinion, and we are unaware of
what balance of proof has been chosen.
John Maxton's Report
I found myself in total agreement with the four points
that Mr Maxton mentioned in his letter to the Chairman of 8 October
2001 . It cannot be a coincidence that separate Members
both feel the same way about the manner in which Mrs Filkin conducts
her inquiry. The points that Mr Maxton makes are as follows:
1. "Firstly, Miss Filkin has never believed
anything that I have told her nor believed anyone else who supported
my version of events. On the other hand she has taken almost without
question everything said by those who gave very flimsy evidence
2. "Secondly, too often my affairs appeared
in the press during the inquiry Miss Filkin undertook last year.
It is to the eternal shame of the last Committee that they failed
to investigate these leaks. Some of these involved clear breaches
of privilege as to when parts of the Report appeared in the Sunday
Times prior to its receipt by the Committee. The article was in
part written by the original complainant and the complainant in
the present inquiry who was in regular contact with Miss Filkin
throughout the inquiry.
3. "Thirdly, I do not believe the letter
that Miss Filkin has produced adds anything whatsoever to the
case that was dismissed by your predecessors in the last Parliament.
In passing I would ask that the Committee consider whether it
is ethical for a complainant who is a journalist to make a complaint
and then write an article which prejudges the inquiry. Everyone
else involved in an inquiry is told to speak to no one about it.
That should apply to the complainant and if it is broken as it
was in this case (1 enclose a copy of the article) the Commissioner
should inform the complainants that he cannot proceed with the
4. "It is a basic rule of British Justice
that once found not guilty a case cannot be reopened."
I have reproduced the points in Mr Maxton's points
in full as each and every point he makes applies to the case that
is before you.
Mrs Filkin refers to my 'indisposition'. She was
well aware of this, and throughout the period of my first hospitalization,
as well as the second, my Agent was in constant touch with her.
We were also aware that information was passing from the press
to Mrs Filkin on a number of matters. A number of journalists,
including those from The Financial Times and The Times,
said that they have had detailed conversations with Mrs Filkin
about my case. I am happy to name the journalists. Mr Henke of
The Guardian also claims to have spoken to Michael Honey,
Mrs Filkin's second husband and my past employer, and obtained
a quotation from him. I have not spoken to Michael Honey for 20
The criticisms of delay are strikingly incompatible
with the words of comfort offered by Mrs Filkin, who said that
I was not to 'bother about the inquiry', that my 'health was the
most important thing' and that 'I need not respond to her for
six months if I was unable to'. The doctor gave me three months
off, but the general election intervened and I was then attacked
on a daily basis by the press for not campaigning. Immediately
after the election I was hospitalised again. The sequence of
events is as follows:
18 March: The Sunday Times announces the Lansley
19 March: I go to see the Chairman.
21 March and 26 March: I answer Mrs Filkin's letters
29 March: I am taken to hospital and told to take
three months off.
3 May: I go to see Mrs Filkin, who says that I am
not to reply until I am fully fit.
6 May: General Election called. Throughout the election
campaign, The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, and
The BBC continue to make complaints.
7 June: Election Day
9 June: I am readmitted to hospital, and told to
do nothing for 2 months.
1 July: Despite doctor's warning, I begin dealing
with the rest of the complaints.
End of July: go to Canada for 2 weeks to rest.
22 August: I ask Mrs Filkin for the second
time if there is any additional information that she wishes to
put to me.
29 August: I pass all papers to Mr Bindman. Mrs Filkin
writes to him and says 'Greetings'.
There are no criticisms of delay, and no allegations
of collusion or concealment.
28 September: While the House is still in recess,
I give her a full response. On the 19 October, she writes again
with 38 more questions.
3 November: I send her all the answers (Annexes show
that she continues to have interviews, meetings and discussions
with people during this period, the records of which she only
sends to me on 30 November).
In July, just before the recess I had telephoned
the acting chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Alan Williams MP,
and asked if I could do anything further to speed matters up.
He assured me that Mrs Filkin had said that I had been "cooperating
I was astonished, therefore, to read her statement
that this inquiry could have been concluded in May. How was this
possible, since most of her interviews were conducted after that
time and some were dealt with in the very week that the draft
memorandum was written.
There is a conversation with my Agent, Mr Bennett,
on 13 June which confirms Mrs Filkin's agreement with what is
being proposed. I am happy to send the Committee a transcript
of this conversation or they can listen to the taperecording
if they so wish.
I shall now turn to each of the eight complaints
and will focus on the issue of credibility of the witnesses that
support the complaint. I shall draw attention to facts and information
in the possession of Mrs Filkin and I shall show how if these
facts and information had been made available in the memorandum,
any reasonable investigation would have no option but to dismiss
The Hinduja Complaint
(i) "That Mr Vaz had received registrable
benefits both in cash and in kind, from the Hinduja brothers (or
the Hinduja Foundation) which he has failed to register and that
by not disclosing these matters when asked during the previous
inquiry whether he had any financial interests to declare, Mr
Vaz had misled both me and the Committee."
Who is the complainant?
Andrew Lansley MP
Which is the Newspaper involved?
The Sunday Times. It published an article on 18 March
2001, and informed its readers that I had received a benefit
as a result of this donation. It published Mrs Filikn's conclusions
on 23 December 2001 but failed to tell its readers that she had
dismissed the claims.
Number of Years from alleged breach:
6 years (1995)
Nature of the Complaint:
Andrew Lansley drew attention to a payment by the Hinduja Foundation
to Mapesbury Communications in July 1995 of £1,196.10. Mr
Lansley suggests that my statement to Mrs Filkin that no donation
had been received from the Hinduja brothers would be inaccurate
if I benefited from this payment. I did not. It was not a donation
to me, nor did it benefit me.
The Evidence: No evidence
is offered by Mr Lansley or "the Sunday Times" apart
from the fact that this event happened. Evidence was given by
Mr G P Hinduja, Mr S P Hinduja, Mr David Broad of the Hinduja
Foundation and any papers relating to the event were produced.
Mrs Filkin's Analysis:
(a) There is no evidence to support the view
that the payment for this event benefited me. In fact it is clear
that this was a charitable event and no money was paid to me and
no benefits were received. Paragraph 68: "There is no
evidence that Mr Vaz, or his office, benefited".
(b) Under the same heading, the Commissioner
considers allegations made to her by Mrs Gresty, a former employee
of my wife in her legal practice (I deal with Mrs Gresty's credibility
as an issue raised by Mrs Filkin under complaint V). The Commissioner
has rightly pointed out that her remit does not extend to Members'
spouses yet she has chosen to interrogate my wife about her professional
relationship with her clients.
Paragraph 71 "My remit does not extend to
Many Members of Parliament have husbands, wives or
partners who are professional people. I do not discuss my wife's
clients with her nor do I want to know who they are, or what she
does for them. I am not in her practice, as Mrs Gresty herself
has confirmed in her evidence to Mrs Filkin on 11 October 2001.
The Chairman's question in his letter was about benefits and payments
to me and my family, and we have received none from the Hinduja
family or Foundation. This cannot include professional fees of
whatever kind which in any event are paid to third parties. I
would be astonished to learn that the Chairman intended to include
any such payments. In any events it appears that these were for
services to individuals rather than the Hinduja brothers, with
whom Mrs Filkin told me she was concerned.
Mrs Filkin has rightly rejected the other allegations
made by Mrs Gresty which are referred to in paragraph 78.
Misleading information in the Report:
The table of my intervention and my wife's charges for professional
services in connection with unrelated matters of her four separate
clients violates professional privilege. The table is also factually
wrong. Mrs Ahmed has nothing to do with the Hinduja and she has
always had her own solicitors.
Mv Response: I agree with
the analysis put forward by Mrs Filkin that there were no benefits
to me and that anything that my wife did in her firm was a matter
for my wife. At the height of the media interest in the Hindujas
I addressed the Committee and asked them if they had any matters
to put to me. They did not. I offered the Chairman of the Committee
a copy of my evidence to Sir Anthony Hammond and he said that
he did not want to see it. Sir Anthony Hammond examined these
matters in great detail and cleared me of any wrongdoing. He had
access to all the Home Office files.
Dealing with the complaint:
The article appeared in The Sunday Times on 18 March
The complaint was made on 19 March 2001
I visited Mrs Filkin on 21 March 2001
I visited Mrs Filkin again on 26 March, and replied
in writing in full on 26 March (Annex i7).
No further questions were asked by Mrs Fikin on these
Evidence from the Hindujas was taken on 2 July,
and I was asked for my comments on 30 November 2001 (32
Letter from Mr Broad (Annex ill) sent on 30 March
2001, but not put to me until 30 November 2001.
Evidence of Mr Pathan and Ms Fernandes was given
4 July, but not shown until 30 November 2001 (48pages)
The Mapesbury Complaint
Mr Vaz received registrable benefits through Mapesbury Communications
Ltd, a publishing company established by him in 1995, and that,
on the basis of information that has come to light since publication
of the Committee's report in March 2001, his denial of having
received such benefits was inaccurate and misleading."
Who is the complainant:
There is none
Which newspaper is involved:
"Anonymous callers" to the Sunday Telegraph.
The Ninth Report (2000-2001) states that the Investigation Process
specifically rules out these kinds of complaints being made.
Nature of the complaint:
That this company in some way provided registrable benefits
Years since alleged breach:
6 years (1995)
Evidence: No evidence
has been put forward to support this complaint. Mrs Filkin's main
witnesses provide no evidence, and the information which is supplied
by these witnesses undermines the complaint comprehensively. Mrs
Gresty in her letter of 23 March says she had nothing to do with
the company and did not mention me in that context. Mrs Williams
again confirms that my office had nothing to do with the company.
The Sunday Telegraph provides no evidence, just inaccurate information.
They claim a connection with an organization which I have registered,
the ABN, on the grounds that an internet website carries information
that is 4 years old. They also claim that I still own a flat that
I sold in 1997 because again the inaccurate information is still
on the website.
Mrs Filkin's Analysis:
She grudgingly accepts in para 424 [now 436] that I have
received no benefits from the company. The summary of the company
she gives in 425 [now 437] is obviously correct and there
is no evidence to contradict it. The allegation of "deliberate
obfuscation" is an unwarranted allegation and cannot in the
circumstances be justified.
Extension of remit: Mrs
Filkin extends her remit by seeking to rely on information given
by anonymous people. This is excluded by the Ninth Report.
My response: As the Committee
knows, I have always wanted to register this company to avoid
what has now happened. Mrs Filkin fails to remind the Committee
of the lengths to which I went when the company was set up in
order to register it: I not only wrote to Sir Gordon Downey, but
I also met with two successive Registrars. The Committee examined
me and Ms Fernandes.
I have written to Sir Gordon Downey again and
I enclosed the letter in my Preliminary Response but also do this
again (Annex 1). It is clear that I have followed his advice.
It is untrue to suggest that I did not want to register
the company. I asked Sir Gordon Downey if I should register it.
Two accountants have independently certified that there was no
benefit to me or my office. We all share Mrs Filkin's concern
about the lack of information as these matters are several years
old, but, as she knows, the person managing it is no longer alive.
The company was wound down because everyone had lost the incentive
to continue with it. Before taking any action, I first spoke to
Mrs Filkin, and her comment about my wife's decision was to say
to me: "I do not blame her."
Mrs Gresty is a witness in this matter, but she has
already said that she has had absolutely nothing to do with the
company. Further, she only refers to one meeting and she has no
idea on whose behalf she went. She mentions that this took place
at Coleridge House, and in the paragraph in which she describes
this meeting she does not actually say that this was a meeting
to do with the company. Mrs Gresty's husband says that he was
paid to play the piano at an event at which my wife was the main
speaker but he states clearly that this was not a Mapesbury event.
The only event that Mr Gresty played at, where my wife spoke,
was my motherinlaw's funeral. I have attached the
order of service which will confirm this (Annex 2).
Mrs Williams cannot give evidence on Mapesbury, because,
as she says, she knows nothing about it, nor does she claim that
Mr Pathan has anything to do with it, only that she attended an
event in London with him. Mrs Filkin's analysis about where the
company was located seems absurd. Companies do not usually operate
from one particular venue. To say that there must have been company
activity at Ms Fernandes' legal practice flies in the face of
the witness statements of Mrs Gresty whom Mrs Filkin says herself
is persuasive. It is untrue that I had gone through the Egon Roney
guide with Mrs Gresty. There is only one thing that I have gone
through with Mrs Gresty and that is the order of Service for my
motherinlaw's funeral (see above).
All other organizations that have been listed have
been registered. I have checked the propriety of all this with
the House authorities and they have found nothing wrong.
The Credibility of Witnesses: Pauline Williams
Pauline Williams worked in my Leicester office between
spring 1999 and spring 2000. Mrs Filkin regards her as a "credible
witness", although she has never met Mrs Williams.
Mrs Filkin had one telephone conversation with her on 23 July
2001 following the intervention of a journalist called Carl Fellstrom.
I sent Mrs Filkin my complete casefile on Mrs Williams, which
set out her relationship with my office. This followed allegations
that Mrs Williams had made to The Mail on Sunday (which
had no basis in fact) having previously telephoned my office to
complain about the reporter.
Mrs Williams' allegations became a double page feature
in The Mail on Sunday on 25 March 2001. Mrs Williams had
no knowledge about the matters she raised. According to her file,
she left my office after complaints had been received about her
from my constituents, her anger that a surgery appointment had
been given to someone she did not like, and her decision to change
political parties. I have not appended her entire case file because
I do not have her consent. However, in the Annexes I have noted
what action I have taken on her behalf. I can certainly send the
Committee her case file if it so wishes.
The Law Centre Complaint
(iii) "That Mr
Vaz failed to register a remunerated post with Leicester City
The complainant: Andrew
Robathan MP, relying on a statement made by former Leicester City
Council leader, Peter Soulsby, who served together with Mrs Filkin
on the Audit Commission during his time as a witness to the last
inquiry. Records of meetings of the Commission now confirm the
number of meetings jointly attended by both Peter Soulsby and
Inaccurate framing of complaint by Mrs Filkin:
I have never held a post with Leicester City Council.
Nature of the complaint:
That after my election as an MP I continued to be employed by
the Law Centre, and as such I should have registered this employment.
Press involvement: None
Number of years since alleged breach:
Evidence: Her three witnesses
all disagree with each other about the length of time I am alleged
to have remained in employment after my election to Parliament
in 1987. This is not surprising after 14 years. Mr Soulsby originally
made the statement on 14 March 2001. The two witnesses
subsequently called upon to verify Mr Soulsby's statement in fact
disagree with him. Mr Soulsby told the Committee that I stayed
on until February 1988. Neither of the two officers, Mr PriceJones
and Mr Goldberg, agrees with this statement. Mr Price-Jones first
says he thinks that it was in October 1987, and then agrees
with Mr Goldberg who produces an article from the Leicester Mercury
saying I resigned on 7 September 1987 and they were advertising
my post. Not only did Mr Soulsby mislead the last Committee,
but he failed to produce any letters or evidence to support his
version of events.
My response: I have always
said that on election I would have resigned my position, but continued
be paid my statutory entitlement. I had statutory entitlement
to holiday pay and flexitime which was owed to me. I recall
being troubled, at the time as to why I could not get a lump sum
payment. I have only recently discovered, thanks to Mr Goldberg's
evidence, that the reason was that Peter Soulsby was the Chairman
of the company that ran the Law Centre, and he was not
prepared to give me the lump sum.
Mr Goldberg has produced a news article stating that
I had resigned, and that on the 7 September 1987 my post
at the Law Centre was advertised. Mr Goldberg's statement is fully
consistent with my recollection. I am astonished that the Commissioner
is pursuing this complaint in view of the comments of Sir Gordon
Downey about a statute of limitations. In any event I can produce
extracts from Hansard and my campaigning work as an MP from June-September
1987 to show that I was not in fact working there. I was merely
receiving what I was entitled to receive.
Extension of remit:
(1) Mrs Filkin, as a result of this complaint
ensures that no inquiry can be brought to an end. If there is
a statement of any kind about an MP made by a witness to her or
to a third party, that statement can be used in the future by
a complainant to frame another complaint. It is a complainant's
charter and will tie up the Committee for years with allegations
that MPs have misled various inquiries.
(2) Mrs Filkin knows that she should have asked the
Committee in accordance with the procedures set out in the Ninth
Report whether or not this complaint should have been investigated,
bearing in mind it was 14 years old when made. I find it hard
to believe that the Committee would have agreed to an investigation.
The Property Complaint
Mr Vaz had registrable interests in various properties which he
had failed to register and, more particularly, that when asked
during the previous investigation whether he had any further property
interests to answer, gave an inaccurate and misleading answer."
The Complainant: There
is no complainant.
The BBC Today programme on the eve of the General election.
Nature of the Complaint:
Mrs Filkin acknowledges that these allegations were not the subject
of a specific complaint and the basis of the complaint appears
to be that I declined to answer Mrs Filkin's wideranging
question on 19 October 2000 about properties owned by me.
Number of years since alleged breach:
Mrs Filkin's Analysis:
That none was registrable. She said:
"(I appeared) to have fulfilled the registration
requirements in relation to these properties according to the
rules as they now stand and as they have been interpreted hitherto."
I told the BBC this in a long conversation with Rod
Liddle and I explained to him that his broadcast was going to
be inaccurate. I only wish that her account of this part of the
investigation has not been accompanied by unjustified criticisms
My Response: Mrs Filkin's
questions on 19 October 2000 had no relevance to any complaint
then being investigated by her as she made clear she was only
asking the question for the sake of "completeness".
I declined to answer it, not because I had anything to hide, but
because for 10 months she had been asking innumerable questions
totally unrelated to any complaints, despite my solicitor's repeated
efforts to persuade her to conclude the investigation. Every answer
given led to more questions. Is it the case that I am under an
obligation to assist Mrs Filkin to extend her investigation by
randomly exploring areas about which there was no complaint
and no evidence of anything being done wrongly?
I deeply resent the suggestion that my solicitor's courteous response
on my instructions should be regarded as inaccurate and misleading.
In any event, the Committee had already considered
these points when it dealt with the last inquiry. I had had three
meetings with the Registrar to discuss these matters, and I followed
his advice to the letter.
In researching these matters, I pointed out to Mrs
Filkin that Mr Peter Bottomley has three properties at which he
is registered as being simultaneously resident on the same date.
Mrs Gresty's Complaint
against Mr Vaz alleging that Mr and Mrs Vaz had employed an illegal
immigrant as a domestic servant and that Mr Vaz held her passport
in his constituency office."
Inaccurate Framing of this complaint by Mrs Filkin:
1. A complaint against my wife is, as Mrs Filkin
has acknowledged, not within the Commissioner's remit and no reference
of it should appear in the memorandum. My wife is not subject
to the Code.
2. While I accept that employing an illegal immigrant
(which I did not do) would be improper for a Member, Mrs Filkin
has not explained what rule would have been broken had I held
a passport in my constituency office (which I did not do).
Press involvement: The
Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times.
Nature of the Complaint:
It is very difficult to understand what the nature of this complaint
is, as the facts behind the assumption that give rise to the complaint
are all wrong.
Number of years: 6 years
Mrs Filkin's Analysis:
This is difficult to understand, because she has the following
pieces of information which completely undermine the complaint:
1. A clear and unequivocal statement by Mrs Matin's
solicitor that she is not, nor ever has been, an illegal immigrant.
2. A clear and unequivocal statement from Mrs
Matin's solicitor that she has never been employed.
3. Mrs Filkin herself says that there is nothing
wrong with Members of Parliament making representations on behalf
of people so long as it does not boost the family income.
4. A clear statement from the Home Office after
they received the same allegations, rejecting the allegations.
What Mrs Filkin purports to show about Ms Fernandes:
She says that the letter from the Home Office states that Ms Fernandes
did work for Mrs Matin. This is untrue. The Home Office is clear
that the person who made representations was I in my capacity
as an MP. One call was made from someone saying they were Ms Fernandes,
which was not followed up in any way. No one would believe that
this could be regarded as 'work'. Even Mrs Gresty, the key witness
on this, does not state that Ms Fernandes did anything on behalf
of Mrs Matin. In any event this has nothing to do with me.
The second piece of "evidence" is a letter
which appears on the 9 June sent by Ms Fernandes to Mrs Gresty
concerning her employment problems, which in passing refers to
Mrs Matin. This is in direct response to a letter by Mr Gresty
complaining that his wife was undertaking personal duties. There
is no suggestion by Mr Gresty that Mrs Gresty was working as a
domestic servant. In any case, it has nothing to do with me.
The Evidence: This complaint
rests entirely on the statements of Rita Gresty. Ms Eggington
has no first hand knowledge of any of these matters. But I now
produce evidence which shows the transparent unreliability, evasiveness,
and lack of frankness of the three witnesses: Ms Eggington, and
Mr and Mrs Gresty. The evidence produced will show:
- that Mr and Mrs Gresty were involved in a yearlong
campaign to get compensation and/or other monetary compensation
from Ms Fernandes;
- that they instructed employment solicitors with
a view to instituting industrial employment proceedings;
- that they threatened that these proceedings would
harm Ms Fernandes because of her position in the Law Society and
because her husband was an MP;
- that they indicated that the publicist Max Clifford
had been in touch with them, but that they did not seek to damage
Mr and Mrs Vaz's reputation;
- that they failed to disclose that they had substantial
debts which they had asked Mr Vat to assist them with.
The documents will also show, in relation to Ms Eggington,
whom Ms Filkin also regards as a credible witness, that she contacted
witnesses in this inquiry ostensibly to assist with other matters,
but with the underlying intention of making direct contact with
Mrs Matin. She:
- failed to disclose the activities of the Grestys,
prior to the complaints being made;
- failed to produce letters, and the removal of
handwritten notes from evidence to Mrs Filkin which would have
cast doubts on their motives;
- failed to disclose the contact between Ms Fernandes'
solicitors and themselves with regard to a Mail on Sunday article.
- remained in constant contact with various members
of the press.
Either Mrs Filkin chose to ignore these facts in
writing the memorandum, or she was not told of them. It would
appear to any reasonable person that dragging Mrs Matin in was
an afterthought, after a failure to produce evidence to substantiate
the allegations in the Hinduja complaint. The Mrs Matin story
was a complete fabrication given by the Grestys and Ms Eggington
to a number of newspapers for publication, followed by a blatant
denial that they had done so.
I have answered the two questions which have been
put to me by Mrs Filkin. Mrs Matin was in a women's refuge in
Leicester when she contacted me. I of course took up her case.
I did not arrange the marriage. It is a bizarre suggestion. I
attended the marriage to show friendship and support for Mrs Matin
after a very difficult period in her life. We regard her as a
I continued to make representations, and during this
time she had three solicitors, none of whom was my wife. Her second
husband has been ill with cancer and he died this summer. I never
keep passports in my constituency office because of the obvious
fear that they might be lost. It is a practice that I have maintained
for 14 years. I also felt that it was inappropriate to talk about
a constituent's case, especially one involving domestic violence
unless the consent of that person was forthcoming. There has now
been consent to this information being released in the form of
a solicitor's letter from the person concerned. But there is no
consent to publication.
The Credibility of Witnesses
Eileen Eggington described herself to the Mail
on Sunday as a former police officer and a friend of the Gresty
family who at some stage in her career protected both Margaret
Thatcher and Salman Rushdie. I have never met Ms Eggington or
to my knowledge spoken to her. Although she says that she works
for the Foreign Office, I never met her when I was there.
There is an interesting exchange when Ms Eggington
tries to deal with claims that she has contacted a witness, which
appears to sum up the contradictory statements that are made by
her. Mrs Filkin writes to Mrs Eggington (Annex iv4)
"It would also be improper for any complainant
or witness to contact other witnesses, potential witnesses or
the media in relation to such an inquiry."
Ms Eggington replies:
"If Mr Vaz made this complaint against me in
good faith somebody, presumably female, must be impersonating
me. Should this woman be identified, I wish to consider taking
legal action against her."
Later she can be shown in her own statement to have
contacted not just witnesses but the main person whom she has
complained about, namely, Mrs Matin.
Ms Eggington and the press
She has also been in touch with the press on a regular
basis, casting substantial doubt on the suggestion that she and
Mrs Gresty have been acting in the public interest. She says:
"In the past few months I have answered questions
put to me by Chris Hastings of the Daily Telegraph, Jason Lewis
of the Mail on Sunday and Nick Craven of the Daily Mail. I did
not give press interviews (see date of Mail on Sunday interview).
I made no record of the questions asked or the answers given.
Nick Craven has sent me copies of documents he obtained in relation
to the marriages of Mary Matin and her husband."
But the main publicity surrounding Ms Eggington was
the 3 June 2001 article in the Mail on Sunday. A brief
look at this article will confirm Ms Eggington's personal involvement
in it. After all, Ms Eggington has been careful to point out that
Mrs Gresty was ill in hospital and did not even "read
I attach the article in the appendices (Annex 4)
I invite the Committee to read this article and
to ask how they believe it is possible for the story to have been
written without the cooperation of either Ms Eggington or
Ms Eggington and Breach of confidentiality
On 7 June 2001 in a letter to Ms Femandes'
solicitors, who had contacted her because of the clear breach
of client confidentiality, she categorically denied any involvement
in the Mail on Sunday story. This is very hard to believe.
She stated that she had not supplied any statement to any newspaper,
and that neither Mrs Gresty nor she had received money. However
this is contradicted by the Commissioner's own note of her meeting
with the Sunday Telegraph on 29 March when Mr Hastings
and Mr Syal came to the Commissioner in March with statements
that had been prepared by Mrs Gresty and Ms Eggington.
She states that only on 11 June was a "formal
complaint" made. This is untrue. She had already made a complaint
in March. She had been in regular contact with Mrs Filkin since
before 15 February. She had met her, e-mailed her, and
written to her according to Mrs Filkin (See letter 26 February
Mrs Filkin has not made available, either
to me or the Committee, a note of the meeting or a copy of the
Ms EggingtonContact with witnesses
The complaint, says Ms Eggington, was based on "evidence"
obtained by me from Mrs Gresty on 25 June. She provided more detailed
information to support the complaint in a signed statement.
Mrs Matin and her husband lived in the Bina restaurant
less than 100 yards from her home. Ms Eggington also lives 100
yards from the same restaurant, tells Mrs Filkin that she did
not "frequent the restaurant and I made no attempt to contact
either her or her husband." This statement of course was
not borne out by subsequent events.
In her attempt to contact Mrs Matin, the very person
she had reported to the Home Office as an illegal immigrant, Ms
Eggington appears to have been to every other Indian restaurant
in Northwood. In fact her description of how she found Mrs Matin
is like an episode from "The Bill".
She first spoke to the owner of The Eastern Promise
in Northwood Hills, a Mr Ali. She said: "I briefly told him
why I was concerned for Mary Matin's welfare and asked him if
he knew where she was living". Far from showing concern for
her welfare; she had in fact put it at risk.
She then went to see another mutual friend, a Mrs
P U, (who lives 50 yards from the Bina) who telephoned Mr Matin's
former business partner, Abdul Miah, in Reading. Ms Eggington
did not disclose to any of these people that she claimed that
Mary Matin was an illegal immigrant, and that she had reported
the matter to the Home Office and to the Parliamentary Commissioner,
and indeed had talked to the press about Mrs Matin.
Mrs Eggington claims that I arranged the marriage,
no doubt because I attended her wedding, but Mrs Gresty says in
the statement that this was a genuine marriage and that they had
fallen in love (Statement on 25 March). I have attended a number
of Asian weddings, but no one has ever accused me of arranging
On the 13 September, Ms Eggington goes with a friend
to the Eastern Promise because she was "urged" to do
so. The waiter who "urged" her to go there lived 50
yards from the Bina restaurant. She claims to have known the boy
since he was an "immigrant", and yet she turns up on
the day that he is not there. She talked to Mr Ali and described
the scene as "all rather bizarre". Indeed, it was. This
was not a person trying to help a friend, albeit a friend that
she did not know. These were the actions of a police officer trying
to locate a witness, a witness whom she had informed on to the
Home Office and whom she knew she should not be contacting in
On 15 September 2001, Ms Eggington asked "P"
to find out where Mrs Matin was living. P decided that they should
both go and see her because she wanted to "offer condolences".
Mrs Matin's husband had just died of cancer. In his last few days
he was subjected to outrageous and intolerable pressure from journalists
from the Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times who called
at his home and photographed him in the last days of his life.
On 19 September (a whole month before she told the
Commissioners), Ms Eggington went with another Bengali friend
to see yet another Northwood resident. Again, she "told a
friend why she was concerned for Mary's welfare" but not
that she had written about Mary to the Home Office, and the Parliamentary
Commissioner, and contacted the press. No one could seriously
believe this statement
The unidentified friend, Ms Eggington tells us, "...
knew little about Mary but had looked after her since her husband
passed away in July."
Imagine the scene at Mrs Matin's house: a Muslim
woman in mourning, who recently had her husband die of cancer,
with relatives who were after her money and her share in the business,
and three women outside the front door asking her questions.
P told Mrs Matin that she was a police officer and
wanted to help her. "I immediately corrected her and said
I was not but that I had come as a friend." No one reading
the history of this matter could come to this conclusion.
Ms Eggington tells us that "Mary stood all this
time and looked frightened. She spoke only a few words of English
and spoke to P in Hindi." Ms Eggington was there, she claims,
to prevent her being "swindled out of her inheritance".
When Ms Eggington mentioned Rita Gresty, Mrs Matin
did not answer and just "stared wideeyed at me."
"I told her Rita was ill, but was now getting better."
Ms Egginton's precision then gets hazy. She says
in "early September" (no date here) that "I went
to visit my long standing friend, P U (no mention of the fact
that Mrs U lives 50 yards from the Bina and 100 yards from Ms
Eggington). I showed her the wedding photographs of Mary and Mr
Matin (which Eggington claims she got from the Daily Mail and
sent to the Commissioner). She thus acknowledges that she acted
as a conduit between the press and Mrs Filkin.
She then states falsely that "I have made no
attempt to contact her during that time." Ms Eggington and
a male colleague then remained in shifts outside Mrs Matin house
and spoke to her neighbours.
Not surprisingly, Mrs Matin reported matters to the
police on the 8 October. She was seen by PC Sheila Waring,
who contacted Ms Eggington. Ms Egginton told the PC: "I told
her the brief background to my original interest in Mary and about
the complaint that I had made to the Parliamentary Commissioner",
but she has never mentioned this to anyone else.
Ms Eggington then rang the police a few days later
to ask if Mrs Matin had accepted her explanation. It is difficult
to understand why she did this when she knows she should not be
contacting witnesses and intervening on an investigation in which
she was involved.
Mrs Filkin describes Ms Eggington as a "major
witness". It is impossible to see how she can be so described.
She has absolutely no first hand knowledge of any relevant matter.
Mrs Filkin did not tell the police that she had received a statement
to the effect that Ms Eggington had contacted witnesses.
Ms Eggington's role in Mrs Gresty's employment
Ms Eggington also failed to tell Mrs Filkin of her
role in trying to deal with the employment related issues concerning
Mrs Gresty. This came about much later, and only surfaced after
Mrs Filkin's assertion that there were no such proceedings.
But Ms Eggington sees them as an underlying cause,
and speculates openly:
"Many if not all her problems stemmed from her
employment as the PA with Maria Fernandes (something that she
never disclosed in her correspondence with Ms Fernandes, or in
the course of telephone calls over many months, or requests for
money and the like.) She seemed better having got matters
off her chest. In my professional judgment (though she is not
a doctor) her mind and memory were not impaired by her depressed
She did not bother to tell Mrs Filkin about the letter
of 11 June from Ms Fernandes' solicitors. She related the recent
correspondence as it became clear that she was going to be taken
She said in her letter to Mrs Filkin of 12 November
"Rita was far too ill to withstand the stress
of giving evidence to an employment tribunal."
However, this is not what Mrs Gresty's employment
lawyer, Bulfin and Co., said. They said that she was ready to
go to the tribunal.
She clearly wanted to conclude a deal with Ms Fernandes
about Mrs Gresty's employment situation because by 2 February
she proposed that Rita Gresty sign a confidentiality clause. This
was only 10 days before contacting Mrs Filkin. It is very odd
behaviour for someone who was prepared to reveal all.
In fact, as early as 20 January 2001, she
was "anxious to close this particular chapter of Rita's life
in order to help her move on. I should therefore be grateful for
an early reply and settlement of money due." Rather than
closing the chapter to protect Rita, and let her move on, she
was about to open a new one.
Mrs Filkin puts great store by Mrs Gresty's credibility
as a witness. But the evidence demonstrates that Mrs Gresty has
not disclosed to Mrs Filkin many material facts. I also found
it surprising that knowing that Mrs Gresty was a mental patient
in secure accommodation Mrs Filkin did not consider speaking to
Mrs Gresty's doctor about her before taking any matters forward.
The Gresty's financial hardshipraised by
Mrs Filkin mentions Mrs Gresty's motives in bringing
these matters to light. Financial hardship, though raised by Ms
Eggington, was clearly not picked up by Mrs Filkin The correspondence
is clear on this point.
21 December 2000: Ms Eggington
writes to Ms Fernandes:
"Rita was suffering financial hardship and she
wanted the money."(Annex iv20)
"You are aware of the financial hardship Rita
and Vyan are suffering and it is vital that this issue is resolved
without further delay."
Ms Fernandes replies in a letter to Vyan Gresty on
9 June 2000, setting out what assistance has been given: "I
intervened when your home was under threat, and I have helped
her and have eased her load."
I can also confirm to the Committee that I was approached
by Mr and Mrs Gresty to assist them with their financial problems.
I enclose a copy of a note prepared by Mrs Gresty for me which
sets out their difficulties. In addition, Rita Gresty asked for
assistance with their debts with Barclays Bank. In the note, she
argues that because of their record of non-payment the Bank should
not have lent them any money: in other words, it was the Bank's
fault. I wrote to the Bank and accompanied Mr and Mrs Gresty to
a meeting. The Bank agreed to defer taking repossession action.