Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Keith Vaz MP

Response to Draft Memorandum of Elizabeth Filkin

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 Report.

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 me.

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.

Press involvement

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 intertwined.

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 astonishing.

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 privilege."

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 process—a 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 care.

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


Media involved

The Hinduja complaint

6 years

Andrew Lansley MP

The Sunday Times/Mail on Sunday

The Peene complaint

2 years

Grahame Peene


The GMH complaint

2 years


The Observer

Mapesbury complaint

6 years


The Sunday Telegraph

Law Centre complaint

14 years

Andrew Robathan MP


The Lord Paul complaint

8 years

Andrew Robthan MP

The Sunday Telegraph

The Gresty complaint

5 years

Mrs Gresty

Mail on Sunday

The Property complaint

15 years


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 her.

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. He said:

"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 December 2001

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 memorandum—conclusions 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 process.

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 press).

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 privilege.

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 investigation.

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 revealed.

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 Hinduja brothers."

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 employees—presumably of the Hindujas or of companies associated with them—and 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 case—I know this is not an issue for the Committee, because there is an inquiry—I 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 2000—Oral 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 Anthony Hammond.

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 these matters."

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 foundation.

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 anything.

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." (Page 24)

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 of concealment.

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 request.

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 foundation.

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 Annexes.)

  • 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 analysis.

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 no.

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 years ago.

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 it relevant."

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 questions—and I pre­warn there is no complaint—is 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 had.

Repeatedly giving Mrs Filkin information which she ignored

Throughout this inquiry, Mrs Filkin ignored information that was given to her that would have cleared up matters promptly. For example:

  • 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 ii31).

  • 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 says:

"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 and that the information on 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.

Due Process

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 rules.

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 statement—published 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 Commissioner.

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 reaches conclusions.

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" answers.

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 dragged out.

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 against me.

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 complaint.

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.

My illness

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 years.

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 complaint.

19 March: I go to see the Chairman.

21 March and 26 March: I answer Mrs Filkin's letters in full.

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 fully".

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.

The Complaints

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 complaint.


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 Members' spouses..."

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 2001

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 matters.

Evidence from the Hindujas was taken on 2 July, and I was asked for my comments on 30 November 2001 (32 Pages).

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

(ii)  "That 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 to me.

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 Council (sic)."

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 Mrs Filkin.

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: 15 years

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

(iv)  "That 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.

Press/Media involvement: 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: 15 years.

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 of me.

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

(v)  "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 (1995)

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 family friend.

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

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 any newspapers".

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 Mrs Gresty.

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 2001).

Mrs Filkin has not made available, either to me or the Committee, a note of the meeting or a copy of the e-mail.

Ms Eggington—Contact 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 them!

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 any way.

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 problems

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 state."

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 to court.

She said in her letter to Mrs Filkin of 12 November 2001:

"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.

Rita Gresty

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 hardship—raised by Ms Eggington

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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 8 February 2002