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


APPENDIX 13 (continued)

Tribunal proceedings and employment related issues

Despite Mrs Gresty's protestations that she was not in dispute with Ms Fernandes, the correspondence shows quite clearly that the aim, in the event of not securing a financial deal, was to take Ms Fernandes to the Employment Tribunal.

On the 12 November 2001, Mrs Filkin asked Mrs Gresty if she was involved in proceedings against Ms Fernandes. Mrs Gresty denied that she was, and in a letter dated 13 November, she responds to Mrs Filkin as follows: "I wish to state that this is untrue and has never been the case." Of course, technically, on the 12 November 2001, she was correct that there were no current proceedings, but quite clearly from correspondence from Mrs Gresty's solicitors, Bulfin and Co., we can be left in no doubt whatsoever as to what the true position was. In a letter dated the 11 July 2001, from Bulfin and Co. (who, incidentally, describe themselves as employment law solicitors), they state:

"... We can also see from the correspondence that our client's claims are not admitted by you, and we do not doubt that if this matter was brought before a Tribunal by way of a constructive dismissal claim, the case would be strenuously defended ...We are aware of your high profile within the Law Society and that of your husband and would have thought that you would prefer to deal with this matter in a discreet way rather than publicly in the Employment Tribunal." (My emphasis)

On the 19 July, Bulfin and Co., writing on behalf of Mrs Gresty, state:

"...The fact is that our client considers that her current position gives rise to a prospective constructive dismissal claim. Hearings in the Employment Tribunal as you are no doubt aware are open to the public and the names of the parties are contained in lists published by the Employment Tribunal. We appreciate that your husband has no connection with your firm, nevertheless the name of your firm and the fact that you have a high profile within the Law Society may attract media interest." (My emphasis)

In the same letter Mrs Gresty's solicitor offers her client's silence in exchange for payment.

In the letter of 1 August 2000, Mrs Gresty's solicitors state:

"... There are currently no medical reports available although there will be in due course. If you feel that you have to make a speedy decision in this matter without sight of medical reports this is a matter for you. The reasonableness of your actions will be judged by the Employment Tribunal."

This tone in the correspondence from Mrs Gresty's solicitors is echoed in the letters below (all in the Annexes)—all of which relate to Mrs Gresty's legal claim against Ms Fernandes. The law provides that Mrs Gresty was entitled to proceed with her claim to the Employment Tribunal until the end of February—which, incidentally, is when Mr Gresty first wrote to Mrs Filkin. They are reproduced in the Annexes, as follows:

28 July 2001

7 August 2001

20 October 2000

21 December2001

28 June 2001

5 July 2000

29January 2001

3 January 2001

2 February 2001

Indeed, the letter from Mrs Gresty to Mrs Filkin, dated 16 November 2001, contains contradictions in paragraphs one and four:

"At the onset of my illness, legal action against Ms Fernandes was one of many options that was considered, but on strong legal and medical advice was not proceeded with and she was informed." This is of course not the case. Ms Eggington continued to state that she would be contacting ACAS."

She goes on:

"... had an action for unfair dismissal been commenced the legal deadline for such action was February 2001 (when Mr Gresty first contacted Mrs Filkin) and I am concerned that Ms Fernandes may have given you the impression that an action had commenced or is still outstanding ... It is unthinkable and inconceivable that Ms Fernandes can produce any evidence confirming the instigation of legal proceedings against her for unfair dismissal. .."

It is clear that Mrs Gresty is under the false impression that Ms Femandes had mentioned these employment related issues. She had not. I had, as Mrs. Gresty had told me about them herself.

Nevertheless, this statement is contradicted by the correspondence from her solicitors as shown above. Indeed, Ms Eggington' s letter to Ms Fernandes of 21 December 2000 is an unveiled attempt to threaten legal action "... I have been given the ACAS number if I need to pursue the matter, and I do hope that for Rita's sake, this will not be necessary."

Yet, Ms Egginton, plainly contradicting herself, tells Mrs Filkin on 12 November 2000 that there were not going to be any legal proceedings.

Mrs Gresty's employment in Ms Fernandes' office

Further contradictions in evidence emerge when Mr Gresty, who, while maintaining that Mrs Matin has worked in the same office as Mrs Gresty, complains at the same time of, inter alia, his wife's loneliness in the office.

On 8 June, Mr Gresty wrote to Ms Fernandes as follows:

"... The volume of work she is required to do in an environment where she had no other contact with people for many hours on end. Because of her renowned conscientiousness... she worked hours far in excess of what is generally accepted for such post. . . frequently without a break and lacking companionship. . . Rita will recover her strength and confidence with the help of her friends. I know that she places you, Keith, and your family, in that third category, as do I."

On the 14 June 2001, legal proceedings are referred to again when Mr Gresty writes:

"... I can make no comment of its main contents until I have taken independent legal and medical advice regarding the points you have made."

In a letter from Ms Fernandes to Ms Eggington, she agreed to all the requests that had been made to her. Following this, Ms Eggington wrote to Ms Fernandes. Unfortunately, the copy that Mrs Filkin was given does not contain the crucial insight into Mrs Gresty's health as the postscript has been obliterated. Whether this was by Mrs Filkin or Ms Eggington we do not know. The letter of the 20 January was the basis for contacting the police, and an alarm was set up at our home because of a threat by Mrs Gresty to remove our children.

Mrs Gresty's motives—an issue raised by Mrs Filkin

On the 12 November 2001, Mrs Gresty wrote to Mrs Filkin. She made it clear that it was only because of what she read in the newspapers that she felt she should tell the truth.

However, the Committee is asked to bear in mind the following:

1.  According to Ms Eggington, Mrs Gresty did not read any newspapers as she had been in hospital for six months (statement of 19 October).

2.  With regard to the Mail on Sunday article of the 3 June, if Mrs Gresty was not the source and Ms Eggington denies being the source, who, then, was the source? However, as the Committee will note, Ms Eggington points the finger at Mrs Filkin and Mr Andrew Pearce from the Home Office in her letter to Ms Fernandes' solicitor.

3.  It would be pertinent to find out what newspaper article Mrs Gresty had read concerning Ms Fernandes which propelled her into contacting Mrs Filkin for the first time.

4.  It is necessary to examine the reasons why Mrs Gresty chose not to disclose anything about her year­long dispute with Ms Fernandes over compensation, and only did so when there was no other alternative because of the correspondence released with this response.

5.  It is necessary to examine the reasons why Mrs Gresty chose not to mention to Mrs Filkin that she had been approached by Max Clifford, the publicist, a year ago.

In the letter to Mrs Filkin, Ms Eggington discloses for the first time the history of employment­related disagreements with Ms Fernandes. She says:

"At our meeting ... both Mr and Mrs Gresty confirmed that they had not commenced legal proceedings. I am enclosing copies of correspondence between Maria Fernandes and me which will illustrate why she has no good reason to believe that Mr and Mrs Gresty had any intention of taking their case to an Employment Tribunal."

However, the truth is plainly evident in the letter from employment solicitors, Bulfin and Co., written on behalf of Mrs Gresty, (see above) and which refers to legal redress:

"... the reasonableness of your actions will be judged by the Employment Tribunal." (1 August 2000)

Ms Eggington claims that on 13 December 2000 she spoke to Ms Fernandes and told her very clearly that there was no question of litigation against her because the Grestys could not afford to pay a lawyer. However, Ms Eggington actually says, "I have been given the ACAS helpline number if I need to pursue the matter. I do hope for Rita's sake this will not be necessary." Yet, the letter from Bulfin and Co. contains real threats to go to court.

On 8 November 2001, two phone calls were made to Mrs Filkin, respectively from Mrs Gresty and from Mr Gresty. On that day, Ms Eggington adds:

"... It was not easy to take statements from Mrs Gresty (whom she previously described as an 'excellent witness', see statement on 11 June 2001). She has been suffering from severe depression since May 2000 * * *. Many, though not all, of her problems stem from her employment as PA with Maria Fernandes, and it was as a result of my spending hours with her in an unofficial role that she spoke about the things that I brought to her attention."

Ms Eggington makes clear in her statement of 26 March 2001 (Annex il6) that these matters relate to my wife, and not me. Her 7­page statement relates exclusively to Ms Fernandes' legal practice and her clients, without any implied or direct attempt to involve me. A transcript (running to 6 pages) dated 11 October (Annex il9), seen by me for the first time on 30 November 2001, makes it patently clear that this matter is not directed at me:

Mrs Gresty: "... It was Mrs Vaz, not Mr Vaz."

Finally, in an Attendance note, 2 February 2001, made just a few days before contact with Mrs Filkin, the then current employment issue is summarised by Ms Fernandes:

1.  Ms Eggington says Vyan is upset because I had not contacted Rita Gresty (after they had told Ms Fernandes not to contact them but to go through a solicitor). I advised that I did not want to tip her over and that was why I had not responded.

2.  Discussed a compromise agreement and contact with ACAS.

3.  Explained I did care about Rita and got on with her and hoped that she would be in contact for many years.

4.  Eileen accepted that there were many factors that were the cause of the illness.

5.  Agreed that I would get some sort of compromise agreement. I did explain that I thought she might not have the capacity to sign. Eggington said that she might be able to get a signature when Rita was lucid.

Mrs Matin's passport

The issue of Mrs Matin's passport has been framed as part of the complaint. This is a puzzle. Mrs Gresty says in her interview of the 11 October:

"I got the impression that it was a very touchy subject and it was better that Keith dealt with the passport in Leicester."

But later:

RG: "She felt it was helpful that it was being dealt with by Mr Vaz."

Ms Jane Coker, on behalf of Mrs Matin, confirms that the passport was "not sent to Keith's office." I am still not aware of what point is being made about the passport. The practice of whether an MP keeps a constituent's passport varies. I do not hold passports in my Leicester Office because of the fear that they may get lost. They are always retained by the person seeking advice. In any event, Mrs Matin wished to stay with her husband who was seriously ill with cancer. She had no wish to leave the country.

My non­involvement in Ms Fernandes' legal practice

Rita Gresty, who is the principal witness in these matters, emphatically denies any assertion that I was involved in my wife's practice. This crucial fact is ignored by Mrs Filkin.

In her interview on the 11 October, Mrs Gresty confirmed again that I had nothing to do with Ms Fernandes' practice.

EF: Were you doing that on behalf of Mrs Vaz and her legal practice or Mr Vaz only?

RG: On behalf of Mrs Vaz only.

However what is odd about this interview is that the tape stops several times. It is quite obvious from the flow of the interview that there is a conversation between Mrs Gresty, Ms Eggington and Mrs Filkin and then the tape recording resumes.

I will want to study the tape­recording of the interview.

In the interview with Mrs Filkin on 11 October 2001, when pressed by Mrs Filkin:

EF: Could I start off by asking you whether you have got any evidence of Mr Vaz's involvement in obtaining the passports for anyone connected with the Hindujas or their business?

Rita Gresty: It was Mrs Vaz, not Mr Vaz.

Finally, Mrs Gresty's credibilty is dealt a further blow. Ms Eggington says:

"The complaint was based upon evidence obtained by me from Mrs Gresty." However, Mrs Gresty is supposed to be "seriously ill" in hospital, and we have been told that she does not read the newspapers, and did not know about the article.

Mapesbury

Mrs Gresty clearly states that she had nothing to do with the company.

In Annex il5A, 25 June 2001, she says:

"I have been asked about Mapesbury company records. I do not remember seeing any Mapesbury records at either office."

In Annex v7:

Mrs Gresty did not know why she attended the meeting at Coleridge House. She confirmed however that neither Keith Vaz was nor Maria Fernandes was present. There is no suggestion by Mrs Gresty that this was a Mapesbury meeting.

In an earlier statement, Ms Eggington says:

"Mapesbury PR (no such company) was in existence in August 1998 (get info from companies house), Maria Fernandes, wife of Keith Vaz, owned it but it had no staff. Rita was aware that Hanif Patahn (wrong spelling) was a director and the only person involved in the business. Rita did not handle any accounts or correspondence but believes that Maria employed a Chinese accountant. She (Mrs Gresty) read in the newspapers (not identified) three weeks ago that Hanif had resigned as a director."

Apart from the inaccuracy of the above names of the company and the director, this statement clearly contradicts Ms Eggington's submissions that Mrs Gresty had spent the last six months in Northwick Park not reading the newspapers.

The contradictions of evidence reach significant new heights in dealing with Mary Matin's alleged position as a nanny. In her statement in June, Rita Gresty says:

"... Mary immediately started working for the Vazes, travelling daily to ***."

She claims this took place in 1995. This is quite wrong on a simple matter of fact: we moved to *** in 1996, and in that year Mrs Matin was living in a refuge in Leicester.

Ms Eggington tells us that the information submitted was "hearsay", but obtained from conversation with Mrs Matin. However, the accuracy of such submissions is yet further compromised by Ms Eggington's later revelations, by way of statement, that Mary could not speak to her in English.

This was contradicted further by 11 October statement:

EF: So she came to them recruited as a nanny, not because they were going to help her sort out her divorce or immigration status? That came afterwards?

Mrs Gresty: I think that came afterwards, yes.

She states that in August 1998 Mrs Matin was on the scene as a nanny and living with Mr Matin, although just above this she says that Mrs Matin started working in 1995 . Neither of the dates is accurate. We already had suitable domestic arrangements in place, and the register shows that we had a live­in nanny with us called Anna Fernandes.

Ms Eggington states that Mrs Gresty had said that "Mrs Matin had been forced to marry Mr Matin." However, on 11 October, Rita Gresty herself says: "... she felt that it was helpful that it was being dealt with by Mr Vaz."

Rita Gresty was also convinced that "Mary was in danger of being deported as an illegal immigrant." This is contradicted by the facts. Jane Coker has stated as a matter of law that "She is not and has never been an illegal immigrant."

"Rita believes that Mary loved her husband and that theirs was a true marriage", but this is immediately contradicted in the same statement by her belief that "Mary was rescued and taken to live with Abdul Matin, known as Matin, above the Bina restaurant."

"On one occasion she answered a phone call for Maria Fernandes Vaz. Rita tried to get Maria to take the call but she said words to the effect "I do not want anything to do with it". (This is fully consistent with Ms Fernandes' statement that she was not involved in these matters.) But Rita, relying solely on her own convictions and without any factual basis, made a statement to the police that Maria employed Mary, a statement that has been contradicted by both her and her husband in letters to Ms Fernandes.

Nanny arrangements

Rita, above all, is well aware that we have live­in nannies of our own. Rita herself confirms that the family had live­in au pairs on a regular basis:

"Maria employed live­in au pairs on a regular basis. Rita used to arrange this through a nanny agency in Stanmore which specialises in au pairs from Eastern Europe (she thinks most came from the Czech Republic). Maria liked to take the more mature women in their early 20s."

None of these self­evidently contradictory and unsubstantiated claims was put to Mrs Gresty when the Commissioner met her. Indeed, she was puzzlingly regarded as a 'key witness' whose credibility was accepted by the Commissioner as being 'persuasive'. Mrs Filkin did not even refer to her document, nor was she asked to confirm the contents of any statement made. Neither is there any evidence to suggest that Mary was working "as a domestic servant". Furthermore, of the numerous letters sent to Maria, not one of them mentions Mary actually working in the office, and indeed it was not even mentioned in the complaint. It is quite obviously an afterthought, as no evidence was offered to substantiate the first complaint.

And one has to ask the question as to what the Eggington/Gresty/Bina restaurant 'soap opera' has got to do with me.

Mr Vvan Gresty

Mr and Mrs Gresty confirmed that they were frequent visitors to the Bina restaurant. In a letter of 19 November 2001 from Mr Gresty, he said:

"My wife and I were entertained to dinner at the restaurant where Mary's husband works in High Street, Stanmore (not correct, it was Northwood) and struck up a long conversation with her how come she acted as hostess." This is clearly at odds with Ms Eggington's statement that she spoke no English.

Mr Vyan Gresty is regarded by Mrs Filkin as a persuasive witness and someone who supports his wife's evidence. In his letter to Mrs Filkin on the 8 November 2001 he says:

"I am convinced that throughout this harrowing time for us as a family, my wife has displayed total honesty, integrity and extreme physical and mental bravery in disclosing facts as she knew them."

He failed, however, to tell Mrs Filkin about:

1.  the threat to Maria of industrial proceedings from his wife's employment solicitors;

2.  the contact from Max Clifford;

3.  his personal request to Mr Vaz for help to sort out his family's financial problem with Barclays Bank;

4.  the constant requests for personal references from Ms Fernandes and the payment of monies.

Mr Gresty claims to have first met me 20 years ago when working for the London Borough of Haringey. I would have been 24 at the time and living in Richmond, Surrey. I have never met him before and only visited Haringey after becoming an MP.

Rita says she was involved in liaisons with other organisations, such as the ABN and Mapesbury. Yet in all the correspondence with Ms Fernandes, no mention is ever made of this, and in fact Mrs Gresty's statement denies any involvement in Mapesbury.

With regard to the piano playing event, Mrs Vaz has never been a main speaker at any recital of Mr Gresty's. Mr Gresty played once when Ms Fernandes spoke and that was at her mother's funeral. (Card attached)

With regard to her own financial difficulty: the letter of 9 June 2000 released by Ms Eggington, states that Gresty had financial difficulties. In his letter of 8 October 2001, he confirms that Mary made food for them and took it home as they were frequent guests at her husband's restaurant. On the 20 January Ms Eggington wrote:

" ... Vyan has been on the verge of a nervous breakdown for several weeks. This is why I am acting on their behalf because Vyan cannot think rationally and they have no money to pay for legal advice."

Rita Gresty's mental illness:

Mrs Filkin has made an allegation that I have mentioned Mrs Gresty's illness in order to discredit her. This is nonsense. It was important that Mrs Filkin was aware that it was as a result of Mrs Gresty's illness and her threats to remove my children, that I took action through the police to protect them. I have not mentioned her illness at length but Ms Eggington and Mr Gresty have openly done so, as is evident from correspondence. Mrs Gresty's solicitors have themselves sought to make it an issue.

It is hard to conceive how the mental illness, capacity and state of mind, of a key witness in an investigation of a complaint, can be other than a relevant factor. In fact, it is respectfully submitted that as soon as Mrs Filkin became aware of a history of mental illness, she should have insisted, in the interests of all parties, on contacting the relevant doctors and specialist doctors to ensure that further questioning and contact was appropriate and sustainable.

In any case, Mrs Gresty's illness has been openly referred to by her friends. Ms Eggington's letter of the 19 October states: "I told her that Rita was very ill during the year but was now getting better."

Again, Ms Eggington refers to it in Annex il4, dated 15 February:

"Rita went sick with severe anxiety and depression caused largely by increasing pressures at work. For the past six months she has spent much of her time as an in­patient in the Mental Health Unit at Northwick Park hospital with reactive depression."

Yet again, Ms Eggington refers to Mrs Gresty's illness in her letter of 11 June:

"Rita Gresty has been receiving psychiatric care as an in­patient since July 2000. (In fact this is not true. It was well before this.) * * *. She remains in a seriously depressed state."

Mrs Filkin responds to Ms Eggington on 27 September 2001 (Annex il8):

"I hope that Mrs Gresty is recovering her health."

Mrs Filkin writes to me directly to ask for details of Mrs Gresty's ill health in her letter of 16 July 2001 (Annex i22), in which she says:

"...Mrs Egginton informed me of Mrs Gresty's ill­health...I need your response including details about any matter which you believe to be relevant such as industrial tribunal proceedings or ill health..."

In spite of the request, it would have been entirely inappropriate for me, in the circumstances, or otherwise, to give details, let alone competently comment on Mrs Gresty's ill health. All the information I have comes from Mrs Gresty and the police. In addition, Ms Eggington, in a letter dated 19 October 2001, states: "... I told Barney Monahan (Ms Fernandes' solicitor) that Mrs Gresty was seriously ill in hospital and was not aware of the article." (You will be aware, nevertheless, that in spite of being 'seriously ill in hospital', Mrs Gresty had already dictated two detailed statements to Ms Eggington which formed the basis of the article.)

Mr Gresty on 8 November 2001 comments on Mrs Gresty's health, saying: "she was doing very well indeed but this was a body blow."

In a letter from Ms Eggington to Ms Fernandes, dated 20 January 2001 (just three weeks before the first call to Mrs Filkin), she states:

"Rita's condition deteriorated rapidly in the weeks after she endeavoured to talk to you. Her call to your home was made from the Mental Health Unit at Northwick Park and she became extremely agitated when you were not there to receive her call. Since 9 January she has been detained in a secure unit and the children have been advised not to see her. They are suffering terribly."

Mr Gresty says on 14 June 2000:

"Rita is evidently too unwell to appreciate the implications of your letter."

Mrs Gresty's solicitors write on 11 July 2000:

"... We are instructed that our client became ill earlier this year. Our client commenced a period of sick leave and has been unable to return to work since."

And again on 20 July 2000 Mrs Gresty's solicitors write once again concerning her illness:

"We are instructed that she is in fact admitted as a day patient at Northwick Park hospital at which she is receiving a psychiatric assessment."

Yet again, on the 27 July, Mrs Gresty's solicitors write:

"We are writing to let you know that our client has been admitted to hospital as an in patient."

Mrs Rita Gresty herself writes on the 16 November 2000:

"This is a difficult letter to write but none the less suggested by my psychologist."

3 June 2001, The Mail on Sunday, prints:

"... She quit her job with Mrs Vaz suffering from depression. * * *."

Mr XY

Mrs Filkin's attitude to Mrs Gresty's illness is in stark contrast to her views about Mr XY. When I mentioned Mr XY to her she said that he was "completely mad" and was "mentally ill", and she proceeded to prepare a note for me and others about the matter. She appeared to be saying that because Mr XY was mentally ill, he should not be believed. In raising his mental illness (of which I have no proof) she did not feel that she was trying to discredit him.

COMPLAINT 6

Mr Peene's complaint

(vi) "That Mr Vaz had improperly sought information from a constituent, Mr G H Peene, about a criminal anti­fraud investigation Mr Peene was engaged in on behalf of the Intervention Branch Executive Agency relating to a company with which Mr Vaz had a connection and that Mr Vaz had failed to declare a relevant interest in the company during communications with a civil servant."

Who is the complainant: Graham Peene, a constituent with whom I have been dealing over his claims of corruption in the DTI and in the Metropolitan Police.

Press involvement: None

Nature of the complaint: I am mystified by this complaint. I supplied the Commissioner with the complete file relating to my dealings with Mr Peene, but she said it was not relevant. She asked me a number of questions which I answered.

Evidence: None to support the complaint. Mr Peene came to my surgery on 17 April 1999. I enclose the surgery list where his name emerges as a result of my routine request to see him as correspondence had arrived for him to see. He claims that at the meeting I asked him about a matter concerning the Intervention Board. There is no mention of this in his correspondence with me, either before or after the meeting. He claims that I had an interest in a company called *** (which I have not). He claims that as the director of this company was once a director of a charity in Leicester called Skill Share Africa, there was a link between the two organisations. This is not a sensible deduction. He says he produced a report for the Intervention Board but did not in fact produce this document. He now apparently tells the Commissioner that he is in dispute with the Intervention Board.

Filkin's analysis: Mrs Filkin rings the Intervention Board to ask if Mr Peene complained to them and then exceptionally does not follow this up with a letter. She focuses instead on an incidental point that I make that he was not a civil servant when he saw me. This point has to be studied in context, and Mrs Filkin yet again quotes me out of context. His status is immaterial to the basis of the complaint. But, by way of contextual reference, Mr Peene was not a civil servant at the DTI at the time of making his complaint against that department when he came to see me as his MP.

I could not be expected to know of the status of the individual working for the Intervention Board, as I had not heard of the Intervention Board. Frankly, such a person could have been a civil servant or a police officer or neither. The Intervention Board was not a subject that Mr Peene raised with me, as can be seen in the documentation contained within his constituency case file. I have not heard of the Intervention Board, and would not know what it did. I would happily have written to the Board but Mrs Filkin ordered me not to.

My Response: I have been diligently helping Mr Peene with his cases, and attach the file which is self­explanatory. Mr Peene has persistently complained to a number of agencies about corruption, including the DTI solicitors, the Attorney General, and the Metropolitan Police. He has written to others about his complaints concerning these various agencies, including the Prime Minister.

It was only when I received the draft memorandum from Mrs Filkin that I became aware of the basis of the complaint made by Mr Peene to the Commissioner—that I was supposed to have had some connection with *** Limited, a company of which I have not heard before this complaint was made. Please see par 588 where the suggestion is made that I was a director with a Mr *** (referred to by Mr Peene, in his earlier correspondence, as a Mr ***) for a Leicester­based charity called Skill Share Africa. I enclose their newsletter, and I have now obtained a letter from the charitable company (renamed Skill Share International) about my connections with the charity:

1.  I was a director (non­remunerated) for the period 11.09.1990—13. 07.1992

2.  I had not attended any meetings.

3.  There was no director by the name of *** during the existence of Skill Share Africa. Mr *** was appointed as a director of Skill Share on 30 May 1992. He is still a director and trustee.

4.  Mr *** has told the charity that he has no recollection of meeting me. I have no recollection of meeting him.

For the complaint to succeed I would have had to have had a relevant interest to declare in the company known as ***. I do not know of the company (except in the context of this complaint being made). I have not visited this company, have not seen the company, do not know what this company does, would not, and have not asked a question about the company except if a constituent asked me to do so.

Mr Peene wrote to me following his case appointment meeting with me when this conversation was supposed to have taken place. He made no mention of the purported conversation in subsequent conversations but thanked me for my help. Mr Peene himself gives evidence against himself (please see Annex vi5) when he says: "The Intervention Board deny any knowledge of the affair."

The Intervention Board

No one from the Intervention Board has contacted me about this case. There is no confirmation in any way of my involvement in any of these matters. In fact the note of the conversation between Mrs Filkin and Mr Kent is not followed up by her.

I sent Mrs Filkin my entire case file relating to Mr Peene, as she said that she had Mr Peene's implied consent for me to do so. She said on the 27 September: "You kindly allowed me to check your casework file. . . as far as I can see the matters referred to in the case file papers do not relate to the complaint that Mr Peene has raised with me on which I have asked for your comments." However, she then says in her analysis that I have not produced evidence to "support my account of events prior to 17 April." I am quite frankly at a complete loss to know what evidence she is expecting in relation to questions that were never raised by me.

The Protection of Parliamentary Privilege

It is quite obvious, however, that because Mrs Filkin allowed this unsubstantiated complaint to receive serious consideration, Mr Peene has succeeded in ensuring that he has a platform, protected by Parliamentary Privilege, on which to make highly defamatory statements about a number of individuals and government departments. I think that this is indeed a misuse of the process.

Extension of remit:

1. Mrs Filkin claims she does not want to be involved in how MPs deal with casework. However, this case is an example of how she is prepared to pursue a complaint on the basis of a verbal statement by one constituent against an MP without any supporting evidence. This is, potentially, a dangerous extension of her remit. In common with many MPs, I do not record verbatim everything that is said to me by a constituent at my surgeries (please see surgery list attached). I record action to be taken on a constituent's behalf in the presence of the constituent. A perusal of the documentation on file, in particular, all the follow­up letters to the visit, would reveal what Mr Peene wanted me to do for him.

2. The new Register of Interests (26 November 2001) lists Members with, collectively, hundreds of directorships and connections with numerous other organisations and subsidiary organisations. Unless the Committee rules on this, Members will need to be aware if they have any connection of any kind, however tenuous, with a company or organization of whatever kind, and any other person connected with that organization is involved in any activity of any kind which may attract a complaint, then any third party, not necessarily connected to the company or organization, may make a complaint about the Member who is so 'connected'.

COMPLAINT 7

The Directorship

(vii) "That Mr Vaz had failed to register a remunerated directorship with a company, General Mediterranean Holdings, or with subsidiaries of that company."

The complaint: That I did not register directorships.

Who is the complainant: None.

Press involvement: The Financial Times (29 January 2001), The Observer's publication of articles immediately prior to the General Election and the publication by the Observer on 23 December 2001 of the memorandum.

Nature of the complaint: That I failed to register a directorship

Evidence: None to support the complaint. The witnesses for this complaint only appear to have been called in to see Mrs Filkin at the last minute. Mr Kennady, (whom I have never met) who claims intimate knowledge of these matters, left the company 10 years before, and is accompanied by Martin Bright of The Observer who makes the most significant point during the meeting, although it is of limited value and provides no evidence. Mr Bright says in relation to these matters:

"We have found nothing improper." (Page 39)

Even Mrs Filkin appears to be a little fed up, asking on two occasions: "What has this got to do with Mr Vaz?"

The second witness is Tom Sackville, the former Conservative MP, who again has no personal knowledge of any of these matters but contributes tales based on rumours and office gossip even though he did not work in the office. In his evidence, Mr Martin Bright says:

"The other person who has told us all sorts of things which are unsubstantiated is a man called Tom Sackville". Ironically, this is the same Mr Bright, who wrote an article in The Observer on 23 December claiming that Mr Sackville's comments had substance. He clearly did not think so on the 24 October 2001, and of course his colleague, Mr Barnett, denies any links with the allegations made at the meeting, although his name is mentioned several times.

Mrs Filkin writes to a number of directors of a number of related companies: Lord Lamont, Lord Steel, Baroness Falkender, the former Conservative Minister, Gerald Malone, and others whom I have never met in any capacity. Mrs Filkin listed the directors of the company incorrectly (see letter of 31 October 2001 Annex vii11). Mr Hussein explains in great detail that she has got it wrong, and that the company had not been formed then. The company secretary wrote back with details of when the brochure went to print and the date. There was criticism that "... the matter seem to be taking up a disproportionate amount of time ... we hope that this information is finally dealt with."

Mr Malone, a former Conservative Minister is also puzzled by some of Mrs Filkin's questions. He says:

"I do not understand this. The sentence is meaningless or incomplete" (Annex vii7)

This was being pursued on Mr Bright's behalf because, in his words, Mrs Filkin could:

"ask people questions that people do not have to answer us about." (Page 44).

The agenda is clear.

My response: I explained simply and clearly to the Commissioner that I accepted an offer of a non­executive directorship on or about 13 April 1999. I registered it. I resigned from the directorship one month later on 17 May 1999 when I became a Minister. I informed the Registrar of my resignation and he removed it from the register. I did not ask him to do so. The chairman, company secretary and company accountant have all confirmed these facts to Mrs Filkin. In addition, she has sought to write to all the directors in turn, who have merely confirmed those same facts.

Extension of Remit: If a Member serves or has served as a director and a former employee of that firm is in dispute with the company over any matter he can provide information to support a complaint against an MP even though that former employee knows nothing about the Member, or the nature of his involvement in the company. Once again, it is apparently acceptable, under the dual investigatory process of Mrs Filkin and the press, simply to formulate an unsubstantiated complaint.

COMPLAINT 8

The donation from Lord Paul

(viii) "That Mr Vaz had failed to register a donation to him of £3,000 by Lord Paul (or by a company owned by Lord Paul) in 1993."

Complainant: Mr Andrew Robathan MP

Press support: Sunday Telegraph, relying on a confidential letter to the Committee from Lord Paul dated 9 February 2001, prior to the last inquiry.

Date of alleged breach: 1993 (8 years ago)

Nature of the complaint: That I had not registered this donation and that therefore I sought to conceal my relationship in some way with Lord Paul.

Evidence: There is no dispute about the evidence or my relationship with Lord Paul, which has been open and transparent.

Filkin analysis: This differs significantly from the advice given by the Registrar. The Commissioner says that I should have put all the donations in the name of the company, though as she admits there is no evidence that I had any intention to mislead (see paragraph 697, when I ascribed one to Lord Paul personally).

My Response: The total of the two donations which was issued for electronic and computer equipment was registered in 1995 from Lord Paul who is close friend of my family and the Godfather of my son who is named after him. It remains the case, as I said in my letter of 28 September, that if there was an unreasonable delay in registering the first payment, I cannot explain it after this length of time. However, registration did take place in 1995.

Mrs Filkin dealt with a similar point in the last inquiry. The Committee will recall that in those days the date you actually registered was not put on the Register. I would respectfully submit that late registration is not grounds for upholding a complaint. Late registration has not to my knowledge been regarded as a breach. In any event, when this matter was drawn to my attention I immediately went to see the Registrar and received written advice. There was no suggestion that I should register it otherwise than by doing what I had already done.

Were the procedures of the Ninth Report followed? Absolutely not. Lord Paul's letter was only sent to me on 30 November 2001, after I had been asked to respond on 28 September. It is only reasonable that any evidence or information available should be put to the Member for examination at the appropriate time in the investigation process, for comment or to anticipate the need for further or contrary evidence, thus avoiding the allegations of inaccuracy or obfuscation.

The allegations of misleading

I now turn to the allegations that I "may have intended" to mislead. The Committee must bear in mind that these are potentially serious allegations. Mrs Filkin has put forward no evidence to support them, and they seem like an afterthought at the end of the inquiry. However, it is vital that the Committee applies the highest standards of proof in considering these allegations.

Complaints by Mr Robathan, Mr Lansley and Ms Eggington which related to matters examined during the last inquiry implied that Mr Vaz may have been less than frank with the Committee, or with me, and thereby may have misled us.

This is a very vague, but nevertheless, damning accusation. I have responded to the specific complaints and I do not know in what respects it is alleged that I may have misled "us". Whilst I absolutely deny that I have deliberately misled either the Commissioner or the Committee in relation to any of these complaints, it is not possible for anyone to respond further without particulars of the allegations. Unless they are forthcoming, this damaging allegation should be withdrawn.

Mr Robathan's complaint—I have dealt with this matter above in the section on Lord Paul.

Mr Lansley—I have dealt with this allegation above in the section on the Hindujas.

Ms Eggington—I am at a loss to know which bit is misleading.

The information provided by the Today Programme and The Daily Telegraph also raised questions about whether Mr Vaz should have used the opportunity which I offered him during the previous inquiry to ensure that his register entries regarding the properly interests were complete, and as Mr Vaz had not done so, he might therefore have misled me.

Mrs Filkin has rejected the information from both the BBC and the Telegraph. The Committee considered in March all the points that were raised in the last inquiry. Mrs Filkin was not misled; she was given the answers to all the questions that were raised. The remaining questions were all considered in the Committee stage of the inquiry. Following a request by the last Committee I went to see the Registrar on three occasions and I discussed in great details my properties and personal commitments.

The information provided by the Financial Times about Mr Vaz's non­executive directorship at GMH and that provided about the donations from Lord Paul to Mr Vaz's office raised further questions as to whether Mr Vaz had made a complete and timely entry of all his financial interests in the Register of Members' Interests.

Mrs Filkin here appears to criticise the Committee and herself. The information from Mr Parker of the Financial Times was with her on 29 January 2001 and the information concerning Lord Paul was in the Clerk's hands on 7 February 2001 . You simply cannot be accused of misleading if the relevant details are not revealed to you. As regards the donation, this was registered with the advice of the Registrar.

Some of the answers, which Mr Vaz provided on this and other matters, which I have set out in detail in the body of this memorandum, were in my view inaccurate. Though initially Mr Vaz might have been mistaken in his replies he has not corrected them in the nine months of the inquiry. For example his reply to the then Chairman and me that neither he nor his family received payments from the Hinduja brothers is untrue. His wife has carried out considerable paid work for the Hinduja business.

This is grossly inaccurate. If Mrs Filkin is to continue to uphold this view, she is obliged at the very least to indicate where my answers were inaccurate. She has not done so. The answer to the Chairman was absolutely accurate. My family has received no benefits or payments from the Hindujas. Under the Code of Conduct I am required to deal with registrable benefits. I have never discussed my wife's clients with her. The person who gave me this information, after I replied to the former Chairman's letter, thereby sanctioning the breaching of confidentiality, and the solicitors' Professional and Ethical Code of Conduct was Mrs Filkin herself.

It does however remain a mystery why Mrs Filkin did not tell the Committee on 20th March 2001 when she told them of Mr Lansley's complaint, and the Chairman decided to write to me, that she specifically wanted to know about Ms Fernandes practice. After all she had received this information on 15th February 2001 and had met and been emailed by Ms Eggington. If she had concerns, surely this was her opportunity to clear matters up It would helpful to know whether when Mr Sandall drafted the letter for the Chairman he was aware of what Mrs Filkin knew.

As my wife herself has pointed out, she has never acted for the Hinduja brothers. Judging from the sums that have been disclosed, not even a lay person would regard the legal fees as "substantial" This is patent misuse of language. There were, according to the index, four cases with a total of £3,000 inclusive of VAT.

Is Mrs Filkin seriously suggesting that working professional and commercial spouses or partners of MPs routinely breach their duty of confidentiality to their clients, thus implying that those connected to MPs routinely act unprofessionally? If this is indeed what she is suggesting, then she is making the case that partners of MPs cannot have an independent and successful professional life.

In addition some of the information provided by others with whom Mr Vaz is closely associated cannot be described as full and frank. For example, certain answers to my questions, given by his wife Maria Fernandes and his long term family friend, Mr Hanif Pathan, who was for several years employed by Mr Vaz from the House of Commons Costs Allowance, were inaccurate. Although Mr Vaz offered to obtain this information himself he did not do this and I was therefore obliged to rely on his wife and Mr Pathan to provide it.

This is altogether inaccurate. In addition, Mrs Filkin appears also to contradict herself. In her file note of my meeting with her on 26 March, I gave Mrs Filkin a full account of Mr Pathan's employment with me. She further claims that I gave her permission to ask the Fees Office. In fact I did not do so, but I have no objection to her having done this. She has obviously failed to read the notes on her own file. This is another example of what Mr Maxton says that Mrs Filkin routinely attacks the credibility of the MP and those who support the Member. Mrs Filkin really cannot insist on having it both ways. She first directs that she has to get the information from Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan, and then she undermines them.

Ms Fernandes and Mrs Matin's case: "I had been informed by the Immigration Service that she was representing Mrs Matin."

This is a statement without foundation, and a complete misreading of the clear information made available to her by the Home Office. Mrs Filkin has not acknowledged what Mr Boys­Smith (in his letter) makes evident, that Ms Fernandes made no representations on behalf of Mrs Matin. I am altogether at a loss to know why Mrs Filkin herself continues to mislead the Committee on matters of fact. If she, in the face of weightier evidence to the contrary, seeks to highlight a phone call made in 1997, (and there is no certainty that it was actually Ms Fernandes who made this call, but even if it was), there is no way the Home Office or anyone else would regard this one call as a 'representation'—except, it seems, Mrs Filkin,

During the last inquiry Ms Fernandes told the Committee that the list she provided of payments over a £1,000 was complete. However, when she sent the list to the Chairman during this inquiry she stressed that the list should not be considered conclusive.

This is untrue. When Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan saw Mr Sheldon and Mr Sandall (Mrs Filkin was not present at that meeting) the list was headed: 'Payments in the knowledge of the Directors'. She went on to remind the Chairman:

"This list was not complete."

It is the final version of the Committee Report of 9 March which incorrectly states that she said it was complete.

This is yet another example of Mrs Filkin interpreting the facts in a way which is highly critical of witnesses supporting the MP.

"Mr Pathan who was delegated by Ms Fernandes to provide me with information said that no payment had been made to Mapesbury Communications by the Hinduja brothers and only acknowledged such a payment when reminded by me."

This is not true. Where is the reference to this? Mrs Filkin is aware that Mr Pathan had nothing to do with the Hinduja brothers as he was not working for MAPESBURY in 1995 when the event took place. Let us be clear, the Hinduja brothers did not make a donation to Mapesbury. The donation was made by the Foundation for the purposes mentioned, and has been documented.

"... said that he had booked the conference venue at the New Connaught Rooms when he had not."

Mrs Filkin is once again not being accurate. She said to Mr Pathan that Mapesbury Communications had booked the venue (which she knew to be an inaccurate statement) and he corrected her and said it was not true. Her actual words were that she believed that Mapesbury Communications had booked the event. It had not.

"... have a clear impression that Coleridge House was unknown to him by saying it meant nothing to him when he had attended meetings there."

This is also inaccurate. Mrs Filkin said to him that Mapesbury was connected to Coleridge House, which was not a correct statement (see section on Mr Pathan).

"Gave misleading information about the winding up of Mapesbury."

This is inaccurate. Mr Pathan contacted the accountants at Mrs Filkin's request and informed her that there was no stop on the winding up. The information she received from The Telegraph was wrong, as the stop had been lifted.

"Over and above such instances I am concerned that Mr Vaz has given me some inaccurate information about complainants or witnesses which might have misled us as to their motives or credibility. For example, Mr Vaz maintained that Mr Peene was not a civil servant at the time of the meeting about which Mr Peene who was a civil servant had complained of."

My comments related to him being a civil servant at the DTI and my understanding was that he was complaining about the DTI. It does not relate to the Intervention Board issue as I do not know what the Intervention Board is, and as Mr Peene had not discussed the Intervention Board with me at all at the meeting. I would not know whether it was staffed by civil servants or not. The only issue I was dealing with was the issue of his time at the DAI.

"Said that Mrs Gresty was involved in an Industrial tribunal case against his wife, Ms Fernandes, which was not true."

This was also inaccurate. Unfortunately, Mrs Gresty did not disclose her solicitors' letters to Mrs Filkin. They are specialist employment solicitors and the references to the proceedings are set out clearly in the section concerning Mrs Gresty' s credibility. I have now obtained for Mrs Filkin and for the Committee a copy of all the correspondence, which I now release.

"Sought to discredit Mrs Gresty's evidence by repeatedly referring to her period of ill health."

This is an inaccurate statement. Mrs Filkin herself asked me for details of Mrs Gresty mental illness. I gave her whatever information I had. I was reluctant to go any further. I also described Mrs Gresty's attempt to contact my family, to which she replied:

"I am very sorry to hear this."

I deal above with all the issues of Mrs Gresty's mental illness. I have not disclosed it fully before, but I do so now in view of Mrs Filkin's assertions.

Paragraphs obscured in the Annexes

When I received the draft memorandum there were a number of pages that were blanked out. I have still not received the unexpurgated versions. This relates to the following documents:

Meeting of 26 March (Annex i6)

Letter of 20 April 2001

Letter of l3 August 2001

Letter of 28 September 2001, para 57

21st March blanked out

Annex iil9 letter from Mrs Filkin blanked out

21 September (Annex ii64) blanked out

Mr Pathan

The criticisms of Mr Pathan are unwarranted and, in all fairness, he needs to be given an opportunity to respond to them before they are published.

On the 21 March, I went to see Mrs Filkin and gave her a full explanation of Mr Pathan's role (see Annex ii17). She followed this up on 19 October 2001, and I answered her questions in full.

She has criticised Mr Pathan over the booking of a venue, but the error is entirely hers as she puts the wrong information to him (see above, and Annex ii59).

Later, in the same interview (4 July 2001), she again unfairly criticises him, despite the fact that Mr Pathan is right that there is no connection as she alleges:

EF: How is Mapesbury Communications connected to Coleridge House?

HF: It is not

EF: It is not?

HF: No.

EF: That does not mean anything to you?

HF: No.

There was no criticism of Mr Pathan at the time by Mrs Filkin. In fact she kept writing to him to thank him for his help:

"Thank you for your offer of further help with this inquiry."(Annex ii6l)

On the 13 September: "I am grateful to you for sending me your suggested corrections and information ... Thank you once again for your assistance which I appreciate."

On the 25 September: "... may I thank you again for the assistance you have provided and the time you have given in the public interest"

Similarly, Mr Pathan showed his readiness to help Mrs Filkin:

"Please let me know if I can be of further help." (Annex ii67)

She replied on 8 October

"Thank you for your help. I hope that you have an enjoy able period of annual leave" (Annex ii71)

She wrote again on 11 October (Annex ii72)

"Thank you for your assistance."

Mr Pathan to her on the 11 October:

"Please let me know if I can be of further help."

Clearly Mrs Filkin had ample opportunity over the course of these exchanges to clarify with him any uncertainties she may have had about his evidence. She went out of her way to thank him profusely, yet chose to attack him in a document which he would not see until publication.

Ms Fernandes

I have dealt at length with the complaints that Rita Gresty makes against my wife.

Mrs Filkin clearly shows bias against my wife. She has used every opportunity to undermine her. Even when my wife has given her clear answers and explained in detail her duty of confidentiality to her clients and her need to abide by her profession's Ethical Code of Conduct, Mrs Filkin still refuses to acknowledge her obviously difficult position in providing details of her clients.

Mrs Filkin was clearly wrong to tape­record my wife without asking her consent. This is a requirement of the procedure which has been agreed by Parliament. In fact she has breached this agreement on every occasion that she tapes a person without first getting consent.

She persistently complains about the delay, even though she knows all too well the ethical and practical obstacles that exist in relation to obtaining the information.

"A period of three months is more than sufficient to get authorisation from your clients (Annex ii73)"

Her insistence on having a reply by 19 October seems pointless as she had already been told that the firm would not be discussed.

In her letter of 13 October, Ms Fernandes spells out the full position (but this is not quoted in the memorandum). It is important that the Committee reads this in full.

"My Code of Conduct sets out my duty of confidentiality in detail. It is fundamental to the relationship between solicitor and client. The duty extends to members of my staff and exists beyond the grave and is rarely overridden. All information including the address of clients is confidential.... It is particularly important to me as a solicitor married to an MP, and to other professionals married to MPs, to be able to represent their clients without fear of such information and clients' affairs being made public property through the back door. I practised law for a decade before I met my husband and I never discuss my clients with him."

From the start of the inquiry, Ms Fernandes has sought to co­operate. Mr Sandall to Ms Fernandes on 27 March:

"The Committee appreciates the assistance which you and Mr Vaz have provided to the Commissioner in her current inquiry."

On the 26 March, Mrs Filkin says that she fully understands that she is acting in her capacity as a lawyer. Yet, she continues to badger Ms Fernandes about her clients when she had the information on 2 July, stating that such information was legally privileged (Annex i125). Besides, Ms Fernandes' statement that: ". . .My practice is completely independent of Mr Vaz", is supported and acknowledged by Mrs Gresty, as well as by Mrs Gresty's lawyer.

Indeed, on the 2 July, Mrs Filkin makes an oblique reference to Ms Fernandes' private practice, about 'Not wishing to interfere in your affairs in any way and not wishing to poke into your private practice." (Annex ii53). Moreover, she herself claims to be "... grateful to you for your co­operation with my inquiry."

And she appears to be willing to delete all references to confidential matters:

"Please will you return to me the copy showing which sentences / parts you wish to be deleted and making any corrections, which you feel are unnecessary." 3 September

Mrs Filkin's attempts to obfuscate reached new heights over the brother­in­law issue. Ms Fernandes states as follows: "I do not know to whom you are referring as I have only one brother­in­law who lives abroad and is not a director of the company." (4 September) Mrs Filkin does not even put the name of the person to Ms Fernandes. The gentleman concerned is my brother­in-law.

And Mrs Filkin appears in some instances to show a willingness to understand the nature of Ms Fernandes' action: "I do not wish to jeopardize the proceedings you are undertaking in any way. I would be grateful if you would indicate which matters are covered in the transcript Please inform me when they are complete (they are not). (Annex ii58)

Mrs Filkin states that Ms Fernandes "also fails to be clear on the question of 'help' for Mrs Matin on her immigration issue." Yet, her answers have been crystal clear:

EF: You have never done work for her?

MF: No.

EF: In any capacity? Thank you.

In spite of clear confirmation from the Home Office (see Stephen Boys­Smith's letter) that only Keith Vaz made representation, Mrs Filkin still obstinately seeks to rely on one call, purported to have been made by Ms Fernandes, which was not supported by any representations, to gnaw at the overwhelming evidence against Ms Fernandes' involvement in Mrs Matin's immigration case. Mrs Matin, as Mrs Filkin is aware, had her own solicitors. Ms Fernandes did not do any work for Mrs Matin and the telephone call to the Home Office (if indeed it was made by Ms Fernandes) would not count as that.

Winding up of company

The decision to wind up the company was made by the Directors and it was communicated to Mrs Filkin by me. On being told this, Mrs Filkin said to me: "I don't blame her " (Meeting on 26 March 2001). She then attacks Ms Fernandes for making that decision even though she agreed with it.

Conversations altered by Mrs Filkin

I would like to express my concern about the way in which Mrs Filkin's personal minutes of meetings with her are not an accurate account of the proceedings. For example, the comments about Mr Zaiwalla were hers, not mine (26 March Annex i6). There are other examples which I shall give to the Committee when I give evidence on 15 January.

Undue Influence

No memorandum of Mrs Filkin's is complete without reference to undue influence. In this case it is hard to understand what the undue influence is.

Ms Fernandes told Mrs Filkin in her interview on 4 July that she had commenced legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday. Mrs Filkin claimed not to have seen the article, but I do not believe that she could not have done so, bearing in mind her close connection with Ms Eggington who made reference to it in her letter to Mrs Filkin of 25 June. It is difficult to understand why Mrs Filkin appears to feign ignorance of it.

Ms Fernandes also informed the Chairman of the Committee in her letter of 13 October 2001 about these proceedings.

Ms Eggington clearly did not reveal to Mrs Filkin until 5 months after she received Ms Fernandes' solicitor's letter that she was involved in those proceedings. When she sent in the letters she was clearly hoping that the ongoing inquiry would somehow protect her from these proceedings. Mrs Filkin says to Mrs Gresty:

"I could not be involved in a court case that was being run between two people even if both of those people were involved in the inquiry ... I said to Mrs Gresty that of course I could not comment on the contents of the solicitor's letter because that which had or had not happened in relation to that matter was not a matter for me."

The Chairman reminded me in his letter of the 24 October:

"Nothing that is published is protected by parliamentary privilege."

I remain very concerned that Mrs Filkin keeps sending me copies of letters that have been sent by Ms Fernandes' solicitor to Ms Eggington (and copies of her replies) concerning a defamation action related to the article on 3 June 2001. I believe that this is a breach of confidence between two parties to a litigation and it ought not to be sent to me. I am not a party to these proceedings, and neither is the Committee.

Removal of confidential matters

There are a number of matters contained in the documents which are of a confidential nature. Mrs Filkin has informed me that she has already given the Committee her list of suggested items to exclude, and that the Committee has the final say over what has to be published. I understand from the Clerk that the Committee will consider representations on this, and, on 15 January 2002, I will let the Committee have a list of my references for them to consider. The Committee will appreciate that I have not seen the conclusions and therefore cannot comment on any inaccurate or confidential matters in them.

There is also a fundamental point of principle with regard to defamatory allegations made about third parties, which they have not seen, and which they have therefore not been able to challenge.

8 January 2002  Keith Vaz MP





 
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