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


APPENDIX 19

Further memorandum submitted by Mr Keith Vaz MP

RESPONSE TO MRS FILKIN'S CONCLUSIONS

Introduction

1.  It has been the practice of the Committee hitherto that before a Member is examined he or she has the opportunity to read the final report and its conclusions of the Commissioner. The first time I saw the final report and conclusions was on the 18 January 2002 (after I gave evidence). Section VI of the Conclusions is completely new and contains allegations which have never been put to me.

2.  At the end of my evidence session Geoffrey Bindman made reference to this point and asked that I be sent a copy of the final report and conclusions. I saw the Chairman on the 17 January 2002 and he kindly agreed that I should have an opportunity to put in my response to the new matters. I spoke to the Clerk that day and he agreed that I should let my mother see a copy of the 10th January 2002 from Mr Gargan.

3.  Plainly some at least of the members of the Committee were unaware at my examination on 15 January that I had not seen the final report even though the Sunday Times had been sent a copy before they published it in an article on 23 December. Not having seen the report I was completely unaware, for example, that I was required to answer new information that alleged that I had made a false accusation against a witness to the investigation (para. 825) or that the police had been asked by the Commissioner to investigate that allegation, even though I had originally reported the matter to the police. Consequently I had no warning that the Committee intended to question me about this matter nor had I seen the letter from Mr Gargan to Mrs Filkin dated 10 January 2002 written at her invitation until a copy was handed to me while I was giving my evidence.

Although she is still ill (I attach with her consent a letter from her doctor[23]) my mother was so incensed by what she read and although she is acting against medical advice she has now written to Mr Gargan pointing out the serious errors that have been made. She informs me that she will also write to the Committee.

4.  Nor, apart from the report in the Sunday Times (which I have only now on reading Section VI been able to verify as accurate was I aware of the extremely serious and utterly false allegation that "there has been deliberate collusion, over many months, between Mr Vaz and his wife to conceal this fact"—an alleged link between me and payments made to my wife's firm for professional services—"and to prevent me obtaining accurate information about his possible financial relationship with the Hinduja family." I refer to these matters in their appropriate place below.

Correction of factual errors

5.  Having denied me reasonable time to respond to the mass of new material contained in her draft report Mrs Filkin completed and submitted it with no regard to the extension granted by the Committee. Her report therefore has failed to correct the numerous errors of fact and false inferences which are pointed out in detail in my representations. Section VI makes new errors and new allegations which I must now answer. The Clerk informed me that Mrs Filkin had decided not to alter her final report and conclusions at all.

Procedural defects

6.  The procedural defects described above epitomise the whole approach to Mrs Filkin's investigation and indeed the previous one. In my preliminary response of 17 December I drew attention in details to the deficiencies of the previous report in March 2001. In several respects the present investigation has been even more deficient. Natural justice was neglected in the first investigation; in this one it has been thrown to the winds.

Standard of Proof

7.  In the first investigation Mrs Filkin had some regard for the need for proof of allegations of misconduct. Indeed, she said in her report (para. 27): "..having regard to the seriousness of the allegations against Mr Vaz, I have decided to adopt a stricter standard of proof than the balance of probability." She says nothing about standard of proof in the report of 13 December. If, as I am prepared to assume, she intended to apply a similar heightened standard in the preset investigation she has fallen woefully short of it. If she has applied different standards to different complaints I am surprised that she has not said so. Whatever she intended it is surely obvious that the extremely serious allegations of misleading and collusion require the very highest standard of proof, which is wholly lacking.

8.  I do intend here to labour the many other defects in the process. I will simply remind the Committee that I have already drawn attention to Mrs Filkin's failure (at least before her draft memorandum of 30 November) to identify complaints, to disclose evidence to support them, to tell me where there were discrepancies between that evidence and my own evidence. She has, larded her report with personal attacks on me and any third parties who seek to give evidence in support of me.

9.  Her report goes far beyond her description of her function in para. 33 of her previous report published in Appendix 1 of the Committee's Third Report of Session 2000-1: "my task is to gather information in a non-adversarial way, both to enable me to build up a complete picture of the facts and to give the Member against whom the complaint has been made every opportunity to give his or her full account of the allegation which have been raised with me." I believe this is a fair summary of how Mrs Filkin should perform her task. It does not include forming speculative opinions or personal criticism.

Response to Section VI—Conclusions

9.  I propose to respond by reference to the sub-headings and paragraph numbers used by Mrs Filkin.

10.  Introduction

753.  Mrs Filkin omits to mention that I had requested an extension which she in effect refused. I attended at her office at 8 am on the day but she was not there.

757.  The allegations of "obfuscation, prevarication, evasiveness and delay are a travesty of what in fact occurred, as a dispassionate reading of the record makes clear. I have dealt with Mrs Filkin's use of language in my earlier response.

758.  This tendentious explanation for the lengthy pursuit of irrelevant and unnecessary highways and byways by Mrs Filkin distorts the real reason for the length and complexity of the investigation, which is Mrs Filkin's failure to follow her own clear procedures and to confine herself to examining evidence in support of specific complaints. Instead she has ignored my protestations and pursued what would in most cases be at worst trivial and harmless oversights as if they were capital crimes. She has also taken it upon herself, with no authority that I am aware of, to initiate her own complaints as if she had a roving commission to investigate any aspect of a Member's private life.

11.  Complaints relating to matters covered by the previous investigation

768.  The term "handing over" is misleading because it implies that I had something to "hand over". As I have made clear the company,—though I was instrumental in setting it up, was not "mine" and my involvement after its acquisition was limited to the calendar project which has been endlessly explained. It is nonsense to say I should have mentioned the payment of the expenses of the Vaswani lecture because I was unaware of it, it did not concern me, and I received no benefit from it as Mrs Filkin has accepted.

769.  This is an important paragraph because at the same time it illustrates Mrs Filkin's unbalanced and often illogical approach to her task and contains gross errors of fact. She says "I am not convinced by the reason given by Mr Vaz for his inability to provide me with the information I had requested from him." This suggests that the burden of proof is on me to disprove allegations which Mrs Filkin plainly must prove and which are so serious that a very high standard of proof is demanded.

Her statement that it is not credible that I was unaware of the work in respect of "Hinduja-related immigration issues" which my wife was engaged on in her legal practice is an opinion based on misconceptions of the facts which are evidenced in her interview with G P and S P Hinduja (annex i14), the schedule of transactions with my wife's firm apparently provided to them on the day of that interview, 2 July 2001, (annex i25) and the comparison prepared by Mrs Filkin of interventions and invoices (annex i30). In the interview Mr G P Hinduja says he did not know my wife well and that "the head of our legal department is the one who had known her as an expert on immigration". He then refers to the four transactions done by my wife through their legal department. He says: "you had referred in your letter so I thought it was our duty to see what it was." He then refers to the matters listed in annex i25. The reasonable inference from the transcript of the interview (especially pages 24 and 25) is that the two Hinduja brothers were not personally involved in giving any instructions to my wife's firm, but having been alerted to the possibility by Mrs Filkin, they then looked into the matter and obtained and provided the relevant information to her. The list in annex i25 shows that none of the four cases has anything whatsoever to do with the matters investigated by Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC, and there is nothing in the table in annex i30 to suggest that I had any knowledge of any of the four cases referred to in annex i25. The references in i30 to Mrs Ahmed otherwise known as Matin, are totally irrelevant. She was not connected to the Hindujas in any way whatsoever.

The last three sentences in this paragraph of the Commissioner's report are unfounded assertions and opinions.

774.  There is no evidence whatsoever to support the extremely serious and grossly irresponsible allegation of "deliberate collusion". By formulating this allegation as a conclusion Mrs Filkin again demonstrates her readiness to make findings of fact without regard to the need for evidence.

Mapesbury Issues

779.  The last sentence in the quoted paragraphs from the Commissioner's previous report is another glaring example of a conclusion of fact reached without evidence.

785.  This paragraph is extraordinary. The only matter on which Mrs Filkin received any complaint that I had received unregistered benefits from Mapesbury related to the payment by the Hinduja Foundation of the expenses of the Vaswani lecture. There is no evidence or even suggestion of any other benefit by anyone but the Commissioner. In the absence of any evidence that I have benefited from Mapesbury in any way I strongly believe that am entitled to expect the Committee to reject the complaint. To conclude "inquiries incomplete" is to ignore any obligation to satisfy the burden of proof or any standard of proof.

Law Centre Complaint

Mrs Filkin has altered the complaint between draft and final report. In the draft she refers to me being employed by Leicester City Council.

786.  To regard the evidence that I continued to be employed for several months by the Leicester Law Centre after my election to Parliament as "compelling" is a travesty. I received payments which were my entitlement in respect of the period when I had worked prior to the election. This was as I have said before holiday pay, and flexi time I continued to be paid on that basis. If I had received payment after the election for work done before the election I presume this would not be registrable. I was not employed to take on and deal with new work as I had already started as a Member of Parliament working full time. If I had received payments for new work then I would have registered them. The evidence is simply insufficient to uphold the complaint on any acceptable standard of proof.

Complaints relating to matters more than seven years old

788.  I fail to understand why Mrs Filkin did not ask the Committee whether the complaint should be looked into before embarking on an investigation. It seems obvious that the Committee applying its rule as stated in this paragraph could not conceivably have permitted it.

Property

797.  This paragraph is perverse and there is no justification for the claim that inquiries are incomplete. I have assured both the Commissioner and the Committee that I have given a full and complete account of all my property interests and have registered all registrable interests. I did so on the 17 December 2001, on the 8 January 2002 and again in evidence on the 15 January 2002. Her schedule however still has inaccuracies and I have pointed these out.

11.  Complaints not related to or arising directly from the previous investigation

 Mrs Matin's Passport

801.  This paragraph accurately summarises the evidence as to whether it has been proved that I employed Mrs Matin. There is no hard information supporting the allegation. My wife and I and Mrs Matin have denied it. On that basis there is no justification for claiming that inquiries are incomplete in relation to that allegation and I invite the Committee to reject it.

802.  The Committee has been made aware by the correspondence on pages 2 to 7 of the appendix to my preliminary observations of 17 December 2001 that Mrs Gresty through her lawyer threatened employment tribunal proceedings against my wife and sought to persuade her to settle by warning of public embarrassment to her and to me. It is apparent that Mr Gresty or Mrs Eggington or Mrs Gresty herself denied that employment tribunal proceedings were contemplated. The Commissioner should in fairness re-consider her assessment of the credibility of the Grestys in the light of this and in particular her view that her they were "truthful and without malicious motivation".

805.  I have made it abundantly clear that I did not keep Mrs Matin's passport at my Leicester office and her solicitor, Jane Coker, who is unfairly criticised for delay, has confirmed that Mrs Matin does not claim that I did so.

Mr Peene's complaint

811.  This is simply untrue as an examination of the file will make clear and has no place in the report.

812.  It is another of the many examples of the Commissioner resorting to personal abuse instead of sticking to fact-finding.

GMH

816.  Mr Sackville and Mr Kennady claimed no personal knowledge of my payments to me and their "evidence" is no more than rumour. Their credibility is neither here nor there since they have no relevant evidence to give.

817.  Contrary to Mrs Filkin's statement it is not in the least surprising that documentary evidence is not available to show that I did not receive any payment I believe there is evidence of only one publication in which my name appeared inaccurately claiming me as a non-executive director. This was obviously an error. Once again there is no justification for Mrs Filkin to claim her inquiries are incomplete. Mr Auchi and the company answered Mrs Filkin's questions categorically in writing. What would be the point of her meeting him? I invite the Committee to dismiss this complaint.

Lord Paul

819.  Again Mrs Filkin uses the word "disingenuous" on no evidential basis. I have given my explanation on this matter and cannot add to it. There is nothing secret about my relationship with Lord Paul, which is in any event not based on my membership of the House.

12.  Pressure and Harassment

823.  This paragraph fails to point out that my mother was very ill and that it was for this reason only that she could not be interviewed at that time. My mother has indicated that she is to write to the police and to the Committee with her views. Nor does it indicate what "information was received by the police which satisfied them that my mother could not have received a call from Miss Eggington. Evidently the conclusion was reached before any hearing on my mother's account of the matter and based entirely on Mrs Filkin's conversation with the police, her views on the credibility of Miss Eggington, her views on the state of the inquiry and after having spoken to Miss Eggington and Mrs Gresty together. Neither I nor my mother authorised this course of action indeed if I had done so without express consent from the victim some would have accused me of harassment.

824.  I accept that my conversation with Mrs Filkin on 23 November 2001 became rather heated. I was naturally upset by my belief that my mother was being harassed by people connected to the inquiry who had as it turned out also approached other witnesses in the investigation. The Committee is doubtless aware that Miss Eggington is not even a witness to any fact relevant to any of the allegations against me. She is merely a supporter and representative of Mrs Gresty. Yet Mrs Filkin has involved herself in the matter of the phone call to my mother even to the extent of accusing me (in paragraph 826) of making an untrue allegation when I had no evidence to suggest it might be true and a "gross attack on the integrity and reputation of a member of the public assisting in a parliamentary inquiry".

The evidence on which I based my request for advice to the police was that my mother had told me that she had received a telephone call from a woman called Eggington claiming to be speaking on behalf of Mrs Filkin. I was very concerned about the possibility of involvement of the Eggington/Gresty duo in my mother's life. As she did not know the name Eggington she could hardly have made it up. I have still seen no evidence that Mrs Eggington did not make the call though I accept that it is possible as she claims that someone was impersonating her.

Phone Call or Calls

825.  Whatever any police officer may say it is not true that I reported that Miss Eggington had made several calls to my mother. I note that the statement appears in a report by Chief Inspector Smith (annex IV8) dated 22 November but in the same paragraph he goes on to say "during the call" so there was evidently some confusion in his mind. In her earlier report dated 8 October in the same annexe there is a similar inconsistency. He says in his fifth paragraph that I claimed Miss Eggington had made several calls but in the seventh paragraph he refers to "the alleged phone call to Mrs Vaz". Indeed let us look at K P Smith's own words to my mother on the 10 December 2001 (which I attach with my mother's permission) the only written communication between the police any member of my family. It is headed "suspicious phone call—4 October 2001 and it begins

"I am writing concerning a report which was made by your son Mr Keith Vaz regarding a suspicious call which was made to you address on or around the 4 October 2001". This is inconsistent with Mr Gargan's letter of the 10 January 2002 which talks about calls. I only spoke about one call as the Inspector's own letter confirms.

There is a further problem with the correspondence from the police all of which seem to be in response to calls from Mrs Filkin. In the letter of 12th December 2001 CI Smith says he received a call from Mrs Filkin on the 29th November 2001 (the very day she was writing her memorandum,) but later in the same letter he says in the light of the new information I contacted Mr Vaz on the morning of 22nd November. There must be a mistake here Mr Smith appears to have contacted me 7 days before he received the new information.

It is clear that Mrs Filkin was giving information about the inquiry and what she was investigating to the police it is also clear from the correspondence that when the two officers met Ms Eggington and Mrs Gresty together (these ladies have never been seen separately either by Mrs Filkin or anyone else) Ms Eggington handed them information about the inquiry (see note from Mr Smith). It is not at all surprising therefore that having received all their information from Mrs Filkin and the alleged perpetrator of the call the views expressed in the letter of 10th January 2002 were to say the least based on one side's story.

Sadly the fact that the police visited the hospital and were turned away by the consultant while my mother was in intensive care was not reported to anyone in any correspondence. This incident was told to my mother today (21st January 2002) by her consultant.

The bizarre chain of events needs carefully scrutiny. However one thing is clear I did not at any time ask that the police go and interview anyone thus the accusation of "intimidation" is groundless. I always maintained in accordance with the usual practice that the victim herself who should decide with the police how to proceed and that they should do no more than they would do for any other member of the public.

It should also be noted that on the second page of the note dated 8 October—probably this page really belongs to the note dated 22 November—Mr Smith refers to a call on 20 November to him from Mrs Filkin in which she is said to have informed him that she was conducting an inquiry into "my activities" and that "a Mrs Eggington was a major witness in that enquiry". Yet Mrs Filkin knows that she is not a witness and has carefully described her otherwise in paragraph 826. I am at a loss to know why she is telling the police something different.

826.  To conclude my comments on this matter may I express my surprise on seeing the letter from Mr Gargan dated 10 January when it was handed to me during my examination by the Committee on 15 January. After receiving medical clearance my mother has now written to Mr Gargan pointing out the serious errors in his letter. Given the tone and content of paragraph 826 I cannot help thinking that such an extraordinary consequence of my pursuing in good faith what I believe to be an act of harassment of my mother is not unrelated to the intervention of Mrs Filkin on behalf of Ms Eggington. The correspondence does not show what contact Mrs Filkin and Ms Eggington had during this period perhaps we shall never really know the truth of what went on. The police rightly rejected her invitation to conclude that I had anything to do with wasting any time.

831.  It is patently absurd to suggest that legal proceedings begun by Mrs Fernandes after the Mail on Sunday article on 3rd June is "inappropriate". Ms Fernandes informed Mrs Filkin of these on 4th July and Mrs Filkin made no objection. Ms Eggington and Mrs Gresty were both written to after this article appeared and did not on that occasion let Mrs Filkin know of them. It was only in November that they did so. Is she seriously suggesting that no legal action can be taken over a defamatory statement? If she is then she is saying precisely the opposite of what the Chairman has said on the subject of litigation.

13.  Allegations that I may have misled or sought to obstruct the Committee or Mrs Filkin

832.  This paragraph contains no evidence of misleading or obstruction.

833.  I have dealt with the first allegation at length in my response of 8 January. As to the second I absolutely deny that I have "avoided" answering questions fully. Mrs Filkin plainly implies that I have deliberately concealed information which I knew or believe to be relevant to her investigation. This has never been the case and she has produced no evidence to support so serious an allegation she merely asserts it. She knows every conceivable detail about my property interests. She knows I have never held Mrs Matin's passport and has never explained why I would have been wrong to do so if I had held it. My "relationships" with Mapesbury, Wildberry and the Asian Business Network have been explained ad nauseam.

834.  This is an extraordinary and disgraceful paragraph. The first sentence is completely untrue. It rests on the three points set out in paragraph 751 as to which:

—   I believed honestly and with good reason that Mr Peene, who had left the DTI, had ceased to be a civil servant at the time of the meeting. I did not know that his current job was also in the civil service. Nothing turns on this point. I have set this out in my response on 8th January.

—   It has now been conclusively demonstrated that Mrs Gresty was involved in planning and threatening an industrial tribunal case against my wife. I have sent detailed correspondence to illustrate this.

—   I fail to see how referring to Mrs Gresty's ill health, which is sadly indisputable, can be said to be inaccurate. I certainly questioned her credibility and am entitled to do so. The irony of this statement was that it was Mrs Filkin herself who asked for details of Mrs Gresty's mental illness. The Baker Street incident when Mrs Gresty was arrested is documented for the first time in the letter from Mr Smith to Mrs Filkin.

836.  This conclusion is false and is not supported by any credible evidence. The final words "complaint upheld" are incomprehensible. What complaint has been upheld? And where is the evidence these are just a collection of statements. If the Committee believes there is a complaint it must surely reject it.

21 January 2002  Keith Vaz MP



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