Examination of witness (Questions 260
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
260. Yes, I am really going back to pre self-nomination.
What I am trying to get at is whether or not the Zaiwalla case
was unusual or routine.
(Mr Vaz) I understand what you mean. I do not do it
routinely. It is a desire. The campaign was a desire to get the
Prime Ministers and the civil servants to be aware that they need
to make such nominations, not for me personally to lead a crusade
to have a hundred people nominated in a year. There was nothing
like that. I have nominated people who are related to people in
this room, or have been related to people in this room by marriage,
and therefore I would nominate such a person because I know them
or because somebody would write to me and say, "I need five
letters. Will you give me five letters?" When you do that,
you write them because you know the person. Sometimes you do it
because you know the person who writes to you, and I do not think
that an MP actually has that much difference these days, once
our letters go in. Perhaps now all this has been raised it will
be even less. If you look at the form itself it is very interesting,
because I studied this and this is one of the points that I hope
the Committee will bear in mind when it comes to looking at what
goes into the report. Mrs Filkin is unfair to me a bit when she
says I was not helpful in answering her question. I was not not
answering her question because I did not want to tell her; I was
being very cautious, because I think honours are confidential
matters. I think in this world we have come to this stage that
everyone must know everything. I know Mr Bell probably supports
that view, because he wants to keep absolute transparency. But
I think that if you nominate someone for an honour and it ends
up in a select committee report, that person will never get an
honour, because everyone will read about it. So you have to be
very, very careful in dealing with these things, because on the
form it says, Mr Forth, "The information contained in this
nomination is strictly confidential and will not be communicated
to any person other than those involved in the administration
of the honours system, with the exception of background information
which may be used in association with the announcement of any
honour granted." So you actually have to not even tell people
that you have nominated them. As to why I delayed, I was not delaying
because I was being disrespectful to Mrs Filkin, I delayed because
I sought advice from the Cabinet Secretary who said, "We're
very concerned that this information is going out, because really
what you ought to do is you ought to make sure that unless there's
a criminal matter that is being investigated, we won't tell anyone
who's nominated anybody, because it is confidential, but if you
want to note anything on your file, then you should." I just
think that now we probably need a committee ruling on this, as
a result of the decision into the Baldry case: "What's in
your mind? Do you have a financial relationship?" It does
not say that on the form. This is not a defence for me or Tony,
because I am sure that, if he said it, this is not why he nominated.
He makes it quite clear, "I did not nominate him because
I had a loan. I nominated him because I thought he was good for
it", and if you look at the letter you will see that is what
he said. It is just the length of time. If you establish that
as the crucial factor in this, then I am saying to you, is it
about, at time or just about? If someone takes you on a taxi ride
somewhere, or gives you lunch at the Dorchester Lunch at
the Dorchester for fourfor yourself, your wife, the person
you are nominating and their friend, in the Chinese restaurant
in the Dorchesteris not less than £450 (not that we
go there regularly, but it is of that order). Are we saying that
with hospitality, if you subsequently then nominate somebody,
you have to remember that? So it is the amount, the length of
time and what is in your mind. That is why I know these things
are difficult, but I say that the complaint should not be upheld
on this ground, because it is perfectly different from the other
matters. I do think that Mr Bindman has asked me, not today but
in his preparation with me. He talks about de minimis non curat
lex. The fact is it is only £200. People do expect more
when they nominate someone for "an honour". I am not
saying I do. People may say, "God, this is cheap. I give
£200 for a calendar in 1993 and look at this man, he's prepared
to nominate me for an honour." I think that we need to look
at this, because I think it will affect every single Member of
this House, unless we are clear what we mean.
261. Can I ask a number of questions. There
has been some issue about registration of properties in Leicester.
Is there anything you would like to say to us about that?
(Mr Vaz) I am very sorry, because I was delayed at
the office and I did not get back in time to collect the letter
from Mr Doig, but I do not know if Mr Sandall has received it.
262. He does not have it with him.
(Mr Vaz) It is on the board, and I do not know what
it says there.
263. If there is an issue to do with that or
to rectify, there is no problem about that from your point of
(Mr Vaz) No, but I put in a submission to him. I think
that part of the confusionand this is not Mrs Filkin's
faultis the fact that these properties are adjacent to
each other. The one point I hope the Committee will realise is
that a property in Leicester is not the same as a property in
Kent or Richmond. I bought the house in Leicester. I do not know
whether you have seen my letter to Mr Doig. You have. Mrs Filkin
has. Has the Committee?
264. No, the Committee has not.
(Mr Vaz) I bought the house in Leicester in 1985 for
£22,000. That is a three-bedroomed house. It became my office.
I bought the house next door at a complete over-value, because
I wanted it because it was near, I could move my files across
and I could live next door when I was in Leicester. I was done,
and he charged me £52,000 for it. That is why I went to the
Registrar in 1994 and I put on a piece of paper to the Registrar,
"Do I have to register 144 Uppingham Road?" He did not
There is nothing on the file. Mrs Filkin gives the Registrar the
benefit of the doubt that he spoke to me and felt my non-registration
of 144 was reasonable. There are two explanations. Either he did
indeed say that, in which case it does not need to be registered,
or they forgot to put it in the printed version, they did not
accept my question-mark at the end.
265. My question, Chairman, is that if it is
advisable for one to register, there is no difficulty about that,
that is not an issue?
(Mr Vaz) No, I will do exactly what Mr Doig suggests.
266. This could be regarded as rectification,
if that is necessary?
(Mr Vaz) Yes. I should tell youand I would
like this bit to be kept confidential
Mr Bottomley: If it is not relevant to
what I said, there is no need to say it. The easiest thing, if
it is confidential, is for it not to be said.
267. We cannot guarantee the confidentiality
of it until we hear what it is.
(Mr Vaz) * * * * *
268. Can I change to something very different.
One of the people who supplied information to the Commissioner
was Mustapha Kamal who has expressed quite some anxiety about
improper pressure and about a copy of his letter going to other
people. Can I ask whether you copied or showed Mr Kamal's letter
which he sent to the Commissioner to any other person other than
your legal advisers up to early May last year?
(Mr Vaz) No, it was only shown to Mr Bindman.
269. Can you cast any light on why Mr Kamal
might have had apprehensions about you knowing what he had said
(Mr Vaz) No. I think if you read Mr Kamal's correspondence,
he seems to be a bit cross with Mrs Filkin, not me, because he
did not expect Mrs Filkin to send me a copy of his letter because,
as we have found out throughout this inquiry and as I will find
out for the rest of my life, because of what we know about politicians,
people will say things hoping they will never get out to the person
they say it to, and I think many of the witnesses are going to
be absolutely flabbergasted when they see their letters printed
in the Official Report, because I do not think they were told
that it was going to be printed. Mrs Filkin, to be absolutely
fair to her, told me the moment I rang her, in a very courteous
and very professional way, "Be careful what you put down
in writing, because it will be published." Having seen the
letters she has written to others, I do not think that warning
has been given to others, and I think a lot of third parties who
have been dragged into this whole saga will just be amazed.
270. I have declared on previous occasions that
Mr Zaiwalla has a home in my constituency. I was at a New Zealand
House party and I have recently been to a party that Mr Vaz has
hosted at the Foreign Office, for the avoidance of doubt. Can
I return to Mr Kamal? Did you or anyone on your behalf ever ask
Labour councillors to meet the costs of running your office or
to make a donation to party funds in the expectation that the
money would be used to support you or your office?
(Mr Vaz) No.
271. Can you cast any light on why anyone might
think that was being asked?
(Mr Vaz) I would imagine that all these characters
are part of the same group of actors who have appeared throughout
my life. Nobody ever expected Mrs Filkin to take seriously the
allegations that he made. All Members of Parliament will know
that their parties are separate from them. When I got to Leicester
East, my general management committee was slightly different to
what it is now. I was requested to contribute to the party and
councillors were asked to make a contribution of £8 to the
Labour Party, not to me. This was always made very clear. Mrs
Stuttard's recollection of this Mrs Filkin correctly finds was
from 1997 so she has her dates wrong or she does not know what
she is quite saying. Nobody asked Mr Stuttard to make a contribution.
He is referring to the decision taken by the general management
committee that every elected official should make a contribution.
I believe this started before I even got there but it certainly
operated when I was there. We have come to the bottom of Mr Kamal's
contribution. He wrote on 17 April. Mrs Filkin wrote in October
to the bank. I faxed back my letter to Mrs Filkin on 17 April,
on the very same day I received it. I faxed back my answer in
order to make sure that I was cooperating with the inquiry. She
writes to the bank and the bank says, "I confirm that there
was a standing order in favour of the Leicester East Labour Party."
That is a payment to the Labour Party, not to Keith Vaz. The bank
manager confirms this. I was very surprised to see this in the
incomplete inquiry section because I think that is conclusive.
I do not know any Member of Parliament who is a signatory to the
accounts of their local party. I have never been a signatory to
the accounts of the Leicester East Labour Party. They have never
given me any money. It is not the way it works in Leicester East.
I have to give them money.
272. Can I go on with your response which was
to refer the Commissioner to the Labour Party? My understanding
is that some councillors have refused to provide the relevant
records to enable checks to be made. Do you know of any way checks
can be made to make sure that the payments were to the Labour
Party and went into their account?
(Mr Vaz) I will do anything I can to help the Committee
come to a conclusion on this. I have not done so in the past because
Mrs Filkin has not asked me to. She has asked me to keep away
from witnesses. I do not control my local party. I will say to
them it is in their interests if they will help me clear my name
by doing this. The only difficulty is this is a voluntary organisation
that has gone through many tribulations over a number of years.
There is a treasurer elected every two years at least. Some people
have died. The previous treasurer, as I understand, made sure
that the accounts were got rid of every five years, for what reason
I do not know. I understand that everyone will do their best to
try to help. People will be amazed when you write to them and
ask for this information because no one in their wildest dreams
expects a local councillor to pay £8 to an MP. It is completely
incredible. If you want me to help, I will suggest to them that
they do help.
273. Who could give authority to a bank, for
example, assuming there had not been changes to the bank accounts
every year, for checks to be made for the bank to see records
of what flowed in and what flowed out, not necessarily a publication
of the whole accounts of Leicester East CLP, but just a check?
(Mr Vaz) It depends on the local party. With my local
party, I would imagine they would want to call an emergency meeting
of the executive committee and of the general management committee.
They would then want to call all the members together because
they will be under the impression that, because it is Mr Kamal
and he is known as a supporter of Peter Soulsby, this is the way
Peter Soulsby gets hold of the accounts of the Leicester East
Party. This is a longstanding problem, as Mrs Filkin found out,
that even Mr Vaz cannot sort out for them. They have been through
an enormous amount. They will cooperate, I am sure, if it is a
question of helping me, but they will not just hand over their
accounts. I do not know of any local party that is prepared to
do that. These are volunteers; you cannot even sack them.
274. Can I move on to calendars? How many different
sorts of calenders were there floating around?
(Mr Vaz) There were two types of calendars. Mrs Filkin
is confused about this and maybe it is my fault. I am happy to
take responsibility but I do not think it is. There is the calendar
which received income. The only calendar which received income
is what I will describe as the Asian community calendar. I have
described why we set it up. That carries advertising. My register
copies are not complete but it is in there. This is the constituency
calendar which would go primarily to my constituents, but because
the print run would be longer than 36,000, whatever it is, households,
I would send it to people. For example, this is on my desk and
there are visiting ministers from abroad. They say, "That
is very nice. Can I have one?" I give it to them. There is
no income from this. I pay for that and I submit the bill to the
fees office where Mrs Filkin has correctly said somebody has made
a contribution to pay for it. It might be that we put two bills
together or it was more expensive in a particular year. I think
the millennium one carried a picture of the Dome and therefore
we had to pay for that. We would get contributions for it and
what we would do is get the printer to be paid, like Mr Patel,
275. What is the scale of cost for the unpaid
(Mr Vaz) I can send you some estimates but I would
think this is about £500.
276. For about 36,000 copies?
(Mr Vaz) Yes. It depends on the printers you go to.
We have a resource centre and we have calendars. Different MPs
can get different deals. It depends on your printer but the printer
that we go to is quite good.
277. When did the Asian community calendar start
(Mr Vaz) That started whenever I wrote to Mr Sands,
1994 or 1993. It finished in 1996. I can tell you that because
I had had enough of it.
278. Roughly three years?
(Mr Vaz) 1994. This has become a crucial issue but
it is a painful thing to remember because it was not very good.
The idea was great. Do you know those big parliamentary calendars
that we get as part of the parliamentary year book? You obviously
do not get it. We asked them in 1993, "How did you pay for
this?" They said, "It was quite easy. We made a huge
profit. This was a great idea." Other MPs do the same thing.
They sometimes get their calendars sponsored. I feel it is really
important that it should not have the Labour Party logo on it
and it should be seen to be me as a constituency MP, because it
goes to everybody.
279. I am on the Asian business community calendar.
(Mr Vaz) That is on the register.