Examination of Witness (Questions 140-159)|
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
140. Or do you normally forward them, as I think
most colleagues do, and say, "I have received this reply,
if you have any further matters you wish to raise with me please
(Mr Vaz) It is in the file but the actual wording
would have been the exact wording we use in any other case. Sometimes
we have printed documents saying that, other times we have a letter.
This is not even a letter signed by me, this is a standard letter.
141. But you specifically asked Mr Peene to
come and see you.
(Mr Vaz) Yes, we would do that. We would do that.
I think the last letter we had before he came to see me was a
reply from the senior officialDo you know the one I mean?
142. I know the one you mean.
(Mr Vaz) He wrote, a routine letter would go out which
would say, "Come and see me at the surgery". He was
not given a special meeting. The reason why I put my surgery list
in is because the way he was saying this it was like calling for
a special meeting. A five minute constituency appointmentthey
never actually last five minutes, they over-runis just
a routine constituency meeting.
143. But you did invite him to come?
(Mr Vaz) But they are always invited to come.
144. Relating to what Mr McNamara is asking,
in paragraph 619 of the Commissioner's Report
(Mr Vaz) Is it the draft report?
145. The draft reportit quotes a letter
which you wrote on September 28, "The letter . . ."
and that is the routine letter, ". . . is a routine letter
to any constituent who asks how his matter is progressing."
I could not find on the file any enquiry from Mr Peene as to how
the matter was progressing.
(Mr Vaz) I would have written that letter because
I would have received a letter from the Attorney General's department.
The second way in which I would write a letter is if someone phones
my office like today and says they want to see Mr Vaz, they would
get a standard letter. This is not a letter I have signed, this
is a routine, standard letter sent out by my case worker in Leicester.
There is nothing special about this letter.
146. Just going back to Mr McNamara's question,
we all get letters in our post every day which are onward-forwarded
to our constituents, what was there about this which made you
say, "I am not going to do what I normally do, I am going
to ask him to come in and have a meeting"?
(Mr Vaz) I would not make that decision. That decision
would be made if the case worker in Leicester felt somebody had
rung and said, "I want to see Mr Vaz." You have looked
at Mr Peene's file, he did not become a routine constituent, because
of the volume of correspondence and the number of phone calls
he made. When I did not reply to correspondence, he criticised
me. If you look at the next letter he writes to me, I write a
letter after the surgery, which is my record of what is said at
the surgerythe only record I have is what I writehe
then writes to meactually I think there is a delay becausecan
I just look at it because we want to get this right and look through
the whole scenario?
147. I think it might be helpful if Mr Vaz and
we recognise he had had a letter dated 29 March from Mr Peene
with a number of complicated things in it, which might have triggered
the letter to him to invite him to come in.
(Mr Vaz) It is not just that, but also what happened,
as I look through it, is that it would not be routine for me to
have gone to a senior official at the Attorney General's department,
and I may have had the reply from him before I saw Peene, but
there are many reasons why. Then the letter from Kim Howells which
came through, I am quite sure, would have arrived after the meeting
with Peene, because it is dated 15 April and ministers' letters
are usually delayed because they go up to Leicester. Here we are.
Mr Cranston might know who signed this note, I cannot remember.
148. This is your Tab 11?
(Mr Vaz) This (indicating) one.
149. Tab 11.
(Mr Vaz) That is 8 April.
150. Tab 12, I am sorry.
(Mr Vaz) "This correspondence and the covering
letter from you eventually . . . Mr Peene's case is very well
known . . . There are basically two threads to his allegations,
the first is that you knew the DTI is in some way corrupt . .
. bla, bla, bla . . . Metropolitan Police." It could have
been that I wrote to him about, it could have been the fact he
had written to me.
151. Can we then move on to what actually happened
because this is where the Committee is faced with two wholly conflicting
accounts, one which is yours and the other which is Mr Peene's.
Mr Peene alleges you asked him questions. Why would Mr Peene have
invented this account of the transactions of your advice bureau?
(Mr Vaz) I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea.
You will have to ask him. All I can say is, I do not know anything
about the Russian export market, I do not even know what the Intervention
Board is. I have gone to the library and asked them to give me
the company searches of *** , this company he says I know about.
I have got the details of the company searches here. I have looked
at it to see whether I know any of the directors, and the directors
are listed here. One of them is Lord Wade of Chorlton, who is
the former Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party. I just
cannot understand how anyone can believe I have an interest in
this company. I have the things here and I will pass them on.
I actually asked the clerk to send me this but he said he did
not have this information.
152. So Mr Peene is making it up?
(Mr Vaz) Yes he is, because I would not know about
the Russian butter mountain. There is an easy way of finding out,
which I think Mrs Filkin should pursue. She had been in touch
with the Intervention Board, there is no reason why we cannot
write to the Intervention Board who apparently have a copy of
153. The object of this encounter is not to
give advice to Mrs Filkin, it is to try and get answers from you.
(Mr Vaz) But I do not knowI would like
154. You accept that in fact Mr Peene did feel
he had received this enquiry from you to such an extent he informed
his superiors, and that was recorded?
(Mr Vaz) No, he said that.
155. I am saying, you accept he said that?
(Mr Vaz) No, because the Intervention Board, according
to Mr Peene's last letter, deny any knowledge of any report and
he is in dispute with the Intervention Board.
156. That is not the statement that the Commissioner
makes. She contacted the Intervention Board and they confirmed
Mr Peene had made a statement to them.
(Mr Vaz) Well, we do not know, because we do not know
what was put to them. All I can tell you is what Mr Peene is now
saying as a result of what Mrs Filkin has written, which is that
the Intervention Board does not have a copy of the report. Is
it not very strange that apparently an MP is supposed to have
raised the Russian butter mountain at a meeting with someone who
is doing an investigation, he does not keep a copy of that statement,
and the very organisation he is supposed to work for, to whom
he sent a copy of this report, also does not have a copy of the
report. I did not make a written note of what I said other than
what was in the letter I sent following the meeting. Any constituent
can come to any of our surgeries and say, "X, Y and Z has
said this." We need to know when he reported that to the
Intervention Board, that is not clear from Mrs Filkin's phone
157. We have the statement that the Intervention
Board, or his superiors, accepted a phone call from Ms Filkin,
and they said, "Yes, Mr Peene had made a complaint about
(Mr Vaz) Yes, but we do not know when.
158. The issue of the time and the place at
the moment is not of importance, the fact is that a complaint
was made. Why should a person, whose integrity you do not doubt,
go from a meeting he has had with you and telephone his superiors
or write a report to his superiors and say, "This matter
of a highly confidential, fraudulent inquiry which we are making
was surprisingly raised with me by my MP, who asked me to go and
see him, and in the course of our conversations this was raised?"
(Mr Vaz) I have no idea.
159. It was also witnessed by his wife, who
has confirmed that statement as well.
(Mr Vaz) I do not know what was witnessed by his wife
because we have had no statement from his wife. Secondly, I do
not know what he has said to anyone else, because nobody else
has confirmed the date, the time and place this was made. It does
seem to me very odd, since we are looking at human behaviour,
Mr McNamara, if indeed that happened, why on earth did not Mr
Peene, who is not averse to writing lots of letters to everybody,
immediately write to me and say, "Mr Vaz, you have acted
improperly in raising this issue and we would like to know how
you know about it"? Why did not the Intervention Board say,
"How on earth did Keith Vaz know about the Russian butter
mountain and ***? We must write to Mr Vaz and find out how he
knows. We are the anti-fraud unit. Because if an MP knows, the
next thing Mr Vaz is going to do, and knowing Mr Vaz's history,
is go into the House of Commons and start raising it there."
How come none of this happened? First of all, he carries on with
the conversation very happily, "Thank you for meeting with
me, thank you for doing this, thank you for doing that",
I get no communication from the Intervention Board, nobody writes
to me and says, "Why did you raise it?", nobody asks
*** until the autumn of this year. Mr Peene is trying
to make a connection between me and this company. The connection
is so tenuous it is unbelievable. It is based on the fact that
someone called *** was a director of *** and I was a director
of Skillshare Africa in 1992, and we crossed over by one month.
We never attended any meeting, we have never even met each other.
I have here the records of *** , the only people who appear to
be directors are, as I have saidthe most famous person
is a former Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party. Some of
you are directors of companiesthe Chairman is a director
of McCarthy StoneI can go along and find out the name of
a director of McCarthy Stone who was once a director of another
company. You know, it could go on forever.
Chairman: I think, Mr Vaz