Examination of Witness (Questions 180-199)|
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
180. But there is nothing unusual and in the
time from April 1999 to early 2001 there was no suggestion to
you or, as far as you can tell, to anybody else, other than that
he reported to his superiors, that you had said anything improper
or unusual at that constituency interview.
(Mr Vaz) No.
181. Just to complete the story, your story
is, if he had made his complaint to the Intervention Board, they
would have logged it in documentary form?
(Mr Vaz) I do not know why he would have made a complaint
to the Intervention Board. There are many reasons why he could
have come and then gone off and made a complaint to the Intervention
Board. I do not now Mr Peene personally that well. I just invite
you to look at his file of correspondence and what he was saying.
I do not know what he did and why he did it and what the purpose
of making a complaint to Mrs Filkin was in January of this year,
I have no idea, but I just think it puts Members of Parliament
at risk if a whole inquiry can take place on the basis of words
said at a surgery without any supportive evidence.
Chairman: Any more questions on this
particular matter? If not, I propose to move on to something which
need not take us a long time, which is the alleged failure to
register a remunerated directorship with General Mediterranean
182. Can I, for the sake of completeness, because
I know it is a matter of concern to you, Mr Vaz, say that I was
a member of the Audit Commission and that my tenure of that post
coincided with Sir Peter Soulsby. I do not think it in any way
affects my judgment on any issue but I wished you to know that
was the case. I simply want to tidy up this matter of General
Mediterranean Holding. Can I ask you explicitly, did you at any
time receive any payment, either direct payment or through benefit,
from General Mediterranean Holding or from any subsidiary or associated
company or directly from Mr Auchi?
(Mr Vaz) No.
183. That is very explicit and helpful. Can
I refer you very briefly to your initial response to the Parliamentary
Commissioner's draft memorandum? I am at page 17. I know you will
have been very careful with your words in drawing up that. R52
states the position, "that Mr Vaz had failed to register
a remunerated directorship with a company, General Mediterranean
Holding or with subsidiaries of that company." Then in R53,
about the fifth line down, you state "I received no remuneration
from this company or any other registrable benefit." We know
this is a fairly complicated group, we have General Mediterranean
Holdings SA, we have General Mediterranean Luxembourg, General
Mediterranean UK Ltd, Compaigne Internationale de Participations
Bancaires et Financieres and Tucan Investments; there is a myriad
of companies from which payments were made. Did you for a particular
reason say in your response, "I received no remuneration
from this company" as opposed to "from any of the companies
which were associated", or was that simply the way you chose
to express yourself?
(Mr Vaz) Only because that is the only company I was
asked to be a director of. I do not know about all these other
subsidiaries. For example, when I was offered the directorship
I thought this was the same company that Lord Steel was a director
of, but only in the correspondence does it work out that other
people are directors of other companies. This is what I would
be a director of. I have not had any other directorships.
184. No directorships, no payments, no benefit
of any kind, other than you mentioned a dinner you attended?
(Mr Vaz) This was the first remunerated directorship
I was offered. I know Mrs Filkin refers in her statement to Skillshare
Africa, which is a charity, and the Pushba Loomba Trust for orphans
and widows in India, but those are not remunerated. This was the
first one I was offered, so there was a lot of correspondence
and a lot of calls with Roger Willoughby because I had never done
185. Can you think of any circumstance which
might cause either Mr Kennady or Mr Sackville to reasonably come
to a conclusion that you had received remuneration from this group
(Mr Vaz) No, because they do not say I have. Mr Kennady
spends 32 pages in his interview talking about Iraq and other
matters, and my name is not even mentioned. Even Mrs Filkin is
frustrated with him and says, "What has all this got to do
with Mr Vaz" on three occasions. He says, "I have heard
rumours". Then Mr Sackville, who was brought to Mrs Filkin
by the Observer, says, "I have heard rumours. I do
not know but this is what I have heard." That is it. They
both have left the company. Mr Kennady has not been employed for
ten years. It is another case of people who have grievances against
third parties who wish to bring in members and air their grievances.
186. It is a strange thing for rumours to be
flying around about the company and you.
(Mr Vaz) No.
187. I do not believe there are rumours suggesting
that I have had payment from this company.
(Mr Vaz) You have not been a director of it.
(Mr Vaz) So they would not say anything about you.
Who knows why people say things. I have not seen Tom Sackville
since he left the House in, I think, 1997, and I have never met
Mr Kennady, and I have never been to a board meeting of this company.
I was appointed, I sought advice, I was asked to be a consultant
for a law firm, I was told this was not a good idea because I
was PPS to the Law Officers. I accepted that, I wrote to Roger
Willoughby, who wrote to me, and Roger said it should not be.
I am quite happy for it to go on the register.
Mr Heath: That is very fair. Thank you.
189. Any more questions on this issue? We are
approaching the end of our questions. Are you happy to go on or
do you want a comfort break?
(Mr Vaz) No.
190. Can we move on to the alleged pressure
on and harassment of witnesses. You will have seen in the Committee's
last report that intimidation which comes to our attention will
be dealt with severely.
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
191. You have made a very serious allegation
against one of the complainants against you, Miss Eggington, that
on 4 October she made a harassing telephone call to your mother,
claiming to be acting on behalf of the Commissioner. You reported
it to the police. You asked the Commissioner to pursue the matter.
(Mr Vaz) No, I did not.
192. Yet, as you know, we have very reliable
information that no such call was ever made. I would like to ask
you to reflect and then answer whether that call was indeed made.
(Mr Vaz) It was not made to me, I was passing on the
information to the police. The advice of the police was no action
should be taken.
193. The question I am putting to you is, and
I am asking you to reflect on this, is it the case that your mother
reported to you
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
194.a call had been made.
(Mr Vaz) Yes, it is the case. It is borne out by the
pattern of contact of witnesses of Mrs Eggington, as she sets
out in her statement. She has contacted witnesses throughout this
195. The alleged phone call to your mother was
made on 4 October, on 5 October you told the police. In response
to an earlier question you criticised Mr Peene for not immediately
raising the matter with the appropriate quarters, why was it not
until the Monday you raised the matter with the Commissioner,
on whose behalf Miss Eggington allegedly was telephoning your
(Mr Vaz) Because the advice of the police was very
clear and I followed it. My mother was taken from her house into
intensive care and was put on a ventilator for three weeks. I
am not interested in point scoring against witnesses, I did what
I had to do, which was to pass it on and seek advice. I was not
making a complaint about it, I said, "What advice should
I take?" The advice the police gave was that she should not
answer her calls. Better than that, she was not even in the house,
for three weeks she was on a ventilator. They could not interview
her because she was very ill.
196. Subsequently you have not allowed the police
to interview your mother?
(Mr Vaz) That is not true.
197. Can the police interview your mother?
(Mr Vaz) My mother has written to the police, through
my sister. My mother is suffering from cancer. She has been on
a ventilator for weeks. She was on morphine. I do not think this
is the most important thing in the world for my mother, Sir George.
198. That is a matter for the Committee.
(Mr Vaz) No, it is a matter for me and my judgement
on my mother's health.
199. The issue of whether there has been intimidation
(Mr Vaz) If it is a matter for the Committee, is the
Committee doing anything about Mrs Eggington's contact with Mrs
6 Note by witness: I have subsequently discovered
that following a call from Mrs Filkin two officers called at the
hospital and were sent away by the consultant as she was in intensive
Note by witness: She did not know until I gave her the
letter on 18 January that this had been progressed. Back