Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Keith Vaz MP
Thank you for your letter of 19th October which I
received on 23rd October. I refer to our telephone call on 26th
October 2001 and to my conversation with [your PA] on 31st October
107 May I at the outset say that you have not
as yet made clear what allegations you have decided have "some
substance which would merit further inquiry". I use the words
in paragraph 2 of your guidelines for the Investigative Process
which were adopted by Parliament.
108 You have also not made clear what breaches
of the Code of Conduct are alleged. For example, in correspondence
you have told me that the complaint made by Mr Peene was not about
casework but because I had intervened when Mr Peen was a civil
servant. However as you have known from the outset he was not
a civil servant when he asked me to intervene further you say
that Mr Rowbathan's complaint was about me misleading the Committee
yet, the matter he has complained of was never put to me. These
are just two examples.
109 In your letter of 7th June 2000 during the
last inquiry at the request of Geoffrey Bindman you set out the
complaints you were investigating at the time and gave some indication
of the breaches which might be in question. Could you please tell
me what allegations against me, if any, you have decided to investigate,
and specify the breaches. I believe that this should be standard
procedure in all cases so that Members can respond in a full and
110 Your letter of 19th October raises further
questions which I will endeavour to answer as fully as I can,
although I have not received all the documentation that you have.
It is clearly impossible for me to comment on what I have not
111 I did not tell your office that I did not
receive the alleged statements of Rita Gresty. I told [your PA]
that in your letter of 19th October 2001 at "C" you
quote Mrs Gresty as talking about the event on 23rd June 1999.
I have read all the statements that you have sent me and I cannot
see any reference to this. You either have another statement that
I have not seen or you are mistaking Mrs Gresty for someone else.
Can you please let me know for completeness what Mrs Gresty alleges
her role was in respect of this event so that I can provide you
with full and accurate answers.
112 If you will kindly let me have a complete
picture of your dealings with Ms Egginton including any statements
you have taken from her. I can then give you full and accurate
113 As to Mrs Eggington contacting my mother,
you should be aware that my mother was admitted to the intensive
care unit of the Leicester Royal Infirmary yesterday and she is
under sedation. I cannot give you any additional information above
what I have already told you. I explained to you that when the
call was made to my mother she was told by Ms Egginton that she
was a police officer and that you had asked her to ring. This
occurred on 4th October and she was admitted to hospital shortly
after the call. I telephoned the Leicester Police on 5th October.
114 The matter was being dealt with by Chief
Inspector Paul Smith. I asked for the call to be traced and they
said this would not be possible. The advice they gave was that
all telephone calls to my mother should be monitored. The Leicester
Police contacted Harrow police because of their previous involvement
in matters concerning Rita Gresty. My mother has not returned
to her house. Ms Eggington's action has caused stress to my mother
at a time when such stress has direct impact on her health.
115 I can only suggest, with respect, that you
ask Ms Egginton what contact she has had with members of my family.
116 Can I now turn to the points that you have
raised with me about which you wish to have clarification. In
A the correct procedure (which Sir Gordon Downey laid down) is
that the Committee should be consulted first. In any event, in
an attempt to be helpful, I have already answered this point in
paragraphs 61 and 62. This matter relates to events 14 years ago.
117 In respect of B I have already explained
to you that the electoral registration information is inaccurate
and given you the reasons why the dates are wrong. I have already
set out in correspondence with the Registrar my knowledge on these
118 (a) (I) and (2) I had no arrangement with
any such persons nor do I have knowledge of any arrangement. They
were there under the authority of the beneficial owner who was
responsible for this. I explained this to the Registrar in January,
February and twice in June. I received no benefit. (3) there is
no qualification of time required for Members to occupy a second
home. I used it whenever I needed to, I cannot give you exact
dates nor are Members required to do so. No one was in occupation
of the flat when I stayed there. (4) No.
119 (b) (1) To reflect the true position that
my mother was the beneficial owner. (2) beneficial owner is a
clearly established legal term is defined in the Law of Property
Act 1925 section 76 Schedule 2. The reason for the transfer was
explained to the Registrar. My mother was diagnosed with cancer
in 1999 at that stage she wished to move to London and she had
not decided whether her treatment should be in Leicester or London,.
She had not decided if she wished to sell the property. Instructions
were given to settle these matters in 1999, she changed her mind
in 2000 and changed it again. Two different sets of solicitors
were instructed to deal with these matters the second set being
instructed in the summer of 2000, and they began the process.
I made reference both to her health and these family matters to
the Committee. The timing of the transfer is a matter of legal
120 I can confirm for the record that I have
never owned property abroad. I sold my house in London when I
permanently moved to Leicester as far as I recall the sale was
in 1987. I cannot say whether it was before or after the actual
date of the general election. I do not accept that I have failed
to provide you with all information that is relevant to your proper
concerns. No complaint had been made about my ownership of any
121 On the Conference, please see paragraph 110
above concerning Rita Gresty.
122 I have redrafted the consent form. Liz Williams
apart from being a person who worked in my office is also a constituent
I also need to protect the confidentiality of information that
I have about my constituents. I want to give you a complete picture
and full and accurate answers in order to do so I will need to
disclose her dealings with my office.
123 In relation to your narrative in C I will
deal with Mrs Williams points when I get her consent. Please will
you send me her statement to you. Your practice of withholding
such information until after your draft report is published has
lead to further complaints. Both you and I have an interest in
ensuring that this does not happen.
124 I will now deal with the factual questions
that you ask in C (a) Mr Pathan was not solely responsible for
organising the conference. He was not acting on my instructions
or with my authority he acted on behalf of the organisation. You
ask me to comment on your conversation with Mr Pathan. You put
to him that Mapesbury Communications booked the event for the
ABN. He rightly said that it did not and expressed surprise at
this suggestion. I am not aware of any involvement by this company
in this event. (b) Mr Pathan was not working for me (see paragraph
121 above) (c) the organisation dealt with all financial matters.
My office was not used in this way and I would have been very
concerned if it has been so used (d) I do not know.
125 (e) Coleridge House is the office of the
ABN which organised the conference as far as I recall, I have
attended one AGM there (f) I know two persons called David Barnes
one has been the Assistant Private Secretary to successive Immigration
Ministers and the other has been involved in media marketing (g)
I know two persons called David Golding one who was at University
with me he is lawyer with a City firm, the other is a businessman
(h) I have attended many events for the Asian community over the
last 14 years I cannot give you a definitive list of each organisation's
126 I have already told you in paragraph 76 that
the information supplied to you by Mr Syal and Mr Hastings is
inaccurate. The information does not appear as they suggest on
the BT Website. British Telecom has nothing to do with the publication
of this information. The ABN has never been "registered"
at this address. I have lived at this address and I have been
the President of this organisation a position that as you say
I have registered. It has always as far as I am aware operated
from Coleridge House, Coleridge Gardens. They do a fine job.
127 If you forward to me the information from
the "BTwebsite" I will explain my understanding of why
this information has appeared in this way. It is a matter of public
record that Mapesbury was registered there, and the then Commissioner
was fully informed about the structure of the company the fact
that it remained registered there after we have moved shows how
inaccurate the information is. That also applies to the fact that
the ABN was still publicised as being there until February 2001.
If you let me have the information you have been sent I will gladly
do my best to clear this up.
128 My relationship with the ABN is set out in
the Register. It is a non-political organisation. The registration
was made in this form after I had a discussion with the then Registrar.
I have always discussed my Asian community activities with Registrars,
my file will show this.
129 My answers to (a)- (c) of D are set out in
the following paragraphs (up to 125) I have worked with a number
of Black and Asian organizations over a number of years. When
I was first elected along with the late Bernie Grant MP and Diane
Abbott MP and the late Lord Pitt we asked the then Serjeant At
Arms for permission to have an extra room and extra passes to
enable the employees and volunteer of the Black Caucus to work
from the Commons.
130 The advice that has always been given is
that if any space is being provided that the public purse should
not bear any cost. As I was chairing the Conference I agreed that
access should be given to my office (I had offices elsewhere)
for the organisation provided they had their own telephone line
and paid their own bill and that they did not use Commons facilities.
I had checked the propriety of this with the House authorities
on a number of occasions.
131 I cannot identify a precise period when I
wrote letters in support of the ABN but I would have treated them
in the same way as other organisations. As with any other organization
any request for support would have been payable to the organisation
and sent to them at their offices and they would be responsible
for financial management. I would not consider it appropriate
to ask them for any financial information in the way you suggest.
They would regard it as presumptuous if I asked for details of
their bank and bank accounts.
132 As I explained to the Committee when I appeared
before them, that many organisations within the Asian community
ask me for support. You will recall that I handed the Committee
a letter from a Member (now a Minister) which specifically asked
me to write a letter to get financial support for an organisation
in his constituency. Members respond positively when asked for
help in this way.
133 I have inspected the Register of Staff (E)
held in the Oriel Room and Ms Coco's name is not there. I did
not personally supervise the people in the office as I worked
from elsewhere. My recollection is that she was there for a short
period working part-time as an overseas intern. I have no knowledge
of the matters you raise. I do not have her address or telephone
number. Since I have not seen her name on the Register I would
be glad if you could send me the extract from the Register you
134 My answer to Mr Bottomley's question (F)
was completely accurate. Paul Townsend is my brother-in-law. I
have already covered in detail the position regarding the (Asian
community) calendars and the advice I was given by two Registrars
and [the former] Commissioner Downey. I have received no benefit
from this company. If anyone suggests otherwise I would be happy
to comment on any information that is forthcoming. I enclose my
latest calendar which will be published shortly. This will go
to all my constituents. Any of these that are left over will be
sent to individuals and organisations who are known to me outside
135 In respect of G, the summary you have set
out concerning my directorship of GMH is inaccurate. I was not
responsible for the date it was entered in the Register, or for
its removal. The correspondence does not indicate that I asked
for it to be removed. This is a matter for the Registrar.
136 I am not responsible for what is published
in Annual Reports. The company will have the precise information,
but here is my recollection:
137 (1) I recall I was offered the directorship
in January 1999 and (2) that I accepted it shortly before I wrote
to the Registrar, which would be in April. (3) I do not recall
the precise details, as I have never attended a board meeting
nor been involved in company business. (4) The gap between offer
and acceptance would be because of another offer I received from
a firm of solicitors, which, after seeking advice from the Law
Officers Department I turned down as I was the Parliamentary Private
Secretary to the Law Officers, and the fact that I was in Oman
during this period. Other than the dinner which I have already
described I am not aware of receiving any benefits from Mr Auchi.
Your question is phrased "associated in any way" I am
not aware of benefits from anyone associated with him. The phrase
you use is too wide to be of any practical use as I do not know
who would be regarded as being associated with any other individual.
I have not received any benefit from Tucan Investments plc.
138 * * *
139 I attach a copy of my letter of 6th August.
140 I attach the new consent form for Mrs Williams.
141 There is only one outstanding point concerning
Mrs Williams and as soon as I have the information I will respond
142 I have now given you over a hundred answers
to your various questions. I have answered your questions even
though they are not based on complaints in writing and supported
by evidence (see Ninth Report of session 1999-2000) I hope that
you are now in a position to give me a timetable.
3 November 2001