Letter to the Clerk of the Committee on
Standards and Privileges
from Ms Maria Fernandes
Thank you for your letter of 22nd January 2002. The
answers to your outstanding points are as follows:
(i) In relation to questions concerning Mapesbury
I enclose a letter from the accountants together with a letter
from Mr Pathan. As far as my knowledge of these matters are concerned
I gave evidence to the Committee last year and was interviewed
by the Commissioner on 4th July 2001. I first became involved
(ii) I have dealt with this point in the comments
I have made on the extracts you sent me. I have not been sent
any indication of what the "discrepancy" is, and I would
like to see this.
(iii) These are attached paragraph by paragraph.
(iv) I have not seen the Annexes to the Commissioner's
report and therefore I cannot complete this exercise. I would
like all references to my clients, my practice and my personal
life removed especially in view of your comments that neither
I nor my practice are under investigation.
Please let me know if I can assist the Committee
in any way or if they require any further information.
27 January 2002
I would like to thank the Committee for giving me
an opportunity to make my comments on the extracts you have supplied.
There are a number of general points which I wish
to make before responding to each paragraph separately about this
process of investigation and in particular my role.
In doing so I am mindful of the fact that I have
not despite my requests received any Annexes (ie evidence) relating
to any of the extracts which contain a barrage of criticisms about
me. I am therefore necessarily limited in making my comments.
I have also not seen the conclusions which have been
leaked and widely reported in the Sunday Times and other newspapers.
The Clerk to the Committee informs me that he does not have authority
to release this. You may wish to reconsider this. I assume
that other than the extracts that you have supplied and the conclusions
which I have not seen that there is no other reference to me,
my clients or my practice.
I would like you to note that I regard the statement
"collusion to conceal facts" as particularly serious
and defamatory of me. It is also likely that the statement made
by the Commissioner if unchallenged will be accepted as fact and
this will cause immense damage to my reputation generally and
more particularly as a solicitor. I have not seen any evidence
to support such a statement.
1. Keeping and protecting the confidences of
clients is a core duty and responsibility of a solicitor and is
a well established principle in law. It merits particular consideration
because it is a fundamental right of a client. My obligation is
to protect it. It is also a breach of confidence for a former
employee or anyone appointed on her behalf to disclose any details
about clients of my firm to anyone for any purpose without my
express authority and the agreement of the client. I would expect
alarm bells to ring in respect of the receipt of such information
and to be informed about it. Rules of confidence are there for
a reason. Anyone conducting a public function should be aware
of these basic rules and the potential dangers of interfering
with such a duty.
For a person in my position, practising as an independent
solicitor because I am married to an MP breaching it could mean
that I could never guarantee client confidence. And without guaranteeing
it I could not remain in practice. Can I make it absolutely clear
that I never discuss my clients with my husband or any other person.
Nor would I give him any information about my clients. This would
be a breach of confidence. Many other MPs have spouses who are
professional people. I am certain that they would act in the same
Confidentiality of proceedings
2. Another feature of this inquiry has been numerous
leaks of confidential information provided in confidence to the
Inquiry which have resulted in false and defamatory allegations
being played out in the press on a regular basis. The Mail on
Sunday article of the 3rd June 2001 was yet another such leak
which appears to be endemic within this investigative process.
I have not been told of any action being taken to discover who
had leaked this information and why. The Commissioner's denial
on the 4th July 2001 that she had seen the article is in my view
an attempt to distance herself from the leak. I note that the
Committee now takes the Sunday Times leak as a serious matter.
Had this approach been adopted earlier it might have prevented
the complete devastation that it caused to innocent parties and
increased confidence in the process. And the damage is not merely
confined to clients. I have reacted properly at all times to ensure
the protection of my reputation and that of my clients and in
doing so have exposed the weakness of the statements of Mrs Gresty
my former employee. And what is even more astonishing is the fact
that in taking legitimate action to protect the interests of my
clients and practice I have been subjected to further criticism.
3. In personal terms I was treated with total
contempt by the Commissioner. The Commissioner's central piece
of "evidence" used to discredit me arises out of a meeting
on the 4th July 2001 where I was taped without my knowledge. I
was asked wide ranging questions about my practice, my clients
and my domestic arrangements. I expected at the very least that
an Inquiry involving my husband, would grant me some basic rights,
set parameters and above all be fair. The Committee have confirmed
that neither I nor my practice is under investigation. This however
does not sit well with the unwarranted intrusion and an attempt
to draw me into a matter that concerns my husband.
Motive of bitter employees
5. A bitter exemployee of my practice Mrs
Gresty has channelled her complaints into me by bringing
complaints against my husband. For this she is accorded
the full protection of Parliamentary privilege. She is a central
witness yet the Commissioner failed to ask me a single question
about her. She was not interested in my views. However
she has undoubtedly asked Mrs Gresty several questions about me
and my practice and apparently encouraged her to breach confidence.
I have not seen the supporting evidence and so it is difficult
to know what is in her statements, how much of it is true, how
much is factually inaccurate and how much is completely false
and/or malicious. The damage that Mrs Gresty caused is not confined
to clients alone. She went further by casting aspersions on hard
working civil servants who are completely beyond reproach. If
I was asked (which I was not) what the motive behind this was
I would say that that the Mr. and Mrs Gresty do not want to take
responsibility for taking up employment which Mrs Gresty was not
suited to because of her mental history. There is also likely
to be a financial motive. The Commissioner has stated in press
articles that she is not interested in motives of people but in
the facts. In my view malicious motive is likely to taint the
facts. The Mail on Sunday settled a claim in respect of material
provided to the Inquiry by Mrs Gresty which they accept was defamatory.
6. The remit and ambit of the Commissioner has
been far from clear and far too wide. The Committee has emphasised
that neither I nor my practice are under investigation. If this
is so I would have expected the Commissioner to have settled receipt
of any information relating to me as a preliminary issue before
proceeding with this matter any further. It is difficult to avoid
the conclusion that I am under investigation even on a cursory
reading of the extract.
Moving onto specific responses to paragraphs:
79 The Commissioner
quite correctly points out that I am not subject of any complaint.
Neither are my clients nor my practice. I believe that I have
been totally cooperative and open in answering questions
as far as I am able to. However I have a parallel right to a personal
identity, separate from my husband, a right to an independent
livelihood with professional duties and responsibilities this
entails and a right to a private life.
I enclose a copy of my Code of Conduct
and the Committee will be aware of my letters of 13th October
2001 to the Commissioner as well as the Chairman on the same date
setting out my position in full.
The Commissioner does not wish to acknowledge or
recognise the fundamental nature of the duty of confidentiality
between a solicitor and client. This underpins the role of a solicitor.
And it exists not only as a matter of law, but it is also enshrined
in a solicitors rules of professional conduct.
As you will see from the Code itself it is a duty
which is rarely overriden and then only where there is a clear
justification for it, it is in the best interests of that client
and the client expressly consents in writing to waive their right.
As I have said above as an independent solicitor
I never discuss my clients with anyone and this particularly includes
my husband. Because of his profile and the areas of responsibilities
he has held it has been vital for me to operate completely independent
to him and it is a rule which I have strictly adhered to in all
my years of practice.
The Commissioner should be aware that this duty cannot
simply be discharged by writing to a client. There are consequences
to a client of doing so and it is my duty as a solicitor to consider
these and advise accordingly. I considered the Commissioner's
request and the potential implications to any clients of requesting
them to waive their right within an intensely hostile political
climate in which any "connection" is an opportunity
for political victory and adverse media comment.
The Commissioner states that as I have not indicated
whether I was prepared to approach a client to seek a waiver the
only conclusion she could draw was that I had no intention of
cooperating with the Inquiry. The fact is that any communications
between myself and my clients are privileged and therefore I am
not in a position to divulge any further information and had the
Commissioner understood that nature of the duty she would have
I clearly stated at the meeting on the 4th July that
I have a duty of confidentiality and this duty is absolute unless
the client want that information to become available.
When the Commissioner first raised my practice and
I objected as I was there to answer questions about Mapesbury
"Yes you are but what I have to find outand
I do not want to find out about your legal practice ... If you
do not want to answer them that is your choice"
I was given no prior indication of the Commissioner's
interest in my independent professional practice. The Commissioner
had not written to me and at my meeting with her she denied having
any knowledge about the article in the Mail on Sunday of the 3rd
June 2001 or its contents.
I was aware that a former member of staff had disclosed
confidential information to a newspaper and to the Commissioner.
As this related to my practice, my work and my clients I would
have expected the Commissioner, as a matter of fairness to have
raised this matter with me first.
At that meeting I openly answered questions about
my social relationship with the Hinduja family. The exchange that
then took place was as follows:
Mrs Filkin: " I do understand that you have
carried out work through that practice for the Hinduja brothers"
My reply: " Who do you understand that from?
Mrs Filkin: " I am afraid that I cannot tell
you but the source is good"
Ms Filkin: And perfectly respectable
and solid and that is not known outside this office
My reply: "Can I just say in terms of my
clients that I am bound by the duty of confidentiality and that
duty is absolute unless the clients themselves want that information
to be made available. That is why I am asking you the source of
The Commissioner wanted confirmation from me that
I had acted for the "Hindujas" yet when I pressed her
for the source of the information she declined to give it. She
then concludes that "they" ( meaning the Hinduja brothers)
were my clients and were prepared to give information.
The reason the Commissioner gave for the request
for confidential information to be imparted was so that she could
concentrate on the "narrow bit" involving "relationships"
with the Hindujas." She now states that the reason was also
contained in the Chairman's letter of 20th March 2001 . That letter
sought information specifically about Mapesbury. This matter relates
to my role as a solicitor which contains totally separate obligations
Far from concentrating on "a narrow bit"
when the Commissioner wrote to me in a letter dated 10th July
2001, she had she considerably widened her request. She now wished
"approach any client who is connected in
any way with the Hinduja brothers, businesses or Foundation to
seek their agreement to disclose to me a list of the activities
carried out for them with dates and the payment received f or
each piece of work"
The question was too wide to make it meaningful.
It also had the potential for getting others involved in matters
totally unrelated to them and yet the relevance of the information
was still far from clear.
I took the Commissioner' s request seriously and
consulted the Head of Ethics of the Law Society who brought in
an experienced consultant to advise on this matter particularly
as some of that information, although factually inaccurate and
defamatory, was already in the public domain. I was given clear
and unequivocal guidance that my duty of confidentiality remained
intact whatever disclosure there may have been by others and furthermore
that I had no obligation to write to clients to ask them to waive
their right. In the end the responsibility for making the decision
depended on me taking into account such factors as the clients
interests, reason for disclosing information and the relevance
80 The Commissioner
does not state anywhere in her correspondence that that this was
all the information she was seeking. It was possible that the
range of her enquiries could increase (as had already been demonstrated
by her request on the 10th July 2001see above) placing
clients in an impossible situation and as an adviser this is one
of the factors that I would have had to take into account.
I do not act for the Hinduja brothers.
I can also confirm that no client of my firm has
waived their right to confidentiality.
81 As the Commissioner
was fully aware I was seeking legal advice and professional guidance.
This involved dealing with two separate issues of legal privilege
and guidance on Conduct matters. These are complex matters. There
were also legal proceedings pending and leaks were commonplace
82 The Commissioner
confines her comments to the Hinduja brothers who provided her
with this information. She chose not to put the information or
the source of the information to me at any time. She certainly
had the opportunity to do so as I specifically asked her at the
I am also unclear, given her knowledge, why the Commissioner
felt that she had to press me for several months for information
which she already had in her possession.
252 The Commissioner
will know that at the start of the meeting on the 4th July 2001
that I told the Commissioner that
"The only comment that I would make is in
relation to the fact that it was suggested that I managed the
company. I own and I am a director of the company but I did not
have day to day management of it"
Later I emphasised several times that
"I was not involved in the day to day running
"I do not run the company"
"I did not deal with the day to day work"
I gave evidence in the last enquiry and the Committee
is aware of the problems in locating company papers. I have told
the Commissioner as much as I know. I had no further information
to give. The Commissioner appeared to acknowledge this fact yet
continues to criticise me for not being able to provide it.
286 I completely reject
the suggestion that Mrs Matin did filing in my office. I particularly
note that this information (provided on the 25th June) was supplied
a few weeks after the article that appeared in the Mail on Sunday.
By the 11th June 2001 my solicitor was already in touch with Mrs
Eggington, the Gresty's agent and they were aware of the likelihood
of legal proceedings.
The Grestys claimed that the cause of her illness
was her stress at work with me and in particular:
"especially the sheer volume of work she was
required to do in an environment where she had no other contact
with people for many hours on end"
Mrs Gresty now contradicts her own statement.
The Commissioner points out that my letter to her
stating that "Mary was already doing some work" is evidence
that she was working from me. This phrase is taken completely
out of context. The sentence continues " and I know that
Rita found it helped her". She completely ignores my preceding
paragraph which states:
"She took the job in the full knowledge that
it involved working alone and I thought she enjoyed it although
she did say it got lonely at times"
289 If according to
the Commissioner's interpretation of my letter Ms Matin was working
for me it would be totally inconsistent with what I had said in
the preceding paragraph and also with the Gresty's complaint that
one of the stress factors which led to her breakdown was Mrs Gresty
My letter refers to two occasions when Mrs Matin
accompanied me to public meetings unrelated to my practice which
I had arranged at short notice. Both events were in the evening.
Mrs Matin was very enthusiastic about her involvement and her
contribution allowed Mrs Gresty to do her work and enable her
to return home at the usual time.
I have known Mrs Matin for some years and regard
her as a friend of the family.
She makes two comments at para 286 and 289 which
again in which she attempts to link Mapesbury in her conclusions
about something wholly different. There is no suggestion that
there were papers relating to Mapesbury in my office and therefore
I find it surprising that she made no enquiries about this with
Mrs Gresty. One of the claims made by the Mail on Sunday was that
Mrs Gresty was responsible for the filing of Mapesbury papers
in my office a claim which they later retracted. It is a point
which should not be left to adverse comment without any evidence.
Mrs Matin has confirmed that she was not employed.
It is not clear why her evidence is rejected.
312 I do not have
a complete list of events as I was not actively involved in the
day to day business of Mapesbury. This was made clear to the Commissioner
on several occasions and during the last Inquiry.
342 There have been
many requests for information about Mapesbury. Mr. Pathan was
brought in to help. I know that he has devoted substantial time
and effort to this matter. The accountants have prepared a summary
which I attach with their letter dated 22nd January 2002.
When I attended the meeting I was not aware of the
stay. I did not state that the winding up was going smoothly although
I had absolutely no reason to believe that it would not. The matter
was being professionally handled by accountants and was a routine
closure of a company. I enclose a letter from my accountants which
states that they were informed about it in early July and did
not communicate it to the Company Secretary until the 10th July.
I personally knew about the stay less than 2 days before two journalists,
Chris Hastings and Rajeev Syal contacted my solicitor David Price
with a view to writing a an article some weeks after my meeting
with the Commissioner. There is no "discrepancy."
I enclose a copy of a letter from accountants dated
22nd January 2002 confirming this.
391 I did not know
who Wildberry Printers were nor had I any reason to know. I stated
at the original enquiry that I was not involved with the calenders.
There are two separate issues here. The printing
of the calenders which the Comissioner informed me was printed
by Wildberry. I cannot confirm or deny this. I had no involvement
The other issue concerned the printing of my book.
This as I explained to the Commissioner was done in association
with Hansib Publications, a well known company whose business
was to publish books. I was involved in the publishing process.
The book was printed by printers engaged by Hansib. I have been
informed that they were taken over some years ago and the original
people I dealt with are no longer there.
394 It is a fact that
Paul Townsend is not my brother in law. My mother in law however
is my mother in law and a family connection.
395 It is a fact that
Paul Townsend is my husband's brother in law.
396 As I stated in
my evidence in the last Inquiry I did not know anything about
Wildberry. I clearly told the Commissioner at my meeting in response
to her questions that I had no knowledge of Wildberry. The Commissioner
suggests that this is "less easy to understand." I do
not know what my own close family members do in their private
I am still not clear what the point of questions
was concerning this matter. There is no evidence as far as I know
that Wildberry did any printing for Mapesbury. I have no personal
knowledge of Wildberry and that remains the case. The Commissioner
informed me that some calenders had Wildberry printed on them.
There has obviously been a great deal said about this issue and
it is difficult to know which calendars they relate to. I said
at the last Inquiry that I did not know much about the production
of the calendar.
401, 402, 403, 404
The meeting on the 4th July was set up following
my suggestion that we meet in order to assist the Commissioner
with her Inquiry about Mapesbury. The Commissioner certainly did
not indicate any urgency. When we did meet she will recall that
she stated that
"The Committee is not even set up so it is
unlikely that I shall be making any report until the early autumn"
The Commissioner criticises me for not providing
her with a contact telephone number. I was not aware of any urgent
need for her to contact me but as she was fully aware of the name
of my firm, its affairs and its location she could easily have
obtained these details.
405 The Commissioner
was aware of the difficulty in obtaining company papers. Significant
efforts were made by me personally to get details of the event
and supporting invoices from others. I just did not have the information
about an event 6 years ago in which I was not involved.
Neither as it turned out did Mr Pathan.
406, 407, 408
What the Commissioner describes as a "protracted
exchange" involved important issues of principle. The Commissioner
had taped me at that meeting without my knowledge or consent.
Therefore in accordance with the Procedures laid down by Parliament
I had the right to ask that a note be prepared.
She chooses unjustifiably to criticise me for the
delay when the correspondence will show quite clearly that I was
not prepared to approve a transcript as I had not had my basic
right observed of being told that I was being taped.
However, as I appeared to be getting nowhere and
there was no mechanism to clear this point up I approved the transcript.
There is little point in having procedure rules unless
they are observed.
The Commissioner indicated to me at the start of
the meeting that she retained the authority to delete matters
from the transcript which in my view she had obtained by unauthorised
means. She then wrote to me to ask what I wished to have deleted
but continued to raise matters which were about my practice, my
clients and me.
411 The Commissioner
implies that she did tell me that she did not have the authority
to delete material. Yet using her own words
"If there is anything you think "well
I would prefer that that was not used please suggest it to me.
If I do not need to use it to inform the Committee I will not
412 On the one hand
the Commissioner suggested that she retained the authority to
delete matters (see above) and proceeds to obtain details and
on the other appears to be stating that she does not have that
413, 414, 415, 416, 417
See my responses to paragraph 79-81 which deals with
The Commissioner suggests that she derives the authority
to request this information on the basis of a letter to me dated
20th March. That letter specifically refers to Mapesbury. This
matter relates to my professional obligations which is a completely
423 I had no knowledge
of the detail of the events. I enclose my accountants letter dated
22nd January 2002 setting out the VAT payments..
424 See my comments
on paragraph 394 and 395 above.
426, 427, 429
The Commissioner was specific in her questioning
to me. She mentioned the word "employed" on six occasions
in the one minute exchange. Employed has a specific meaning and
to the best of my understanding employed means paid employment.
435 I can only supply
information which is in my knowledge. The Commissioner pointed
out at the meeting:
"If you give me any help even if you are
putting question marks by it £1000 about or whatever by this
list to give me any more help on dates, amounts that would be
very useful. If you cannot I will leave it as it is and assume
436 The list which
was provided to the Chairman was clearly marked "Within the
knowledge of the Directors". When I met the Chairman (with
Mr Sandall) I made it clear that the list was not comprehensive.
I also asked him if there was any other name which came to his
mind about which he required information about. He did not indicate
As I am not the subject of this investigation the
framing of the complaint in so far as it refers to me cannot stand
and should be removed.
574 There is not a
shred of evidence to support the comment from the Commissioner
that my husband used his position improperly in relation to my
clients. I find these comments, albeit unsupported by any evidence
whatsoever, extremely serious and damaging. I invite the Commissioner
to withdraw these comments. I have already commented on the aspect
of allegations that Mrs Matin was employed by me at paragraphs
286 and 289 above.
I think that it is appropriate for me to set out
the history of Mrs Gresty's employment with my practice. I have
already supplied my husband copies of my file of correspondence
relating to Mrs Gresty's employment dispute.
Mrs Gresty was recruited by a reputable employment
agency. Mrs Gresty failed to disclose her mental history which
had required in patient treatment for around a year. I would have
expected this matter to be highly relevant to her employment with
me particularly as at hat time she started working from my home
where there were 2 young children. She continued to maintain that
lie throughout her employment and attempted to blame me for her
illness when she relapsed.
Mr and Mrs Gresty have also had severe financial
difficulties with debts of around ***. They were under constant
threat of losing both their home and their business and they owed
substantial sums of money to suppliers. I asked a friend (who
is a barrister who specialises in these matters) to help them.
He provided free advice and drafted the appropriate documents
which I believe stopped her from losing their shop. He advised
over a 4 month period.
After some time my friend felt unable to help any
more. This time the Grestys were facing threats of losing their
house. Mrs Gresty sought the help of my husband who attended a
meeting with her and her husband to persuade a bank not to foreclose.
The Grestys blamed the bank for lending them the money. The bank
did not foreclose.
Mrs Gresty became ill in May 2000. The Grestys claimed
that the job had caused her stress, which led to her illness and
demanded full pay for 3 months of her absence. They later instructed
employment solicitors who threatened Industrial Tribunal proceedings
and sought to threaten harm to my reputation and particularly
that of my husband (who had no involvement in my firm) in order
to obtain a financial settlement.
I formally ended her employment in November 2000.
Mr Gresty and Ms Eggington have spent months taking
it upon themselves to"investigate" this matter. I have
seen Mr. Gresty outside my office on at least 2 occasions. As
recently as the end of November 2001 Mrs Eggington was attempting
to involve an accountant who operates from offices below me. He
has spoken to me about this and is willing to be identified.
575 I worked from
home during the early years of my childrens lives specifically
to enable me to be with my children whenever possible whilst maintaining
my practice. I employed a wide variety of, childminders, a nanny,
mothers helps, and au pairs. In addition my mother provided a
considerable amount of help.
Mrs Matin was never employed as a nanny or domestic
servant. To describe her as a domestic servant is an insult to
her. I had live in help at all times.
I have already dealt with the issue of Mrs Matin
working at my practice above
576 I have not seen
the statements which support this complaint. I did not help Mrs
Matin with the resolution of her immigration status. She was not
employed by me.
577 I have explained
this in full at paragraph 286 and 289 above.
578 Mrs Matin was
a friend of mine who had met Mrs Gresty on many occasions. It
is hardly surprising that I would mention someone who we both
579 I have no recollection
of Mr Gresty visiting my home during a working day and I cannot
comment on a conversation which is alleged to have taken place.
580 It is not clear
why Mrs Matin's statement made through her solicitor Coker Vis
581 If it is accepted
that I am not the subject of this complaint then I find it hard
to understand why the Commissioner was investigating any representations
that I might have made.
582 I am not clear
what the suggestion is in this paragraph. It is common knowledge
that my husband in the course of his work takes up immigration
cases and that I specialise in immigration law. We serve our respective
clients or constituents in different ways and act independently
of each other. I have specialised in the area for around 16 years
and several years before I even met my husband.
583 I was aware of
her status. I did not act for her. To do so there would be a conflict
584 My firm has not
acted for Mrs Matin, made representations or taken any action
to further her case. To make a representation requires the putting
forward of evidence, information or argument to support a client's
case. I have never made a representation. To suggest that I did
is an extremely serious matter as it implies that I was acting
for Mrs Matin at the same time as my husband was and this could
result in a conflict of interests. As I have not been given the
evidence to support this "contradiction" despite my
request I cannot make any further comment.
585 The Commissioner
alleges that she has received evidence from the Immigration Service
that I was representing Mrs Matin. I refer to my comments above
and reiterate my request for the Annex which relates to
this matter so that I can provide a detailed response. My comments
are not complete as I have not been given the evidence.
586 The Commissioner
wrote to me on the 10th September 2001 . She stated as follows:
I have subsequently received information that
you did make a representation on Mrs Matin's behalf about her
immigration status. In the light of this I would be grateful If
you could explain the discrepancy
She did not put the discrepancy to me but merely
stated that there was one.
If there is information suggesting that I did in
fact act or make representations I would like to see a copy of
the "representations" I am alleged to have made.
She then goes further by suggesting that [I] "claimed
she did not understand my question". The first point as I
explained above is that she did not put the discrepancy to me
but merely stated that there was one. Secondly, there is no suggestion
in my reply that I did not understand the question. It is regrettable
that the Commissioner should read into my reply a comment which
I have simply not made.
587, 588, 589
No comments to make
590 I have explained
this in detail above
591 Explained above
592 The credibility
of Mrs Gresty will need to be assessed carefully
593 There is no contradiction.
My replies are completely accurate.
I have had no intention whatsoever of deterring the
Inquiry or intimidating Mrs Gresty or Eggington. To do so would
have served no purpose as any information which they had presumably
had already been disclosed.
In the very first letter between David Price my solicitor
and Miss Eggington dated the 11th June 2001 (see attached
letter), he stated quite clearly that:
"We are not at present concerned about the
propriety of you providing information to a Parliamentary enquiry.
However we would stress that providing information to a national
newspaper for publication is of a completely different order".
A false and defamatory article appeared in the Mail
on Sunday on the 3rd June 2001. I took immediate and
proper steps to deal with this matter.
The statement which the article relates and which
was provided to the Inquiry could only have been leaked to the
Mail on Sunday by 2 possible routes:
1. Mrs Gresty and Mrs Eggington
2. By the Commissioner or her office.
Whilst I have the greatest respect for a Parliamentary
Inquiry this one has been repeatedly played out by the media not
of my choosing. It has caused immense detriment to the people
involved in it. These people are entitled to be protected.
Ms Eggington and Mrs Gresty are widely quoted in
the article and appear to be intimately involved with it.
I am entitled to pursue my legal remedies and if
the issue has become clouded with the Inquiry as a result of a
leak then that is a matter which Parliament itself needs to address.
The fact remains that defamatory statements have been made in
a national newspaper about myself, my clients and my practice
and this cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
The Mail on Sunday settled their (second) defamatory
allegation on 9th November 2001 (see enclosed letter).
The only outstanding issue left was an assurance
that Mrs Gresty and her agent Mrs Eggington would not cause any
further damage. I am at the very least entitled to this and indeed
it is necessary to protect my clients, my reputation and my practice
both now and in the future.
I felt that it was the appropriate time to draw a
line under this difficult period. I sought advice from the Law
Society about the propriety of taking these proceedings and was
told that this was a matter for my judgement, based upon my concerns
and knowing that my husband will remain a public figure.
As David Price my solicitor has put it in his letter
of 22nd November 2001, I required:
"sufficient comfort that there will be no
further disclosure of information concerning her clients."
They have both chosen to ignore my reasonable request
for undertakings with allegations of intimidation. There was and
still is an offer of settlement which if either party accepts
will draw a line under these events.
If I do not seek to obtain an undertaking this could
leave clients exposed to risk particularly as the Inquiry draws
to a close and is likely to attract press attention. It is not
an unreasonable request.
I find it an absurd situation that having legitimately
exercised my rights which arose purely as a result of the actions
of Mrs Gresty and Mrs Eggington I then find myself being accused
of intimidating them.
727, 728, 729
Mrs Gresty had breached confidentiality by statements
made to the Mail on Sunday. These very same statements were passed
to the Commissioner. The Mail on Sunday accept that their story
was defamatory. Despite this on two occasions the Commissioner
asserts that Mrs Gresty's statements are true.
I enclose a letter from my solicitors of 22nd November
2001 regarding this matter.
I find it surprising that a letter from my solicitor
who has been in contact with her before would "intimidate
and bully" Mrs Eggington.
734, 735, 736
The Chairman did not write to me about this matter.
Had he done so I would have provided a full explanation which
I have done above.
737 I have not seen
the Annexes referred to.
738 I note that the
Commissioner confirms that Mrs Gresty continues to assert that
her statements are true.
739 No comment.
740 I have not seen
the Annexes referred to in this paragraph. I have already supplied
correspondence to my husband about the Industrial Tribunal proceedings
and which also includes a threat by Mrs Eggington which was more
from Mrs Eggington has been selective.
742 This contains
an another assertion from Mrs Gresty that her statement
is true. I have not seen the "facts" regarding the termination
of her employment. I was never asked what the facts were from
my point of view. I would like to see these facts so that I can
comment on it.
743 No comment.
747 Payments made
to my firm are not registrable by my husband. If the intention
is that spouses of MP's must disclose details of work legitimately
received in the course of independent practices such as mine then
this must be introduced with the Code of Conduct and I would expect
to be consulted about this.
Payments amounting to £3000 (according to newspaper
reports) can hardly be described as considerable. The amounts
are likely to include 17.5 percent VAT and disbursements.
748 I have not deliberately
misled the Commissioner. I have answered all the points she raises
749 I have answered
this point above.
The question has been put to me by the Committee
and therefore it is vital that I see this communication. I maintain
what I said at the meeting and subsequently. I have not represented
or acted for Mrs Matins.
Paragraphs provided to me for comment on:
79, 80, 81, 82, 252, 286, 287, 288, 289, 312, 342,
360, 361, 362, 363, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 401, 402, 403,
404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416,
417, 423, 424, 426, 427, 429, 435, 436, 574, 575, 576, 577, 578,
579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586, 587, 588, 589, 590, 591,
592, 593, 727, 728, 729, 730, 731, 732, 733, 734, 735, 736, 737,
738, 739, 740, 741, 742, 743, 747, 748, 749.
27 January 2001 Maria
24 Not printed. Back