Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 200 - 219)



  200. We heard that from Mr Kapasi this morning. What about the acquisition of land for religious purposes? What was your connection with that in the more general sense?
  (Mr Vaz) The policy to move places of worship from inner city areas of Leicester to outer areas of Leicester was established before I was involved in Leicester politics. It was a decision taken by Peter Soulsby, the leader of the council, who represents an inner city ward called Spinney Hill. You know, Mr Chairman, from the places of worship in Ashton, the tremendous demand from the community for their own places of worship. You have a number of temples there. When people apply for temples or mosques or gurudwaras for the Sikh community, local residents get very concerned about the number of cars, the call to prayer etc. In my view, the council, before I was involved in Leicester politics, quite rightly decided to initiate a policy to make land available, not just in my constituency but also in different parts of Leicester. I think that was a good idea. I think it is not right that you should have places of worship just in inner city streets which causes difficulties for residents. If I can give you an example, I do not know if any of the Committee have visited the temple in London at Neasden or any of the other community organisations. There is space around them. I think that is what the community wants. This was Peter Soulsby's policy, the policy that he initiated, a policy that followed many years of his experience as an inner city ward councillor in the Muslim community. I thought it was a good idea.

  201. Did you receive any payments for expenses concerned with this? I can understand that there could be very considerable expenses in acquiring the land and also in giving advice.
  (Mr Vaz) No. I have seen this in papers. Members of Parliament do not charge for their services. If somebody comes to you and asks you to write for them, you write for them. I am at a loss to know where this has come from, that people are having to pay to get land. There is no temple or mosque in Hamilton. I think there is a perception, certainly from last Saturday's Guardian, that if you come to Leicester East and go to Hamilton you will find Mr Kapasi's mosque and a temple and various other things. There is nothing there because no land has been purchased. No temple or mosque has been erected. No deal has been done. This view that somehow I or anyone else intervened in order to charge people for services that we give as Members of Parliament is absurd.

  202. What are your relationships with Sir Peter Soulsby?
  (Mr Vaz) I have not spoken to Sir Peter Soulsby since 1994 other than on three occasions. I will explain my relationship with him because I was very surprised to see Mrs Filkin's long description of Peter Soulsby's relationship with me, which she is perfectly entitled to give. She did this on 14 March. I kept writing to Mrs Filkin because I knew who was behind these allegations in Leicester. In one letter—I can give you the date—I said to her, "Is Peter Soulsby a complainant, a witness or helping you with your inquiries?" She replied on 17 May to say, "Peter Soulsby is not a complainant." If I had replied to that letter from Mrs Filkin, she would have written back to me and said, "Mr Vaz, you have not answered the full question", but I let it pass. I saw for the first time on 21 December the full transcript, or any transcript, of what Mrs Filkin had done with Peter Soulsby on 14 March. It contained a description of my whole life, issues that were not relevant to this Committee. If you want to know my life history in Leicester, I was selected as a candidate for Leicester East in 1985. The candidates for my seat were all internal Leicester candidates, including Peter Soulsby. We went to one ward nomination meeting. I beat him by one vote. There were only seven people there so it was not a mass attended meeting. I did not know any of the people there because I was not from Leicester. Peter Soulsby stood against Patricia Hewitt in 1983 and lost the nomination for Leicester East. I am telling you this because Peter Soulsby has had his chance and this is my chance. He stood against Patricia Hewitt again in 1997 when Greville Janner stood down and he lost again. Every time he has sought a nomination in Leicester East he has lost. I have not been behind stopping him because I am not a Leicester person. I only got there in June 1985. The Leicester East Party rejected him on a number of occasions. In the politics of Leicester, you now have three ministers, myself, Willy Bach and Patricia Hewitt, all of whom have defeated Peter Soulsby for a nomination, all of them apart from Patricia Hewitt for Leicester West. I applied for a job at the law centre in Leicester. I gave up a very good job at Islington Council where I was the senior child services lawyer. I took a cut of salary of half to work in the law centre because when I stood up at the selection meeting I said I wanted to work and live in the constituency. Anyone who has ever worked in a law centre—I know Mrs Filkin has experience in social services matters so she knows about these matters; others may also know—will know that all your cases are really taken up against the council. It was an uncomfortable position because I was the prospective parliamentary candidate for Leicester East and all my clients wanted to take the council to court. The leader of the council was Peter Soulsby. I did not take the secretary out of the law centre when I became the elected MP. She voluntarily came. Nor did I take any filing cabinets. These kinds of allegations that are made about me are really hurtful and irrelevant, in my view. My mother got elected to the city council in 1989 in an open selection meeting. She was the first Asian woman councillor and a great supporter of Peter Soulsby's. In 1994, throughout that period, my concern as a constituency MP was that the resources of the city council were not being spent on my area. My job is to speak up for my people and say, "We want a better deal." I felt that the resources were going to other places, to Leicester South where certain leading councillors were on the city council and represented those areas, and to Leicester West where certain people like Peter Soulsby had ambitions to become the successor to Greville Janner. I complained about this. It was not accepted that my complaints were valid; that is fine, but local MPs make complaints and people do not have to accept everything they say. A lot of councillors in my constituency supported Peter Soulsby and decided not to support him in the 1994 city council leadership election. He had been there for 13 years. He lost that but before he lost that selection he called a group of Asian community leaders together and he asked them to sign a letter criticising me in the hope that that letter would make me do something that I was simply unable to do, which was to influence the selection of the leader of the council. I point out the importance of this meeting because it is exactly the same date, 22 April 1994, as his complaint to Arthur Price Jones about me. That is the significance of that date. He was up for a leadership election three days later. I was not in the country. I was abroad. He was defeated as leader by one vote. He was re-elected as leader in 1995. That is the next time I saw Peter Soulsby, when he asked me to go to a regeneration project and be photographed with him before the leadership election. I have not spoken to him since except when he was in the Members' dining room dining with Judy Mallaber, the Labour MP. I approached him because I knew the inquiry was on. I did not say anything relating to the inquiry. I asked how he was in a pleasant way and he asked how I was. Then we made small talk about the Committee of the Regions of which he is a member and I have responsibility for now. None of this is relevant to the inquiry in my view. That is why, when I made my submission through Mr Bindman, I said, "This is about complaints about MPs, registration and the like." I can give you chapter and verse of my relationship with Peter Soulsby but it is totally irrelevant. Why did he say the things that he said in 1994? If you look at the letters they are very carefully phrased. He said a third party said to him that Mr Vaz and his mother were accepting money or asked for a candidate contribution. A third party said this to him; it was not him himself hearing it. He wrote a little note down. What Mrs Filkin has not shown the Committee and not shown me is the two notes from the city attorney after that letter which would chronicle the city attorney's views on what Peter Soulsby has said. I think that would be helpful because I think there is no evidence to support this. He said this in 1994. He keeps saying it to every newspaper that rings him up, even over this Hinduja thing over the weekend, and he has been saying it to them again. I am so pleased the Committee is going to have a chance for the first time to look at these things. At last, we will have a report that is definitive and I will not have to go through this every time my name gets into the newspaper.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  203. Have we this letter that is being referred to?
  (Mrs Filkin) The letter Mr Vaz is referring to is a file note which did not add to what you have. I have described that in my memorandum.

  Shona McIsaac: Where is the reference in your memorandum?

Mr Levitt

  204. It is explained in 413.
  (Mrs Filkin) You do not have that memo. I can obviously let you have it.
  (Mr Vaz) We have been asking for this for some time. I understand Mrs Filkin's point that in her view it does not take it further. Arthur Price Jones was a particularly careful city attorney. Every time Arthur Price Jones had a conversation, he put it down in writing, which is something that I have never done unfortunately. After Peter Soulsby rang him, he dictated himself notes and it is quite clear from the letter that he sends to Mrs Filkin that there is no evidence to support this. He said to Soulsby, "If you find the evidence, come back." This was in 1994. Seven years later, Peter Soulsby becomes leader of the council again in 1995 and Mrs Vaz is one of his councillors. He appoints Mrs Vaz to various committees. I have publications of Mrs Vaz and Peter Soulsby grinning at each other, both saying how wonderful they are and, at the same time, in the back of Peter Soulsby's mind, he thinks Mrs Vaz is a corrupt politician because she has accepted £500 for land in Leicester. I find this very hard to believe. I find it very odd that someone who thinks that one of his councillors has done this kind of thing should continue to support and endorse that councillor, should appear in publications with that councillor, and should not produce evidence to the city attorney. I know Peter Soulsby says to Mrs Filkin, "Things were hectic after 22 April when I lost the leadership. I was busy for 18 months", but this is seven years now. We need to see this. Mr Campbell-Savours will not remember this but I remember it clearly. If he does not, I accept that he does not. In The Sunday Times, Mr Rajeev Syal, another of these people who have been doing this for seven years, produced an article in May 1994, exactly a month later on 22 May. I have it here and I can produce it. In it he says, "Vaz and mother in council coup". That is the headline. Dale Campbell-Savours will not remember this. My response to this article was that I would sue because it was so defamatory that I should be able to choose the leader of the council. He remembers being on the terrace and saying to me, "You are not really going to sue, are you?" He made a comment about my mother's eyes, for some reason. The point is this is all fair game, I suppose, in local politics. People can say things about people; people want to move people from these positions and so on but to persist in a statement that has no basis in fact and is not supported by evidence for seven years is absurd. Mrs Filkin has obviously done a thorough job. One of the things I know about Mrs Filkin is that she is thorough. Mrs Filkin gives a lot of coverage to Peter Soulsby in this. Peter Soulsby has more to say in her report than even I, and I am the subject of the report. His entire evidence is produced in her report. Mine is not because I did not know what he was saying about me. I do not question any impropriety on Mrs Filkin's part. It is a matter of fact that he is the only witness that she knows personally. She does not know Mr Kapasi; she does not really know me; she does not know anybody else. There is no impropriety and I am not questioning her integrity. One should just bear this fact in mind on the issue of conflict of interest, if I may say so. I want to make it clear, as Mr Bindman says, that I do not believe there is any impropriety but, as with Members of Parliament, the perception out there is that if you serve on a committee with someone else you know them, even though you may not have a relationship with them. If that person happens to be the chairman of your committee, as is the case, the first thing you do in those circumstances is write to the accused and say, "I have found this conflict of interest. There is no impropriety but I am telling you." It should not be left to me to find out that this was the case. We would have said, "Fine. Thanks for telling us. Tell the committee and go on." The fact that you have pages and pages of Peter Soulsby's totally irrelevant evidence about what Leicester East is doing—Mrs Filkin justifies putting this in on the grounds that "I want to give you some political background", but we are not dealing with politics here really. If you have a complaint against an MP, the MP either has done it or they have not. All this background about the law centres is totally irrelevant in my view.


  205. That is for the Committee to decide in due course.
  (Mr Vaz) Of course. Since then, I have not spoken to Peter Soulsby except in the Members' dining room. I do not write to him any more; I have not written to him for seven years, even when he became leader again, because my letters are leaked to the newspapers. I write always to the chief executive on any problems I have and I get a reply from the officers. In 1994 I learned my lesson when my letters started appearing on Newsnight. It is a long answer to your question but this is my only chance to deal with the points made.

  206. Did you discuss with Mr Kapasi the question of this inquiry that was coming up, how you should handle it or even just refer to it since the inquiry began?
  (Mr Vaz) No. Mr Kapasi met with me along with 200 or so other people last Friday at the Indian High Commission for Republic of India Day. I addressed the meeting. He was in the audience. I had my own press conference outside India House, though I swiftly moved on. There was a conference in Leicester which was organised by Patricia Hewitt. He was in the audience. There have been no royal visits. There was an event for the housing group, ASRA, and after one of the newspaper articles appeared, as I said to Mrs Filkin, he said to me that this was not true. That was it.

  207. You have not discussed anything about the giving of evidence?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  208. Not at all?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

Mr Forth

  209. Mr Kapasi this morning told us, if my note of what he said is correct, that you and he had been instrumental in creating the Leicester Asian Business Association. He said that he had known you since 1985 which you have explained. How closely would you and Mr Kapasi have worked together in the context of the Leicester Asian Business Association? For how long has that continued?
  (Mr Vaz) I am a patron or member of hundreds of these organisations. I have cut them all down since I became a minister. I became a patron of LABA and was pleased that the Leicester Asian Business Association was being formed. I attended two of their dinners. I would not regard myself as working closely with him because he would be working with other business people. I have not been involved in any way particularly with working on their behalf. In fact, a criticism is that I do not spend enough time on Leicester organisations, which is unfair because I do. He is the deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. We had two royal visits before the inquiry commenced. Prince Charles came to the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre. He would have been in the line up, I am sure. This is before he was involved in any of these matters. We do not have any particular role but we were certainly involved in helping to set it up.


  210. Did you receive any payment in kind or any benefit at all from Mr Attwal during this period or were there any contributions to the Labour Party that came to you from Mr Attwal?
  (Mr Vaz) I am at a disadvantage in answering that question because I have seen the appendices and clearly he has done so. I am aware that he has made donations. I am also aware that he made a donation in 1992/3. Mrs Filkin is picking up on this because she thinks that means the financial year. No question was in my mind about the words "financial year". This is nine years ago. I was told he made a donation. Mrs Filkin eventually produced a copy to me of his cheque stub which had the name K Vaz on it and "donation to the Labour Party." Subsequently in this books she says a donation was made to the 50 Club, the Leicester East premises fund. I accept that. When she wrote to me about this, I contacted the Leicester East Labour Party and the constituency secretary. He wrote to me and said that they had received a donation for £1,000. Mr Attwal is a well known local businessman. He has been to functions of the Labour Party in my constituency and in the constituencies of other MPs. Prior to 1997, Mr Attwal was probably a supporter of the Conservative Party. Nobody knows. He was certainly supporting various events that took place. "K Vaz" appears on the cheque stub. Mrs Filkin in her draft report—because of recent events I have not had a really good chance to look at her final report so she will correct me if I am wrong, I am sure—does a good analysis of it and ends up by saying, "He could have put K Vaz down there as an aide memoire to this. There is no reason to believe it went to K Vaz. It was in relation to the Labour Party but he goes on to say, three years later, he does not know Thomas from Adam." Then she writes, "But you do know Thomas from Adam because Thomas and Greatrix came to see you." I think it is confusing for people to go back this length of time but Mrs Filkin was saying this was a donation to the Labour Party. K Vaz's name appears on there. People sometimes, with me anyway when they give support to the Labour Party, want to tell me about it as if I will be pleased. I do not make any apologies for the fact that I know people of Asian origin outside my constituency. He is not a constituent; he is not a party member but his involvement is welcome. I did not receive it; it is a donation to the Labour Party. Mrs Filkin says in her draft report, "I do not know what the facts are. Give Mr Vaz the benefit of the doubt", because anyway I am not quite sure about Mr Attwal because he said three years later he never made any more donations and out popped a donation for £250 to the Leicester East Premises Fund, though he has never attended a meeting of the Labour Party. He has attended a count. I have seen him. Peter Soulsby in his evidence to Mrs Filkin describes an event in 1996 when the Sikh community was seeking to put up an independent Asian candidate against me in Leicester East and at Mr Attwal's house in London Road he, Peter Soulsby, turned up with me and Mr Attwal told these people who wanted to stand, "Do not stand. Keith Vaz is a fine man." I have a recollection of the meeting. I do not have a recollection that that is the way it went. My recollection is I produced my 6,000 files that I had taken up on behalf of the Sikh community and I said, "If you can find a better MP to deal with you, by all means support the independent Asian candidate." Did he give me any money? No. Was this a donation to the Labour Party? Mrs Filkin says to give me the benefit of the doubt. I do not know why I need the benefit of the doubt because it is quite clear Mr Attwal says to The Sunday Telegraph, to Mrs Filkin, to everyone who wants to hear from the highest reaches of any building in Leicester, that this was a donation to the Labour Party. Mrs Filkin says the first time she saw this letter from Mr Thomas was when Geoffrey Bindman did the response. If she would comb through the correspondence, she will see that when Mr Bindman wrote to her earlier this year he did mention the letter of the 24th in a direct answer to one of her questions, "What about Mr Attwal?" Mr Bindman says, "It is quite clear from the letter of 24 ..."
  (Mrs Filkin) I accept that Mr Bindman wrote it to me. What I do not accept—and it may be an oversight—is that I received it because I did not. My office had not had that letter until I had it recently and that confirms it.
  (Mr Vaz) As Mrs Filkin says, in long, complex inquiries, things go astray. I do not want anyone to believe that we did not hand this letter over until the end of the year. This was sent. Rajeev Syal's point was that Mr Attwal had paid cheques to my election campaign in 1997. That was the point she was making. She was not saying he had given money in 1992 when she wrote to me if you look at her first letter. I wrote to her and said, "Mrs Filkin, this is not true. I have checked with the Labour Party and they say 1991-2."


  211. As far as we can see the cheque stub is Keith Vaz, donation to the Labour Party, and you say that was just an aide memoire?
  (Mr Vaz) No. May I just take advice from Mr Bindman on this? (After a pause) Mr Bindman, the gentleman as he always is, says it may be his fault because when he wrote to Mrs Filkin he thought that she already had the letter.
  (Mrs Filkin) I accept that. I should at that point have checked that I had not got it and written to him and said, "Where is it then?". I assumed I had it back in my files.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Sheldon, I am not saying it is an aide memoire. I was not there when the cheque was given or written. I am not saying this. Mrs Filkin is saying this in her draft report, and again I do not know whether it is in her final report. She analyses Mr Attwal. Actually I do not think Mr Attwal is a problem here. Obviously it is for the Committee to decide. She goes through a very thorough analysis of this. She weighs up Mr Attwal with her later question to him saying, "Mr Attwal, did you give anyone else—did you know Mr Thomas?" Mr Attwal writes back and says, "I have no idea who Mr Thomas is. I have never heard of Mr Thomas. I only know Keith Vaz", okay? As a result he gets himself into difficulties because Mrs Filkin already had the letter when Mr Thomas said, "Thank you very much for your donation of £250", and she sends it to him and says, "Mr Attwal, you said you did not know John Thomas. He has obviously been to see you because he is thanking you." Her analysis is that. I cannot help her with that analysis further because frankly I do not know because I was not part of that enterprise. I was not there. I can check where I was on 31 December when this cheque was written. But I can tell you this: I do not think on New Year's Eve I would necessarily be meeting with Mr Attwal. It would not be the best way for me to celebrate and spend my New Year's Eve in 1992. I have nothing further to say. Did he give money to the election campaign? No. Was he present at the count? Yes. Did he cheer me? Yes, but he cheered Patricia Hewitt and he cheered Jim Marshall. Does he live in my constituency? No. Whose constituency does he live in? Jim Marshall's. Whose last function did he go to? He turns up to loads of things. But he is 78 years of age and he is a heart patient. Sorry; he is not 78, he is going to be 80 this year. Expecting an 80-year old man to remember every single thing that he ever did nine years ago and then writing the kinds of letters that he has, when you accept that it is a donation to the Labour Party, as even Chris Hastings has accepted—


  212. All we can say is that we can certainly try to get some further information about that cheque. At any rate you have put the position clear as you see it.
  (Mr Vaz) Can I say that if I can help in any way—Mrs Filkin was talking about the Labour Party when she says, "You know, Mr Vaz has not been candid with me. He could do more to help me get information from the Labour Party." I want to help in any way I can. I am terrified of talking to anyone in the Labour Party about this in case people say I am interfering with witnesses, so I think it is a bit unfair to say, "Why has he not done this and why has he not done that?" I will do it if you want me to do it.

  213. The important thing is that that £1,000 did not go into your bank account.
  (Mr Vaz) No, not as far as I am aware. I have not looked at my bank account but I will check.

  214. We had better find it. You will need to give information about this to the Committee. Then we come to Mr Zaiwalla. What payments have you received in kind or donation or expenses from Mr Zaiwalla?
  (Mr Vaz) The payments that are set out here (indicating). None of the payments as you see in Mrs Filkin's conclusions came to me personally. The only payments that she has found are payments that she has produced from his own accounts. Can I say just a word about these accounts? They contain names of other Members of Parliament and this goes to the point on confidentiality that I hope to address you on at the end, which will raise even more questions about them. As I looked through his accounts I found their names. I think that they should be deleted because they are not relevant to this inquiry in my view. He paid a cheque for £200 and £250. Mrs Filkin writes to me following the letter from Andrew Milne on 7 February last year. I write back the letter that is based on her letter to me: "Did you receive any cash payments from Mr Zaiwalla?" "No." "Did you send anyone to collect cash from Mr Zaiwalla from your office?" "No." She then criticises me, unfairly if I may say so, not in the spirit in which she has written the report, by saying, "Mr Vaz said he did not receive cash payments but he did receive these cheques. We know because Mr Zaiwalla has produced this from his books." If the Committee has got my entry in my register, they will see these mysterious calendars appear. The Asian community calendar for one of the years, 1994-95, I do not know whether you have seen them. This is the one that Mrs Filkin says has my picture in and lots of adverts around it. I have my register but I do not seem to have those calendars. That, I can only assume, is the contribution that he has made. Why can I only assume that? Why do I accept what Mrs Filkin has said? It is because I was not handling the calendar project. The calendar issue is the only relevant issue that is left in respect of Mr Zaiwalla according to Mrs Filkin. This is my constituency calendar (indicating), okay? This carries no advertising. This is the one that has gone out this year. This is not the Asian community calendar because the only Asian on here obviously is me. The other calendar is a big calendar which has Asian businesses advertising in it and has my picture in the middle. This was my attempt to try and get additional support for my office. I went to see Roger Sands, the Registrar, and I sat with him for half an hour, and I said, "This is what I am proposing to do. Do you think this is a good idea? How shall I do it? What shall I charge them? What do I have to register?" I then went to see Roger Willoughby. I think at the end of this they thought I was quite mad, but I am glad I did. I sat with Roger Willoughby. He then called in Gordon Downey who used to be in this building at that time, and he sat down and we all three sat down and looked at this calendar, and we went through all the scenarios, what was going to happen, who was going to pay the money, how it was going to be done. I explained that an individual called Rahar Mahmoud(?) was going to handle this project for them. I did not want to know about it particularly. I just wanted to know whether it produced me income to do the works I wanted to do over and above what I get in my office costs allowance. Mr Mahmoud went off and he tried to sort this out, and that is where he got the advertising from, the people who have advertised. My concern was to make sure that anything that he did was properly registered and I was within the rules; hence my letter to Downey, hence the setting up of Mapesbury, put it all away from me so it is transparent. If I did not want to tell anyone about this I would not have gone to see two Registrars and the Commissioner. I wanted to be clear because I know what happens about allegations, as I have seen for myself over the last year. People just make allegations; they do not make it clear. It was an enormous failure. People did not pay; it made a loss. Mahmoud, who was a nice person but acting independently, asked me whether he should sue people because they did not produce their adverts. I said, "No, you cannot sue people. That would be even worse and more damaging. Just forget about this whole thing. It is not going to work." This is where the calendar payment comes in from Zaiwalla. I think, even though he has got office, what he actually means is this was a part payment. I think we wrote that and said we did not know because it was a long time ago and frankly I was not dealing with these things. But the only thing that I can say by looking at Sands' letter to me, when he talks about how much people should be charged, though not knowing how much they were charged because I do not have access to the accounts because they were with Mr Mahmoud—and there is a story about that in a second—I cannot tell you whether he did not pay on time, whether he paid too early, is that he made a contribution. I cannot think and I have racked my brains what £250 would do to my parliamentary office. It could only have been in my view—I do not know—we said it might be a charity. I do not think it was a charity. I think it was a part payment for the advert that he took out. It did not benefit me.

  215. How much were the adverts?
  (Mr Vaz) I think they varied, but I think he must have been charged £450. I do not know.

  216. £450?
  (Mr Vaz) I think that he would have been charged £450.

  217. It seems a lot of money for that advert.
  (Mr Vaz) No. If you have seen the calendar the ambition was that you would produce a calendar, it would have a circulation of 10,000 people. I have 10,000 Asian names on my database. It would go everywhere. This is not a benefit for me in a sense. It is a benefit for Mr Zaiwalla. He gets to be associated with me. The fact is it all went horribly wrong and that is why it was not proceeded with, and that is why it did not make any money. There is no point in having these things unless you can actually gain support. I have been meticulous in the register. If you look at my interests in the register, talking about individual projects, making sure the person who supported that project was actually listed in that register, making sure that if I was doing a report on the Race Relations Act we knew who was paying for it. I had different people in my office all working on these things. This is all that we could do in a sense because of the national constituency I have. This could not be paid out of the office costs allowance because I am up to my limit on the office costs allowance. When people write to me from Ashton-under-Lyne and I write back and have to deal with them and they ask me to visit their temple and they ask me to do this, or if I go to Tatton or I go to wherever, this is all extra time, extra work. I still have to reply to people when they write to me. If I do not reply to people they complain. This was the purpose in the early 1990s, to be able once and for all to fund the Asian work that I was doing, but it was not successful.

  218. Can I return to the £1,000 in cash which was taken from Mr Zaiwalla's bank account in February 1994, which was intended as a donation as I understand it to charity, which you suggested. Why was it in cash?
  (Mr Vaz) I have no idea. Mr Zaiwalla has given you an explanation. I have not talked to him about these matters. It is quite likely that people would come to me and ask me for things. Let me give you an example of what they might ask for. Here is a file note of a meeting I had yesterday, if I may pass it round to the Committee (document handed in) from a Member of Parliament who I will not name because I do not think it is right that I should name him, who came to see me yesterday with a constituent. His constituent wants to climb Mount Everest—a worthy cause—and he came to me to ask what I could do to help him raise funds for his trek up Everest. I saw him even though it has been a difficult week. I gave him the advice that is on that piece of paper and I do not want to read it out or the name. This happens every single week. People will write to me. They will ring me up. They will ask me to come. You, Mr Chairman, have seen me in your constituency attending functions. You cannot leave a function in the community without someone giving you something to do. Mr Bell knows I know a number of people in his constituency from the Asian community, and he knows I know them well. People come and ask me all the time, and in Zaiwalla's case, and I did not know about this because frankly I was not asked, I was not told, I would not remember. So many people come and say, "Vaz, get me someone who can get me some money for my cause", that I just pass it around. I just say, "I will do my best". After the events of last week people have been ringing me up asking me for passports. They think that if they ring me up they can get their passports in three months, and all this publicity has been very bad for my case load because they just think that I have access to all these things. They ask. This is what happened. Zaiwalla is the leading Asian solicitor in this country. He is the only man who has managed to get on to Chancery Lane. He is not a high street solicitor; he is a bigwig, and therefore bigwigs deserve to contribute. He was told, "Do your bit". It used to be the case with the Jewish community when they became established in this country. I think it is now the case with the Asian community. Asian business people, people who have done well, have got to put something back. He is a Tory; he is not even a Labour Party supporter, but he will be treated in exactly the same way with me. I would say to him, "Contribute", and that is exactly what must have happened.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  219. Can I just ask about the relationship with Mr Kapasi? Is he a friend of yours?
  (Mr Vaz) Everyone will claim to be a friend of mine. I certainly know him from the time I arrived in Leicester. I would not regard him as a friend in the sense that I would spend time with him. I have never, for example, been to his home.

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