Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 260 - 279)



  260. Yes, I am really going back to pre self-nomination. What I am trying to get at is whether or not the Zaiwalla case was unusual or routine.
  (Mr Vaz) I understand what you mean. I do not do it routinely. It is a desire. The campaign was a desire to get the Prime Ministers and the civil servants to be aware that they need to make such nominations, not for me personally to lead a crusade to have a hundred people nominated in a year. There was nothing like that. I have nominated people who are related to people in this room, or have been related to people in this room by marriage, and therefore I would nominate such a person because I know them or because somebody would write to me and say, "I need five letters. Will you give me five letters?" When you do that, you write them because you know the person. Sometimes you do it because you know the person who writes to you, and I do not think that an MP actually has that much difference these days, once our letters go in. Perhaps now all this has been raised it will be even less. If you look at the form itself it is very interesting, because I studied this and this is one of the points that I hope the Committee will bear in mind when it comes to looking at what goes into the report. Mrs Filkin is unfair to me a bit when she says I was not helpful in answering her question. I was not not answering her question because I did not want to tell her; I was being very cautious, because I think honours are confidential matters. I think in this world we have come to this stage that everyone must know everything. I know Mr Bell probably supports that view, because he wants to keep absolute transparency. But I think that if you nominate someone for an honour and it ends up in a select committee report, that person will never get an honour, because everyone will read about it. So you have to be very, very careful in dealing with these things, because on the form it says, Mr Forth, "The information contained in this nomination is strictly confidential and will not be communicated to any person other than those involved in the administration of the honours system, with the exception of background information which may be used in association with the announcement of any honour granted." So you actually have to not even tell people that you have nominated them. As to why I delayed, I was not delaying because I was being disrespectful to Mrs Filkin, I delayed because I sought advice from the Cabinet Secretary who said, "We're very concerned that this information is going out, because really what you ought to do is you ought to make sure that unless there's a criminal matter that is being investigated, we won't tell anyone who's nominated anybody, because it is confidential, but if you want to note anything on your file, then you should." I just think that now we probably need a committee ruling on this, as a result of the decision into the Baldry case: "What's in your mind? Do you have a financial relationship?" It does not say that on the form. This is not a defence for me or Tony, because I am sure that, if he said it, this is not why he nominated. He makes it quite clear, "I did not nominate him because I had a loan. I nominated him because I thought he was good for it", and if you look at the letter you will see that is what he said. It is just the length of time. If you establish that as the crucial factor in this, then I am saying to you, is it about, at time or just about? If someone takes you on a taxi ride somewhere, or gives you lunch at the Dorchester— Lunch at the Dorchester for four—for yourself, your wife, the person you are nominating and their friend, in the Chinese restaurant in the Dorchester—is not less than £450 (not that we go there regularly, but it is of that order). Are we saying that with hospitality, if you subsequently then nominate somebody, you have to remember that? So it is the amount, the length of time and what is in your mind. That is why I know these things are difficult, but I say that the complaint should not be upheld on this ground, because it is perfectly different from the other matters. I do think that Mr Bindman has asked me, not today but in his preparation with me. He talks about de minimis non curat lex. The fact is it is only £200. People do expect more when they nominate someone for "an honour". I am not saying I do. People may say, "God, this is cheap. I give £200 for a calendar in 1993 and look at this man, he's prepared to nominate me for an honour." I think that we need to look at this, because I think it will affect every single Member of this House, unless we are clear what we mean.

Mr Bottomley

  261. Can I ask a number of questions. There has been some issue about registration of properties in Leicester. Is there anything you would like to say to us about that?
  (Mr Vaz) I am very sorry, because I was delayed at the office and I did not get back in time to collect the letter from Mr Doig, but I do not know if Mr Sandall has received it.


  262. He does not have it with him.
  (Mr Vaz) It is on the board, and I do not know what it says there.

Mr Bottomley

  263. If there is an issue to do with that or to rectify, there is no problem about that from your point of view?
  (Mr Vaz) No, but I put in a submission to him. I think that part of the confusion—and this is not Mrs Filkin's fault—is the fact that these properties are adjacent to each other. The one point I hope the Committee will realise is that a property in Leicester is not the same as a property in Kent or Richmond. I bought the house in Leicester. I do not know whether you have seen my letter to Mr Doig. You have. Mrs Filkin has. Has the Committee?


  264. No, the Committee has not.
  (Mr Vaz) I bought the house in Leicester in 1985 for £22,000. That is a three-bedroomed house. It became my office. I bought the house next door at a complete over-value, because I wanted it because it was near, I could move my files across and I could live next door when I was in Leicester. I was done, and he charged me £52,000 for it. That is why I went to the Registrar in 1994 and I put on a piece of paper to the Registrar, "Do I have to register 144 Uppingham Road?" He did not— There is nothing on the file. Mrs Filkin gives the Registrar the benefit of the doubt that he spoke to me and felt my non-registration of 144 was reasonable. There are two explanations. Either he did indeed say that, in which case it does not need to be registered, or they forgot to put it in the printed version, they did not accept my question-mark at the end.

Mr Bottomley

  265. My question, Chairman, is that if it is advisable for one to register, there is no difficulty about that, that is not an issue?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I will do exactly what Mr Doig suggests.

  266. This could be regarded as rectification, if that is necessary?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. I should tell you—and I would like this bit to be kept confidential—

  Mr Bottomley: If it is not relevant to what I said, there is no need to say it. The easiest thing, if it is confidential, is for it not to be said.


  267. We cannot guarantee the confidentiality of it until we hear what it is.
  (Mr Vaz)  *  *  *  *  *

Mr Bottomley

  268. Can I change to something very different. One of the people who supplied information to the Commissioner was Mustapha Kamal who has expressed quite some anxiety about improper pressure and about a copy of his letter going to other people. Can I ask whether you copied or showed Mr Kamal's letter which he sent to the Commissioner to any other person other than your legal advisers up to early May last year?
  (Mr Vaz) No, it was only shown to Mr Bindman.

  269. Can you cast any light on why Mr Kamal might have had apprehensions about you knowing what he had said about you?
  (Mr Vaz) No. I think if you read Mr Kamal's correspondence, he seems to be a bit cross with Mrs Filkin, not me, because he did not expect Mrs Filkin to send me a copy of his letter because, as we have found out throughout this inquiry and as I will find out for the rest of my life, because of what we know about politicians, people will say things hoping they will never get out to the person they say it to, and I think many of the witnesses are going to be absolutely flabbergasted when they see their letters printed in the Official Report, because I do not think they were told that it was going to be printed. Mrs Filkin, to be absolutely fair to her, told me the moment I rang her, in a very courteous and very professional way, "Be careful what you put down in writing, because it will be published." Having seen the letters she has written to others, I do not think that warning has been given to others, and I think a lot of third parties who have been dragged into this whole saga will just be amazed.

  270. I have declared on previous occasions that Mr Zaiwalla has a home in my constituency. I was at a New Zealand House party and I have recently been to a party that Mr Vaz has hosted at the Foreign Office, for the avoidance of doubt. Can I return to Mr Kamal? Did you or anyone on your behalf ever ask Labour councillors to meet the costs of running your office or to make a donation to party funds in the expectation that the money would be used to support you or your office?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  271. Can you cast any light on why anyone might think that was being asked?
  (Mr Vaz) I would imagine that all these characters are part of the same group of actors who have appeared throughout my life. Nobody ever expected Mrs Filkin to take seriously the allegations that he made. All Members of Parliament will know that their parties are separate from them. When I got to Leicester East, my general management committee was slightly different to what it is now. I was requested to contribute to the party and councillors were asked to make a contribution of £8 to the Labour Party, not to me. This was always made very clear. Mrs Stuttard's recollection of this Mrs Filkin correctly finds was from 1997 so she has her dates wrong or she does not know what she is quite saying. Nobody asked Mr Stuttard to make a contribution. He is referring to the decision taken by the general management committee that every elected official should make a contribution. I believe this started before I even got there but it certainly operated when I was there. We have come to the bottom of Mr Kamal's contribution. He wrote on 17 April. Mrs Filkin wrote in October to the bank. I faxed back my letter to Mrs Filkin on 17 April, on the very same day I received it. I faxed back my answer in order to make sure that I was cooperating with the inquiry. She writes to the bank and the bank says, "I confirm that there was a standing order in favour of the Leicester East Labour Party." That is a payment to the Labour Party, not to Keith Vaz. The bank manager confirms this. I was very surprised to see this in the incomplete inquiry section because I think that is conclusive. I do not know any Member of Parliament who is a signatory to the accounts of their local party. I have never been a signatory to the accounts of the Leicester East Labour Party. They have never given me any money. It is not the way it works in Leicester East. I have to give them money.

  272. Can I go on with your response which was to refer the Commissioner to the Labour Party? My understanding is that some councillors have refused to provide the relevant records to enable checks to be made. Do you know of any way checks can be made to make sure that the payments were to the Labour Party and went into their account?
  (Mr Vaz) I will do anything I can to help the Committee come to a conclusion on this. I have not done so in the past because Mrs Filkin has not asked me to. She has asked me to keep away from witnesses. I do not control my local party. I will say to them it is in their interests if they will help me clear my name by doing this. The only difficulty is this is a voluntary organisation that has gone through many tribulations over a number of years. There is a treasurer elected every two years at least. Some people have died. The previous treasurer, as I understand, made sure that the accounts were got rid of every five years, for what reason I do not know. I understand that everyone will do their best to try to help. People will be amazed when you write to them and ask for this information because no one in their wildest dreams expects a local councillor to pay £8 to an MP. It is completely incredible. If you want me to help, I will suggest to them that they do help.

  273. Who could give authority to a bank, for example, assuming there had not been changes to the bank accounts every year, for checks to be made for the bank to see records of what flowed in and what flowed out, not necessarily a publication of the whole accounts of Leicester East CLP, but just a check?
  (Mr Vaz) It depends on the local party. With my local party, I would imagine they would want to call an emergency meeting of the executive committee and of the general management committee. They would then want to call all the members together because they will be under the impression that, because it is Mr Kamal and he is known as a supporter of Peter Soulsby, this is the way Peter Soulsby gets hold of the accounts of the Leicester East Party. This is a longstanding problem, as Mrs Filkin found out, that even Mr Vaz cannot sort out for them. They have been through an enormous amount. They will cooperate, I am sure, if it is a question of helping me, but they will not just hand over their accounts. I do not know of any local party that is prepared to do that. These are volunteers; you cannot even sack them.

  274. Can I move on to calendars? How many different sorts of calenders were there floating around?
  (Mr Vaz) There were two types of calendars. Mrs Filkin is confused about this and maybe it is my fault. I am happy to take responsibility but I do not think it is. There is the calendar which received income. The only calendar which received income is what I will describe as the Asian community calendar. I have described why we set it up. That carries advertising. My register copies are not complete but it is in there. This is the constituency calendar which would go primarily to my constituents, but because the print run would be longer than 36,000, whatever it is, households, I would send it to people. For example, this is on my desk and there are visiting ministers from abroad. They say, "That is very nice. Can I have one?" I give it to them. There is no income from this. I pay for that and I submit the bill to the fees office where Mrs Filkin has correctly said somebody has made a contribution to pay for it. It might be that we put two bills together or it was more expensive in a particular year. I think the millennium one carried a picture of the Dome and therefore we had to pay for that. We would get contributions for it and what we would do is get the printer to be paid, like Mr Patel, for example.

  275. What is the scale of cost for the unpaid for one?
  (Mr Vaz) I can send you some estimates but I would think this is about £500.

  276. For about 36,000 copies?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. It depends on the printers you go to. We have a resource centre and we have calendars. Different MPs can get different deals. It depends on your printer but the printer that we go to is quite good.

  277. When did the Asian community calendar start roughly?
  (Mr Vaz) That started whenever I wrote to Mr Sands, 1994 or 1993. It finished in 1996. I can tell you that because I had had enough of it.

  278. Roughly three years?
  (Mr Vaz) 1994. This has become a crucial issue but it is a painful thing to remember because it was not very good. The idea was great. Do you know those big parliamentary calendars that we get as part of the parliamentary year book? You obviously do not get it. We asked them in 1993, "How did you pay for this?" They said, "It was quite easy. We made a huge profit. This was a great idea." Other MPs do the same thing. They sometimes get their calendars sponsored. I feel it is really important that it should not have the Labour Party logo on it and it should be seen to be me as a constituency MP, because it goes to everybody.

  279. I am on the Asian business community calendar.
  (Mr Vaz) That is on the register.

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