Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 280 - 299)



  280. If that came out in 1994, how does that go in with the timing of the nomination of John Major in 1993 for Mr Zaiwalla?
  (Mr Vaz) I did not nominate Zaiwalla in 1993; John Major. I nominated him in 1996.

  281. Just once?
  (Mr Vaz) No. I wrote to Major in response to his Honours List of July 1996. I then wrote to the Lord Chancellor, a copy of which I think you have, telling the Lord Chancellor that I had written to John Major, but John Major knows Zaiwalla very well. You have met Zaiwalla, as you said.

  282. I did not say that. I said he had a home in my constituency.
  (Mr Vaz) He was at the New Zealand House reception that Mr Hinduja gave.

  283. That I did not know. Was each advertisement paid for?
  (Mr Vaz) I do not know. If I was asked these questions earlier last year, the gentleman who organised these calendars could have answered them. He died at the end of November. He was organising it in his house. He would ring them up and go and see them and write to them.

  284. The community calendar may have been produced in 1994, 1995 or 1996 but not much before that and not much after that?
  (Mr Vaz) Not at all before that. When you have a print run of 10,000, there is going to be someone who is going to complain about this. I never thought it would take seven years. I knew that there would be difficulties. That is why I went to see the registrars, Sands, Willoughby and Sir Gordon Downey. If you were to ask Sir Gordon Downey, of all the things that he remembers, I am sure he will remember my calendar because I think he thought it was bizarre.

  285. So far as you are aware for the commercial calendar, the business calendar, the only payments that you are aware of were the ones for advertisements. There were not any other payments?
  (Mr Vaz) When I went to see Gordon Downey in 1996, I had hoped that my income from other sources would go into the company. I had a radio programme, Spectrum Radio, and I was then subsequently, having told Gordon Downey, sacked from it—well, not sacked from it; they asked me to leave. No income came from there. I am not a barrister; I do not practise; I have never practised so there is not any outside income. You do things with the aim of trying to achieve these things but it just did not work.

  286. Am I right in thinking that from what you have suggested you cannot tell us what the gross receipt was for each calendar?
  (Mr Vaz) I know that it made a loss. After he had taken out his expenses, chased people and all that kind of thing, in the end, there was no contribution to the office. That is why many of the other schemes we did were all funded as we have indicated on the register.

  287. I want to ask about the cost of your office, which probably exceeded what you would get on office costs allowance, given the pressures and loads on you. How was that funded?
  (Mr Vaz) Everything that went beyond what I was doing in office costs allowance is down in the register. Whenever somebody contributed to something, whenever they paid for a report to be published, if there was extra staff, it was all down there.

  288. Can you explain how there is a conflict of interest in Peter Soulsby and the Commissioner having been on the Audit Commission?

  289. (Mr Vaz) I think there is an apparent perception.Æ

  290. Are you saying there is not a conflict?
  (Mr Vaz) It is a conflict that has come out and therefore it needs to be dealt with.

  291. Is there a conflict or is it an apparent one?
  (Mr Vaz) I think there is an apparent conflict.

  292. There is not a conflict?
  (Mr Vaz) No. Mrs Filkin has left comments in here which I want to challenge about me which I think are not fair and she has put in things about members of my family who are third parties who have never been part of this like, for example, the whole Claire Ward thing which is totally irrelevant to this, because frankly it has nothing to do with these complaints or this inquiry. It should not have been put into the report. Mrs Filkin is a good, firm Parliamentary Commissioner but there is a need to have a register so that nobody can challenge her integrity. That means she could put on there anything that she does outside the scope of her job as Parliamentary Commissioner. That is what we do. It does not criticise her at all. It does not say that she has done anything wrong because I do not think she has. The Committee may want to consider something which can be inspected. As Mr Bindman put in his very reasonable response, we do not challenge her integrity. We believe that she has done everything properly. She has told the Chairman, but she knows Peter Soulsby. What she ought to have done, some may say—I am not saying this—is she ought to have written to me to say, "By the way, I must tell you I served on the Audit Commission with Peter Soulsby. I am at a meeting with him on 25 April. He is the chairman of my committee. I just thought I would tell you. Do you have any objections?" That is all. Then we would have said, "No." The other thing that we should be clear on is that people might say something about it. She wrote and told us later on that she had spoken to the Chairman but the meetings of the Audit Commission that I have found out from the House of Commons Library that Mrs Filkin attended did happen throughout the inquiry.

  293. Are you saying she does not have a conflict of interest?
  (Mr Vaz) No. I think there is an apparent one.

  294. The plain answer to the question, "Is there a conflict of interest?" in your view is, "There is not"?
  (Mr Vaz) No. We have made that clear. Mr Bindman has made that clear. We do not think there is but so that nobody can question anything that has been done the best way is to have a register so that the Commissioner is able to put out her other activities. That is all.

Shona McIsaac

  295. You were saying earlier you had been quite astonished at some of the things that have appeared in the tape transcripts that you have now had sight of. There were allegations made about property in Goa and so on. Neither you nor anybody in your family have properties or anything like that in Goa. Why would you assume somebody would say such a thing?
  (Mr Vaz) I do not know. I have no idea. I have been to Goa. I am of Goan origin. I would like to visit them and claim them. I shall be writing to Mr Kapasi and asking for the addresses.

  296. Does it not disturb you, the pattern that seems to appear with Mr Kapasi and Mr Attwal in that they make allegations on tape and say they will deny them? What is your view about that? Do you think somebody has been putting them up to this? Where do you think all this has emanated from?
  (Mr Vaz) People think they can get away with much more if they say it privately, when they think it does not see the light of day. Hence the words, "off the record". It is when you confront people with their words that they get very worried. One of the most difficult aspects of this whole investigation which I cannot really understand is the involvement of so many journalists. Mrs Filkin kindly wrote to us and told us the whole facts about The Daily Telegraph. Mrs Filkin will know because I put her to great difficulties on Saturdays. I would have a phone call from Rajeev Syal or Chris Hastings to say, "We are going to publish this thing. We have spoken to Mrs Filkin. Mrs Filkin says X, Y and Z." I would page Mrs Filkin who would be at some dinner party—I am not suggesting she goes to dinner parties every Saturday—or somewhere and she would say, "This is absolutely untrue. I have never spoken to them." Then they would print an article in which they would say, "Sources close to Mrs Filkin" or "Friends of Mrs Filkin" or other matters of that kind. It has been a nightmare this last year. I have not had a single Sunday where I have been able to sit down with my children. That is why I kept writing to the Chairman, saying, "Please hurry up." I know you probably do not want to but just the thought of one journalist sitting in front of you, having to go through a select committee, is wonderful for me because they never think they are going to have to. I did not realise then, although I realise now, Mrs Filkin having written to us, that they were having meetings and conversations with Mrs Filkin. From those innocent conversations, they were rushing off and doing other things. I complained at the start and I talked about contempt. The best way to protect the integrity of what you all do and to make people understand that this is a really serious issue is that, when the press start printing things about the report, people are tough with them, as tough as you were with Colin Hall, because Colin Hall will never do that again. The Guardian today said I was going to be cleared. The Telegraph today said I was going to be convicted. Members of Parliament simply cannot go through these inquiries when every day there is another newspaper article about them.

  297. You have never spoken to the press about any of this?
  (Mr Vaz) I have always said to the press what I have always said to Mrs Filkin: I cannot talk about the next inquiry, as I said last week. "I will talk to the investigator and you will have to wait for the outcome." That has not stopped them printing a whole lot of stuff about what is going on.

  298. You have not asked anybody else to speak to the press on your behalf?
  (Mr Vaz) No. I spoke on Sunday to Kim Sengupta, the journalist on The Independent who announced that I was to be cleared except for one technicality. He rang me about Mr Hinduja and I said, "Now that I have you on the phone, can you please tell me why you have said these things? Have you spoken to a member of the committee?" "No." "Have you spoken to Mrs Filkin?" "No." "Have you spoken to my supporters?" "No." "How can you write an article like this? I hope the Committee brings you before it." I sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee. John Wheeler was the chairman. Somebody kept leaking all our reports before publication and we had had enough. We dragged one journalist before us, John Pienaar, who was promoted after that, and we said, "Will you stop printing our reports. Tell us your source." They never reveal their sources. They will give you transcripts of what Mr Kapasi says and what Mr Attwal says but they will never reveal their sources.

  299. As a former journalist, I do understand that aspect of it. I want to move on to the property in Uppingham Road. This was both your home and your constituency office?
  (Mr Vaz) There are two. 144 Uppingham Road started as my home. It was purchased in 1985, before I became a Member of Parliament. 1989 was the house next door. This is the bottom floor of which I allowed the Leicester East Labour Party to occupy.

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