Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 320 - 339)



  320. No benefit whatsoever?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  321. No money has been drawn by anybody?
  (Mr Vaz) No.

  322. Obviously, if we had full accounts, that would be evident?
  (Mr Vaz) I hope so, yes. I do not have the accounts. I was surprised when Mrs Filkin wrote to me and said that the register of shareholders was at our house. You do not think about this. You go and see Downey in 1986 and this is what you intend to do, but it is something I am grateful for now. It is an opportunity to clarify things.

  323. I respect what you have said about your mother not being well. You said you were not a Leicester person prior to being selected; yet your mother ends up being a city councillor. Did she move there when you did? Is that how she came to be involved in Leicester politics?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. I am very fond of my mother and she is very fond of me. I was not married then and when I moved up from London, when I was selected and I did not expect to be selected in Leicester East. You know how it is. You go in for a number of seats. It was Tooting, Edmonton, Leicester East and Southall. I lost Tooting by three votes. I lost Edmonton. I went up to Leicester East and I got one nomination in the one ward where Peter Soulsby was standing against me and I was called up on the last occasion because Valerie Wise had morning sickness and they said they wanted to make up the numbers. I said, "I will never win a seat. Nobody knows me." I walked in there in the good old days when you could address a GMC and they could select you.

  *  *  *  *  *

Mr Williams

  324. I have forgotten the context but at the outset you said quite specifically and adamantly, "I would sue." What was the context in which you used that term right at the start of your presentation?

(Mr Vaz) Sue who?

  325. That is what I am trying to remember.
  (Mr Vaz) The presentation today?

  Mr Williams: Yes.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  326. It was in relation to our conversation on the terrace.
  (Mr Vaz) Okay. It must have been May 1994. Mr Campbell-Savours was on the terrace, having a drink. I walked past him and he said, "The Sunday Times article; what are you going to do?" I said, "I am going to sue them." He said, "Don't." That was my first mistake. I should have dealt with it. Then he mentioned something about my mother's eyes. I do not know the context.

Mr Williams

  327. Dale and I have served a long time in this House and I have long since learned not to take his advice. He has learned not to take mine. You then said something very interesting. You said, "He said, "Don't sue", and I did not and it was a mistake." In the circumstances you are in now, since the newspapers have been publishing what the man they quote professes himself to be lies in a statutory declaration, why do you not sue the newspapers?
  (Mr Vaz) Because I cannot.

  328. Why?
  (Mr Vaz) Because I sought legal advice from Mr Bindman and others. I went to see the Clerk of the House. I spoke to the previous Speaker, and I said, "Either you bring him before the Committee because they keep publishing things that are not right, or you let me sue", and there were gales of laughter because as soon as the word "privilege" comes into it you cannot. I still think you can actually but I am not a great lawyer on these things. Bindman is the greatest.

  329. It is not the privilege you would be suing them about. It is the lies about what you have done.
  (Mr Vaz) I cannot.

  330. But you can because what is in the press is not privileged.
  (Mr Vaz) It is.

  331. No, it is not.
  (Mr Vaz) Right.

  332. The statement made by Mr Kapasi to the papers was not parliamentary process. It was a statement that he himself made.
  (Mr Vaz) I am advised by Mr Bindman that what you are saying has some validity and that we should wait and see what happens after the Committee publishes its report. I need to get some of these costs back, you see.

  333. You see, this interests me because I must admit that your solicitor is not an inconsequential source of advice. I would have thought you would have taken advantage of that to find out whether suing was an option, particularly as you have learned by the error of your ways this week, as a way of shutting them up or at least scaring them off for a while.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Williams, I can remember one particular Saturday night—now, after all this, this is peanuts what they were saying about me, after the last week. I was so incensed I rang up the duty judge. I did not know he existed because I am not a good practitioner because I did not really practise law as much as I should have. I did not know you could just get an injunction like that—well, not like that; you have to have evidence—and I rang him up and I said, "I want to take an injunction to stop publication of this Telegraph article and I have spoken to Mrs Filkin, and she said she has not spoken to the Telegraph but they are still going to print the article. And I have spoken to the Clerk of the House and the Clerk of the House says it is privileged because Mrs Filkin says so in her guidance, that communications are privileged as soon as the inquiry starts." I get to the judge and he says, "Fine. Give me the evidence, but you do remember you will have to pay the costs of the pulping of all these copies of the Sunday Telegraph and then when they go for the real hearing next week you will have to pay the costs of that if you lose." I do not think my wife would have allowed me to do that.

  334. First of all you made the point that it would be a good thing in a way if we called the journalist before us to account before you call him before the court to account, particularly when you have two statutory declarations from someone putting his hands up and saying what he said here this morning, "I am a liar". That is a pretty good defence position, is it not? Why not go for it? You might make a lot of money out of it.
  (Mr Vaz) As we have in the Committee probably the best defamation lawyer in the country I will not even begin to comment on that. I do not know whether you want Mr Bindman to comment.

  335. No, not really. It is just an option you have not explored more seriously because if you had explored it seriously you would not have misunderstood the relationship between privilege and this because Mr Bindman would have been able to enlighten you within a few moments of the point being made. I am sure he would not have been caught out by it.
  (Mr Vaz) He points me to paragraph 14 of your report: "I should point out to you, as is my practice with all witnesses, that evidence supplied for the purpose of this inquiry and any related correspondence is covered by parliamentary privilege and remains confidential unless and until it is published by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges to whom I shall report."

  336. But we are talking about statements he has made to the press, not releasing evidence that he has given here. They are statements he has made to the press.
  (Mr Vaz) I agree with you, Mr Williams. I am happy to agree with you.

  337. I will not pursue it any further because I think I have established the point I wanted to make, that there is a meaningful option available and I say it with some surprise, since you feel so vehement against the press and against Mr Kapasi. Perhaps Mr Kapasi would be an easier target since you would not have to pulp all the files in his office or anything of that sort.
  (Mr Vaz) You need to have money to do this.

  338. When Mr Kapasi phoned you, and it is interesting because it is the way I am going in a moment. Here we have Mr Kapasi, a man of glowing integrity, an experienced financial accountant, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant, who could not tell us often enough that he—using the word more than once—bent the truth. He gave us a philosophical dissertation on circumstances in which you lied and that sort of thing which was very interesting. He then phoned you the day after the article, you say. I do not recollect any of that being in what he said to us this morning but it does not matter anyhow at the moment. Why did you not then suddenly switch around and rush off to a solicitor to sign a statutory declaration? Did you suggest to him that perhaps it would be a good idea if he recanted on his version of events or did you actually threaten him with libel?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I have not threatened anyone with libel, apart from the press. I think this is a matter for him. I have not seen the transcript of that.

  339. There we have an interesting example of a clearly upright man who just does things that most of us would not regard as upright. Then we have another witness who is dismissed on the grounds that he has been a thief and been in prison for four years. It is again quite interesting when you read what he has to say. I am talking about Mr Brown. You have seen the transcript of his conversation. He used to be a former accounts manager with Zaiwalla. I recognise that the fact that he is a thief would count very considerably against him if he stood up in a court. There seems to be a rule: once a thief, always a liar. I am sure there are some thieves who are liars but that is beside the point. When you look at what he said when he went and spoke to Mr Milne, bear in mind that he had nothing to gain in this conversation. I would like to take you to a couple of things he said. First of all he misunderstood, as was quite clear. It is on page 7 of 2b. He starts off and Milne asks him, "... I am very anxious to find out what you have said to them about Mr Vaz", and he said, "I havent said anything. AM: Were you discreet? BB: I havent said anything. What they asked me about I didnt know. Simple as that." Then it goes on a bit further and then, just over halfway down the page, Milne says: "I have a vivid recollection that you did hand over an envelope with £2000 in it to Mr Vaz's office. BB: Well that wasnt asked of me. I was asked about a bloke called Baldry." This is interesting because he was saying he was not going to tell them and he did not remember. He made no attempt to tell the press what he thought the press wanted. He clearly did not remember anything in relation to Baldry. He says something completely different. Bear with me if I take you through this; I will not take very long. "I was asked about a bloke called Baldry. Vaz never came up into the conversation at all. AM: You were asked if you had given Baldry money ... BB: Thats right. Because it was 1987, er 1997. AM: Oh I see. Thats comforting. I was asked about Mr Vaz though which I did find concerning because I do remember you did give him—or someone from his office—an envelope. BB: Oh yes. I remember that quite vividly, he was up there quite a lot." There is nothing wrong with that. You knew the man. You had social relationships with him. I am not making anything of the second part. It is that he remembered quite vividly as compared with the Baldry answer. Then Milne goes on and says: "Do you remember the name of Vaz's assistant who actually handed the cash to? BB: No because it was to him personally. AM: You handed the £2000 to Mr Vaz personally. BB: Well, however much it was, it was to him personally. I dont remember any assistants." Recognising that he is a man with a criminal record, then faced with the conundrum that, thinking that he was being asked about Baldry, he answered absolutely truthfully and, when there was nothing to gain, can you think of any good reason why he should have made it up, the story about you, Keith?
  (Mr Vaz) Which one? Brown or Milne?

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