Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 600 - 619)



  600. Can I ask your colleague sitting with you, how long have you worked with Mr Zaiwalla?
  (Miss Chapman) Just over one year.

  601. Because I notice that when Mr Zaiwalla was asked a question before, it was you who corrected him and said to him that the Indian cyclone relief fund was the fund involved.
  (Miss Chapman) Only because I had been taking notes of Mr Zaiwalla's answers and the questions.

  602. You had no knowledge other than that about the issue?
  (Miss Chapman) I do not have anything to do with accounts, so I could not really comment on accounts at all, but I did know that Mr—

  603. You did prompt him to say it, that is all, and I wondered why.
  (Miss Chapman) No, no, only to refresh his memory.

  604. Of course, you have only worked for him for one year?
  (Miss Chapman) Yes.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: But it was in a slightly different context. Thank you very much.

Mr Bottomley

  605. Is it possible to establish—or maybe the Commissioner knows—which was the charity which was supposed to receive £1,000, precisely?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Which one? The £1,000? With any degree of accuracy, sir, the honest answer would be no, because it was in 1993. It was a time when I had a small practice. I used to do a lot of things myself. I can explain to you, sir, the circumstances. I recall that I was at one of the events in the House of Commons—it may have been organised by Mr Vaz—and Mr C Patel of Gujarat Samachar very publicly chided me for not doing much for the Asian community. I said, "Please tell me what you want me to do and I'm prepared to do so." I then said I would sponsor £1,000 for a charity event. It was a natural calamity in India.

  606. If we want to establish, because it may help Mr Keith Vaz, that the charity received the money which you gave to the people who came to call, who are the people we can most easily ask actually to get the precise names, see if they can look at bank accounts and see if they can check details?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I think the best person to ask would be Mr Vaz, and perhaps Mr C Patel of Gujarat Samachar, because I have a recollection that he was involved in the charity. I also have a distinct recollection that we had sent my firms logo for the sponsorship of that function.

  607. I know it is some seven years back. Do you recall anybody else who was at the event? Were you at the event at the House of Commons?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) When he asked me for it?

  608. Yes.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I was there, of course.

  609. Was that event for this particular charity?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, it was for something else. I know it was a very crowded event.

  610. Would it be possible for you after today to try to make some more inquiries and see if you can come back either to the Commissioner or to the Clerk, if you can actually discover the name of the charity? If you fail, you fail, but perhaps it might be possible to make some calls and see if you can find out the name of the charity and where we might apply for access to check that the money was actually received.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Sir, the honest answer is no, because the Commissioner asked me—and I have co-operated fully with the Commissioner—and I do not think it is possible. I do not think, in practical terms, it is. I have done everything possible I can.

  611. You were answering questions from my colleague, Mr Dale Campbell-Savours, about when you would last have met Mr Vaz on one or two occasions. Would it be possible to know how often you have written to him in the last, say, year?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I have written to him many times, but nothing to do with this inquiry; it is to do with my complaint against Mr Vaz, because the employment tribunal hearing was in october of 1999, and that is where I discovered that Mr Vaz's evidence was read against me—not that I complain that he gave evidence for the opposition, but it was inaccurate, as he had made many inaccurate statements in his letter. Therefore, what was curious was that what was read out to court as evidence was a copy of Mr Vaz's letter to the applicant's solicitor from the Lord Chancellor's Department file, and there was a note on it by Gary Hart, saying something, words to the effect, "Suggest don't", something like this. I think probably it is best not say anything now. That made the whole thing very curious, and I had a very rough hearing from the chairman. There was a last-minute change of chairman. Gary Hart is a special adviser to the Lord Chancellor, and Miss *** boasted, during the remedies hearing in May 2000, that Gary Hart of the Lord Chancellor's Department is supporting the proceedings against my firm for this. I am happy to say, we got leave to appeal, but there has been a lot of correspondence, including with the Cabinet Secretary, because when I think that I am right, I stand up, gently and courteously, for what I believe is correct.

  612. To pursue that letter, what you are describing as a surprising intervention of Mr Vaz, do you recall what his relationship was with this person, and has he worked with her?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) With Miss ***?

  613. Yes.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) She came from the Lord Chancellor's Department to join my firm as a para-legal on an eight-week contract, in the hope that she would get a training contract. She did not get it, so she alleged that I had exercised bias in favour of a male white, and she, oddly enough, went back to the Lord Chancellor's Department. She was an employee of the Lord Chancellor's Department when Mr Vaz was the Minister there.

  614. As far as you are aware, the letter from him was a ministerial letter and not an MP's letter or a private individual's letter?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) It was a private letter, but from the Lord Chancellor's Department file, that was the odd thing. The matter is not over yet, because Mr Justice Bell has given me permission for leave to appeal to pursue this point about the Lord Chancellor's Department or whether there was a violation of the equality of arms principle under the Human Rights Act. That is a different matter altogether.

  615. So you had this correspondence with Mr Vaz and about Mr Vaz in relation to the employment tribunal and the employment appeals tribunal?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.

  616. Are there any other letters you may have exchanged with him, say, in the course of the last year?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No. I wrote him a letter yesterday expressing concern about his health. This was a letter which I addressed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about his health, because I read over the weekend that he was hospitalised last Tuesday with a chest pain or something like that, and therefore I wrote a letter. I do not deal directly with Mr Vaz, because he has appointed a solicitor to deal with me, and his solicitor is Mr Bindman.

  617. Sorry, that is in relation to the employment tribunal case?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Yes, sir.

  618. There is no other reason for you to have written to him, and you have not written to him in other ways?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  619. Going back to the beginning of the Commissioner's inquiry, were you originally in a position to be able to tell her that payments had been made at the behest of Mr Vaz to various causes, or did you originally not remember that?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) In actual terms, if a person like Mr Vaz were to ask me to sponsor an event, I would consider that I am sponsoring it at the behest of that person. To that extent I may have said I have no recollection of that, just in the same way as if Mr X phones me up and he— Let me be very honest. We are in the service industry, and if he is an important man and if he says, "Will you sponsor and pay £500 for this charity or this thing?", I would say "Yes" and I would, but I would make an aide-memoire that I am doing it at his request, just for my own benefit, that is all.

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