Examination of Witness (Questions 720
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
720. I am sticking to conversations that you
may have had with Keith Vaz. The party on 22 September 1999 in
New Zealand House, where the Lord Chancellor was officially giving
it or guest of honour, I think was to celebrate Keith Vaz becoming
a minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department. You were there?
(Mr Zaiwalla) I was.
721. Did you talk to Mr Vaz at that party?
(Mr Zaiwalla) I do not think so. There were about
300-400 people there. He was the star. I may be wrong but my impression
of that party was that it was for the Lord Chancellor, not Keith
722. I have not been able to find my copy of
the invitation, so I cannot help.
(Mr Zaiwalla) I get a lot of invitations and I do
not go. I went only because the Lord Chancellor was going to be
723. Not because of Keith Vaz?
(Mr Zaiwalla) Not because of Keith Vaz, no.
724. Was the employment tribunal case in your
mind at that time?
(Mr Zaiwalla) It was. One of the issues before the
employment appeal tribunal is that Miss ***, the applicant, had
come along with Keith Vaz. I had later discussed with Mr Hinduja
the basis on which the applicant was present at the party. I had
made investigations for the purpose of that. I had also asked
the Lord Chancellor's Department to explain how a very junior
civil servant could accompany the minister and the Lord Chancellor.
725. This is after she had returned to the Lord
Chancellor's Department from working with your firm for a short
(Mr Zaiwalla) That is right.
726. You are telling us today that on that occasion
you do not remember speaking to Keith Vaz.
(Mr Zaiwalla) I may have just said, "Hello."
727. You do not recall saying, "What is
she doing here?" You do not recall discussing the merits
of the case?
(Mr Zaiwalla) No. I saw her in the lift as I was leaving.
I did not notice she was there until I left. A lot of these events
I just drop into for five or ten minutes. I do not stay for long.
728. Can I take you again to Lisbon? In one
reference you refer to it as being May. If I put it to you that
it was probably towards the end of June?
(Mr Zaiwalla) It is possible. I can check the date.
It was the beginning of summer.
729. You were there because of this Indo-European
(Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.
730. Keith Vaz's wife was there, but not him?
(Mr Zaiwalla) He was not there but she was there.
She was quite an important person. I remember her asking me for
advice because she was asked to ask the first question to the
Indian Prime Minister. She quite sweetly came and asked me, "This
is the question I am supposed to ask. What do you think of it?"
She discussed it with me.
731. Was your belief that she was there because
she was a solicitor in her own right or because of her obvious
connection with Keith Vaz?
(Mr Zaiwalla) Because of the obvious connection with
Keith Vaz. She was one of the guests of honour.
732. Do you recall discussing with her the employment
tribunal case or the applicant?
(Mr Zaiwalla) Yes.
733. How would that conversation have gone,
(Mr Zaiwalla) I met her before the event. There was
a reception given by the British ambassador. All of the British
delegation was invited. We said hello to each other and we talked
to each other. She knew that relations were strained between Keith
and I. One of us raised this question. I said it was very naughty
of Keith to give inaccurate evidence. She said, "Keith is
not to be blamed" and I believe her even today. "He
did not know this." She had obtained this letter from the
Lord Chancellor's Department file without Keith's knowledge.
734. She being Miss *** or Mrs Vaz?
(Mr Zaiwalla) Miss ***.
735. Going back to the New Zealand House party,
that was just before the Labour Party conference. Would you have
met Mr Vaz at the Labour Party conference?
(Mr Zaiwalla) I did and that is where the whole controversy
starts. I have a forum with Tony Baldry called the Asian Business
Breakfast Club and the aim of the forum is to bring about an Asian
economic community on lines of EU. It is a pan-Asian forum. One
of the guests who regularly attends is Lord Clinton Davis. I have
known Clinton Davis for about 25 years. When he was practising
as a solicitor, we had a case against each other. He invited me
on a reciprocal basis to a group called Europe 2000. I agreed
to support Europe 2000. At one of the dinners for Europe 2000,
next to me was a person who was the treasurer of the Labour Party.
I forget his name. He invited me to come to the Labour Party conference
to hear the Prime Minister. The reason why I went is that I was
touched by the Prime Minister's gesture at the Asian Millionaires'
dinner at the Cafe Royal. I had taken my young son. He waved to
me and I went to say hello. His wife came and gave me a kiss.
That is because the Prime Minister had worked with my firm as
counsel. I thought it was a very sweet gesture. He invited me
not for the conference but for the Prime Minister's speech. Then
there was a dinner which he thought I should attend because I
would meet rich businessmen and we all go for potential clients.
I think it was £100 a ticket or something like that. I went
for the Prime Minister's speech and in the afternoon I was moving
around the exhibition because I did not know anybody there. I
saw Keith and the owner of The Red Fort on the British Airways
stall. I do not know whether I should say all these things but
Keith said, "What have you been doing to Miss ***? You have
taken her home and asked her to wash your clothes. She is spoiling
your name." That is when the whole thing started.
736. Can I return to the £2,250?
(Mr Zaiwalla) I have been very frank. I hope I am
not criticised for that.
737. Can I return to the sum of money that was
above £2,000 but below £3,000.
(Mr Zaiwalla) 2,450.
738. Two of those payments, you have explained,
were for the Asian Business Breakfast Club.
(Mr Zaiwalla) I started the Asian Business Breakfast
Club as a pan-Asian forum. Possibly Keith thought it was the Conservative
Party but it was non-political. Keith then started an Asian Business
Network Group. Either Keith started it or he was connected with
739. These payments were for his organisation,
not for yours?
(Mr Zaiwalla) Not for my organisation.