Examination of witness (Questions 800
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
800. I am not, Chairman, trying to suggest a
benefit, i am just trying to find out from your perception whether
it is more likely that the advertisements would have been agreed
and paid for because somebody else had maybe chatted to Mr Zaiwalla
about it, or whether because you might have done.
(Mr Vaz) I have no idea. It is a matter for him why
they do these things.
801. You cannot help on the matter?
(Mr Vaz) No.
802. Turning to the payment of £1,000assuming
that it is £1,000is it accepted that that is a payment
made by Mr Zaiwalla to a good cause, at your suggestion?
(Mr Vaz) Yes. I would make lots of appeals to people.
The tragedy of this inquiry happening now is that with the earthquake
in India I have had to turn down every single request for me to
go and speak at any function to do with the raising of funds.
Throughout my career I have sought to encourage peoplefirst
of all the Asian community to be more involved in politics, secondly
the community to be more involved in giving. This was a man who
was connected in any way to a number of religionswell,
not a number of religions, a particular religion I think he isand
therefore he would give, so of course I would encourage people
803. Thank you. Returning to one of the advertisement
payments, I think it is a matter of record that this was made
to a company called Wildberry?
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
804. Is it agreed that Wildberry were the printers
for Mapesbury who were doing the calendars?
(Mr Vaz) I do not know, I am sorry. It was such a
long time ago. I have to tell you, Mr Bottomley, that if you look
at my register entries for that periodfor the period that
I was in Oppositionwho paid for what calendar and how things
were done was not uppermost in my mind, and you are asking me
about things that happened eight years ago, so I do not know.
805. The last of these questions, if I may,
Chairman, is this. I think that in discussion with the Commissioner
you said that Mapesbury was set up to be able to collect together
funds to help one of the organisations connected with you?
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
806. Roughly how long was it from that intention
to the time that intention dissolved or did not come to fulfilment
and was recognised as not working?
(Mr Vaz) I do not know. You have got the register
and therefore you have got the copies of the calendar. Mrs Filkin
is looking at my constituency calendar, not the Asian community
calendar. Somewhere on the register you will find a large calendar.
There we are. That is how it started. I just felt that this needed
to be looked at, Mr Bottomley, because there were lots of people
on there. I did not know when people were going to make a complaint.
I have to tell you that no complaint has been made about this
calendar. I hope the Committee is aware of this. Nobody has made
a complaint about this calendar or the funding of the calendar.
The issue of the calendar came up, quite properly, as the Commissioner
looked through my file, which she is perfectly entitled to do.
Nobody has written in and said, "Mr Vaz's calender has not
been registered properly." That is why I went to Registrar
Sands and I sat down with him, and I went to Registrar Willoughby
and I sat down with him, and I went to Sir Gordon Downey. All
of the members of the Committee have registered various things.
I do not think anyone could have spent as much time as I did on
this. But the intention was not satisfied, was not realised.
807. I think we have heard that, and it has
not been challenged.
(Mr Vaz) Okay.
808. There is no reason necessarily why it should
be challenged. The question was, roughly how long was it from
the time that the intention to have Mapesbury as a way of collecting
money for a proper purpose, how long that lasted?
(Mr Vaz) I do not know. I was in the middle of 1996.
As my register entries will show for 1994 and 1993, I was at the
height of various campaigns. The calender was, you know, after
I had seen two Registrars and the Parliamentary Commissioner.
I did not look at this calendar every day. It became a problem
because it was not produced on time. People would not pay. I have
said this before. It is very difficult to think of intention eight
years later. I cannot remember my intention a week ago of what
I was planning to do. I complied with the rules, and, Mr Bottomley,
not only did I comply with the rules and saw the Registrar, I
also put it in the register so nobody would ever get a calendar
and say, "He hasn't declared this." In the register
was the word "income" from the annual calendar. If Commissioner
Downey had said to me, "Vaz, you put Mapesbury in the register",
I would have put it in the register and I would have avoided any
of these criticisms. You know, I would have put it in there. But
he said, "Unless you receive personal benefit from Mapesbury,
your entry is fine", and the entry said "income from
the calendar". If I had just put the word "Mapesbury"
in there and not mentioned the calendar and my calendar entries
for all these years, people would say, "Aha", the Sunday
Telegraph would say, "he's hiding behind Mapesbury."
I had to come upfront and tell him, because that is what I was
told to do.
809. Can I try a third time? When did you stop
having the expectation that Mapesbury was going to be an advantage?
(Mr Vaz) Well, Mapesburynot Mapesbury, the
calendars. The purpose of Mapesbury, as I said to Sir Gordon Downey
in January, as the Commissioner foundwhich is why she has
raised these points because she saw the letter, properly put in
the registerwas I said I wanted to put in my income from
my radio programme, I wanted to put in my other earnings, blah,
blah, blah, blah. It never happened, because I was sacked from
my radio programmeor I voluntarily decided not to stay,
depending on how you want to put resignationsand I did
not put any other income in there, so it was not an issue. It
was not an issue. When did it all end? I do not know. In 1996.
I have written to the Commissioner and said that is the last time
it was produced. Did the calendar come out in 1996? I have no
idea who got it, where it went and all that kind of stuff, because
I was in the middle of It was a year before a general election
in any event. BCCI was at its height. I was doing the Race Relations
Bill. I was doing reports on my shadow spokespersonship.
810. You were busy?
(Mr Vaz) Very. Mr Bottomley, you were busy. You were
taking up the case of Krishna Maharaj. Nobody now turns round
to you and says, do they, "Do you have the time to do it?"
It is a campaign. You get letters from all over the world about
Maharaj. You know what it is like.
811. If in 1994 someone said to you, "Do
you know enough about Mapesbury to be able to show in the accounts
that you weren't getting the income from the radio show, for example?",
presumably you would be able to say, "Yes, I can show that"?
At some stage you were able to say to the Commissioner, "Don't
talk to me, talk to Mapesbury"?
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
812. I am trying to think roughly when that
transaction would have taken place.
(Mr Vaz) I have told the Commissioner. I said it was
in 1996 when the last calendar was produced. You are in a very
difficult situation here, because I have not been involved in
this and, therefore, to that extent, the management of the operation,
etcetera. I was very forthright in my answers to the Commissioner.
I wrote to her, and I could not understand, you seeI still
cannot understandwhat is this problem. What is this problem?
Nobody will tell me what is this problem. Where is the wrong-doing?
On 5 April the Commissioner publishes a procedure which says very
clearly, "I will tell the Member about any wrong-doing."
Mr Bindman wrote, really in frustration, at the end of December
and said, "Look, we've been through this now for eight months.
Just tell us where the wrong-doing is, so we can answer."
The Commissioner, on the World At One, when she spoke from
Jerusalem, talked about the gathering of information, and she
said that she gathers information and then it is up to the Committee
to gather information, and different people can come to different
conclusions. If you take that as the process, the process, as
Mr Bindman says in his observations, has not been followed. You
gather evidence. You have a complaint and you put evidence to
the Member. The Member answers that complaint. If there is a wrong-doing,
you say to the Member, "This is what you've done, this is
what X has said you've done. What is your conclusion?" The
Member then has the chance to respond. I do not think this ever
happened in this case.
813. So the answer to the question is 1996 roughly.
Did it occur to you, when you said to the Commissioner, "Apply
to Mapesbury", that you might have added that Mapesbury was
registered to your own home?
(Mr Vaz) No, because, frankly, it makes no difference
where it is registered, because I thought that letter was very
forthright. If you spend three meetings with professional people
who are Officers of the House, and they write to you and they
say to you, "You're doing something wrong", you take
cognisance of it immediately. Sir Gordon Downey writes back and
says, "I've read it, I've met you, I've seen the calendars.
This is fine." At the end of Mrs Filkin's letters she says
to everybody, "My staff are ready to help you, give you any
advice you want." That was always the position with Sir Gordon
Downey, he was always there. Roger Willoughby was always there.
I would go to him and talk to him about many, many things. My
file is very, very large because I would always try to clear these
matters with him.
814. So you would have been able to answer the
questions in 1994 and 1995, in the early years of Mapesbury, but
in 1996 it was for Mapesbury itself, and you referred the Commissioner
(Mr Vaz) I went to see Registrar Sands, and I think
you will find Registrar Sands' letter is dated before that. I
talked to Registrar Sands about the cost of the calendars. In
fact, I actually said to Registrar Sands, "Shall I put their
names in the register?" I have no problems, as you know from
the questions you asked me later on, about putting people's names
in my register; I just put them in. I think transparency is the
best way. I just put their names down. These are the people who
have advertised in the calender. He said, "No, you don't
have to do it."
815. Keith, why is it that we have to correspond
with the lawyers in the answering of very simple questions? Why
could you not simply have written to us in reply to the questions
yourself? Why was there a need for a lawyer to do that?
(Mr Vaz) Because when I was first involved in this
case, Mr Campbell-Savours, it was exactly a year ago, on 7 February,
and I responded to Mrs Filkin very quickly. Mrs Filkinthough
it does not appear in the memorandumdid thank me for all
my co-operation and what I had done. As Minister for Europe, I
have to travel every week. I also have my constituency. I have
to deal with hundreds of things every day. I felt that I needed
someone to be able to give me advice and also to tell me and advise
me if he thought I had done wrong.
816. I understand that. What I am talking about
is the most recent letter which was sent to you on 7 February.
(Mr Vaz) Of this year?
817. Yes, just a matter of a few days ago. Why
does Mr Bindman have to reply to that letter?
(Mr Vaz) Because Mr Bindman has all the files. He
has all the information. Yesterday I was seeing various foreign
818. So you did not answer these questions,
then, is that right, Mr Bindman did?
(Mr Vaz) No, no. Mr Bindman has to take my instructions.
819. If he takes your instructions on the answers
to all these questions, why did you not simply jot down the answers
and send them in?
(Mr Vaz) Because Mr Bindman has been dealing with
this case from the start.