Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 800 - 819)



  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 £1,000—assuming that it is £1,000—is 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 people—first 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 religions—well, not a number of religions, a particular religion I think he is—and therefore he would give, so of course I would encourage people to give.

  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 period—for the period that I was in Opposition—who 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, Mapesbury—not Mapesbury, the calendars. The purpose of Mapesbury, as I said to Sir Gordon Downey in January, as the Commissioner found—which is why she has raised these points because she saw the letter, properly put in the register—was 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 programme—or I voluntarily decided not to stay, depending on how you want to put resignations—and 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 see—I still cannot understand—what 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 to them?
  (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."

Mr Campbell-Savours

  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 Filkin—though it does not appear in the memorandum—did 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 visitors.

  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.

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