Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 860 - 879)



  860. Chairman, I am not challenging in any sense the electoral expenses return put in by Mr Vaz and his agent, I am asking specifically, these sums amounting to around £17,500—it may be less, it may have been more—
  (Mr Vaz) No, it was £17,500. It was not less or more. That was the figure.

  861. The reason I say it may be more is because somebody may have offered £10 towards Mr Vaz's election and that is why I say the precise sum does not matter, what does matter is into which bank account were these cheques paid originally?
  (Mr Vaz) I have said I will show this to the Chairman. I do not think that question is relevant. Election law has been fully complied with and therefore I have nothing to say about the election. He will see, when he sees it, where they went and what the purpose was. All right? I am not answering questions on electoral law, I am not competent to do that, I am not an agent.

  862. I am not asking questions about electoral law.
  (Mr Vaz) You are asking me about the election. I do not know, I was not involved in all this. I was all the way round the country doing these things. I was not a signatory to any of these accounts.

  863. Does Mr Vaz accept that I am not asking a question about electoral law?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I do not accept it. I do not understand your question. I am sorry, I do not know. I do not know the answer. This is not a question which should be addressed to me. I am here as a Member of Parliament to talk about what is on my register and any complaints which have been made. It is not a lifestyle investigation into Keith Vaz. I do not know the answer.

  864. Does Mr Vaz accept I am not asking a question—
  (Mr Vaz) No, I do not accept that!

  865.—about electoral law?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I do not accept that! I do not know what your question is.

  866. Will Mr Vaz accept I am not asking a question about electoral law?
  (Mr Vaz) No, because I do not know what the question is. I do not understand.

  867. If there is an entry in the Register of Members' Interests which is supposed to be of benefit to a Member—and we are told this is a mistaken entry because these payments were not of advantage to the Member, they were contributions to a constituency party and/or to an election fund and/or to the National Labour Party, who had the discretion as into which bank account they were paid, first, and, secondly, which bank account were they paid into?
  (Mr Vaz) I will show the Chairman. I am not going to release information about my party at this stage. I have a letter here from a solicitor who has got all this information and I am not going to disclose this information, neither would you. I do not think the Conservative Association of Worthing West would want you to do it.

  868. Will Mr Vaz confirm it was not paid into his election expenses account?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  Chairman: Any further questions?

Mr Williams

  869. To come back to Mr Brown, very briefly—I have a fixation about him—
  (Mr Vaz) Yes, I saw your questioning, Mr Williams!

  870. I thought you listened to it as well and answered it. You say you would not know him in a crowd of two, so how do you know you have never seen him?
  (Mr Vaz) Because I think I would remember someone called Brown. The only Browns I know are called Nick and Gordon. I really do not know any other Browns.

  871. When we listened to Mr Zaiwalla, Mr Zaiwalla seemed to have a very master-and-servant view of people who were lower down in the pecking order in his establishment. That may be an injustice to him.
  (Mr Vaz) That was a mistaken impression.

  872. I had the impression that Mr Brown did not in any case rank very high in his establishment. He actually said of course that he sent him to get the money, to cash the cheques—this is general practice—if he wanted cash he would send him to do it but he would not discuss with him what it was for and that sort of thing. He is not the sort of person he would have introduced to you by name on the basis of what Mr Zaiwalla was saying. How do you know, when you went to Mr Zaiwalla's place, you did not meet Mr Brown? You are so adamant you did not meet Mr Brown. Perhaps there were a number of people in Mr Zaiwalla's office whom you saw and met but were never formally introduced to, so how can you be so sure you never met him?
  (Mr Vaz) Because I have not met him. I have met Mr Milne, the man who started this complaint, but I have not met Mr Brown.

  873. There used to a question in Oxford's peculiar school of philosophy, "Can you see something and not notice it?" Mr Brown sounds as if he is someone you can see but not notice. You can see things without being aware, you can see a burglary but you think you are seeing someone cleaning a window.
  (Mr Vaz) That is true.

  874. I am coming back to this but it just fascinates me why you are so absolutely adamant that you know in your various visits there this rather inconspicuous employee was someone you never ever met.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Williams, I am a Labour MP, these kind of divisions of hierarchy do not make any difference to me.

  875. No, but they made a difference to Mr Zaiwalla.
  (Mr Vaz) That is a question for him.

  876. It is a question whether he was introduced to you, not whether you would have wanted to meet him.
  (Mr Vaz) I tell you, Mr Williams, I would know somebody who scuttled out of the office, went and got a cheque cashed, scuttled back and handed over £1,000 in cash.

  877. You would know him by sight?
  (Mr Vaz) I think I would because it is not something which would happen very often.

  878. You would know him by name?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I would not know him by name. The first time I knew about Mr Brown, as the Commissioner will tell you, is when I rang her up on a Saturday night and she was at home and I said to her, "The Telegraph have been on the phone and the Telegraph have said, `Mr Brown says X, Y and Z'." I said, and my letter is in the file, "I do not know Mr Brown. The only Browns I know are Gordon and Nick." Then Mrs Filkin writes to me and says, "Mr Vaz did not tell me he did not know Mr Brown." Of course I did. I told her before she even received the complaint because I know Mr Milne went to see Mrs Filkin before he made the complaint. I know also that Mr Milne subsequently changed his story as a result of the transcript of the conversation he had with Mr Brown. Even if you say I have never met them, and then think "Could I have met them", the answer is no, it is an emphatic no but I have met Mr Milne.

  879. A final semi-flippant question. Your party was incredibly generous giving £8,700 to the Central Labour Party. I think you frightened a lot of us round this table because we are now afraid that come the next election our own constituency parties are going to have a letter saying, "Look what Mr Vaz did, go down and do likewise." £8,700 seems a rather generous contribution to make to the central cause from a constituency party because usually they are not overly endowed with cash, are they?
  (Mr Vaz) No, but these people chose to donate in this way. They could have donated nationally but they chose to donate in this way. I do not know of any politician who has an excess of money who does not then say to the donor, "Thank you very much, I am going to send this money back to you." Of course not. If the national party asks for support, of course you give them support. We were in a position to do so. I am in the fortunate position this year, thank goodness, where I will not have to raise a single penny for the election campaign, and I am glad about that. I cannot tell you how glad I am about that!

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