Examination of witnesses (Questions 940
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
940. When you joined it, that I assume was at
Keith's request, that you became a director?
(Ms Fernandes) Yes.
941. It was, as we understand it, a notional
thing at that stage. What was the declared objective of the company
at that stage?
(Ms Fernandes) It was always a public relations and
publishing company. It was an off-the-shelf company and I bought
942. Somewhere in the records I seem to recollect
it being also intended to receive income your husband might channel
into the company originally.
(Ms Fernandes) Where? In the objects?
943. Have I got that right, Commissioner? Yes.
(Ms Fernandes) I do not think so. Not as far as I
944. It was put in writing to the previous Commissioner,
so the Commissioner tells me. Can we clarify this?
(Ms Filkin) It is in the documents. I will look at
it. Mr Vaz has said to me that, because he lost the radio job
as he said this morning, other income did not go through the company
but the purpose of the establishment of the company, according
to his letter to my predecessor, was to take his outside earnings
from other than his parliamentary salary.
945. Perhaps you were not aware of that?
(Ms Fernandes) Certainly from the time I took over
and started working at that company, he did not receive any outside
946. Do we, Commissioner, know whether it was
a stated objective of the company or was it just
(Ms Filkin) He said he set it up for that purpose.
947. When you took over the company, you did
not alter the declared objectives of the company at all?
(Ms Fernandes) No.
Mr Williams: What I am trying to get
at, there is a difference from what was told the previous Commission
and what the stated objectives of the company were.
948. If I can help, is it possible that Keith
Vaz may have said to the previous Commissioner, "The intention
for the use of the company is this, that and the other",
but that was not actually written down as part of the objects
of the company?
(Ms Fernandes) I cannot comment on something I do
not know anything about. As far as I am aware, this was a public
relations and publishing company. It had clear objectives.
949. Were you aware that Keith had told the
Commissioner this was its purpose?
(Ms Fernandes) No, I am not aware.
950. That leaves only one other person who would
have known about the company, and that is the secretary?
(Ms Fernandes) Mrs Vaz.
951. That would have been Mrs Vaz?
(Ms Fernandes) Yes. I do not want to comment on what
she knows or does not know.
952. I am trying to think of who else could
have been aware of the scenario. You seem to have been quite taken
aback by the suggestion that it was the purpose, although it is
what the previous Commissioner had been told was the purposequite
openly, may I say, it did not have to be wrung out of your husband,
it was what he stated. What I am trying to get at is the continuum
situation, how far that was an objective which therefore would
mean that if you took it on without changing anything it alters
the perception of it as far as this Committee is concerned and
its access to documents is concerned, and it would entitle us
to ask for access beyond the stage of 1996 because the objectives
had not changed; the declared objectives had not changed. You
see what I am saying?
(Ms Fernandes) I do not quite actually, to be quite
953. I was thinking as I was going along and
I was not thinking clearly. Your position is that once you took
it over, it ceased really to be anything to do with your husband,
and Mr Vaz told the Commissioner in 1996 the purpose of Mapesbury
Communications, which Mr Vaz was then setting up, was to receive
his earnings from outside Parliament and to devote the resulting
income towards expenditure for supporting his parliamentary office.
That is what he openly declared.
(Ms Fernandes) I know nothing about that, you will
have to ask Mr Vaz about that.
954. Where it presents us with a slight problem
is, no one wants to probe and interfere in your personal business
activities, but if that is the purpose for which the company was
set up and if you then took it over without changing the purposes
of the companyif they were stated in the objectives, I
have not seen them
(Ms Fernandes) The way I understand the purpose of
the company is what is its ability, what it is allowed to do,
in a sense. (After consulting solicitor) Mr Conway is saying
what you might be doing is confusing what he wanted from the company
with what the objectives of the company are.
Mr Williams: All we knew about it was
what we had in the register.
955. Can I ask Mr Conway a question which might
be helpful. To your knowledge, did the written clauses of the
company constitution have to be changed when, in effect, Maria
Fernandes started using it rather than Keith Vaz using it?
(Mr Conway) I am afraid to say that until your colleague
raised this point a couple of minutes ago, I was completely unaware
of it. The legal objects of the company are very broad, and they
are that it carries on business as a general commercial company,
which is a sort of catchment. That is point one. It is a catchment,
it is a small trading company. I think what your colleague was
raising were the intentions of individuals, which is not a legal
position. I think that is where the confusion has arisen.
956. But you can see it confronts us with a
difficult position now, because, as I say, we do not want to intrude
on your private interests, but here we have a company set up where
this Committee's predecessor and the Commissioner were told clearly
what its intentions were by the person who set it up. It was then
taken over by someone else, and clearly the objectives that were
stated were wide enough to enable it to do what Mr Vaz has stated.
Therefore, they still remain wide enough to do what Mr Vaz has
stated. Therefore, they still are of interest to this Committee.
That is the point I am trying to establish.
(Ms Fernandes) Yes. If that is your concern, I will
happily take that back to my accountants and ask them to verify
that. Would that satisfy you?
957. Essentially, I think what would be helpful
would be to have confirmation that since about 1996 or
(Mr Conway) Sorry, forgive me for interrupting, if
I may. It may look like my letter to the Committee a couple of
days ago was being evasive. It was not intended to be, because
we really did not know exactly what you were wanting. It is a
big, broad picture. Having come here now, you are being much more
specific, which is enabling us hopefully to help you and provide
you with what you want. Could I take a note of exactly what it
is you want?
958. It may vary a bit, and I suspect that detailed
consideration of what the Commissioner put earlier on, both to
Mr Vaz, if that is available to you, and to the company, would
be helpful. As far as I am concerned, there are two things. One
is whether the intention that Mr Vaz declared to the then Commissioner
was consistent with what the company ought to be doing, and whether
there is any record of what actually happened. On that we have
been told that the record is not available, except that the calendar
enterprise was not successful and that the media earnings which
were anticipated did not happen. That is one part. A second part
is whether in the company since, say, around 1996 anything linked
to Mr Keith Vaz has been going through the company, because if
there is a substantiated declaration that that has not happened,
and that the accounts of the company cannot include any payments
that might be linked to the main part of our inquiry, that again
would be helpful to the Committee. It is possible that there are
some detailed points that the Commissioner has put either to Mr
Vaz, or to the company or to Maria Fernandes which need not detain
us now, and that can be confirmed. There are two points, I think.
Before 1996 did Mr Vaz have the company basically for his use,
is useful information available? Secondly, post 1996 is there
anything linked to Keith Vaz in the company flows of monies in
or out? That sums it up.
(Ms Fernandes) I am happy to go away and provide that
information, if I can.
Mr Williams: That is basically exactly
what we want. It now opens up the possibility, now you understand.
Sorry if the written request has not been as clear as you might
Mr Bruce: Can I ask a supplementary.
Was there a hiatus? Was there a hiatus between the completion,
if you like, of the calendar business, the Keith Vaz business
and your taking it over? Indeed, was there an annual account in
959. There is also this question of this calendar
of 1999 for Mr Vaz, the calendar produced for 1999, which is rather
(Mrs Filkin) And registration through until 1999 of
(Ms Fernandes) Sorry, I do not understand.