Examination of witnesses (Questions 1000
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
1001. That is not the way I put it.
(Mr Conway) No.
(Ms Fernandes) I must say, I am a bit confused, because
what I would like to know is, you have talked about "indirectly
or directly". What exactly do you mean? I can give you confirmation
of payments in and out of the company, as far as they affect Mr
Vaz. I can confirm for you today that no payments were made for
the personal benefit of Keith Vaz. No payments were made in, or
no payments were made out. I can confirm that, and I am on oath
now. If you are asking for indirect benefit, what exactly do you
Chairman: Can we have Michael coming
1002. Chairman, I was really seeking your guidance.
I think we are asking for negatives to be proven.
(Ms Fernandes) Exactly.
1003. That just is not possible. I think we
have already asked this witness very specifically whether Mr Vaz
had any benefit from this company. She said, "From 1996 onwards,
for sure, no." She has also answered the question the other
way around: was any money paid into the company for the benefit
of Mr Vaz, which presumably the company would have benefited from,
and to that she said, "No." Having said that very specifically,
how can we possibly prove, without, as she has indicated, going
through every single piece of paper, even if it were possible,
that that is not the case? In any event, we would not be able
to establish indirect benefit in that way. I think we are asking
(Ms Fernandes) My concern is this "indirect",
it is the "indirect benefit". It is too wide.
1004. If we are going to be taking the point
which Michael Foster has raised, I suspect that the questions
I am asking now could have been answered directly and willingly
at some time in the past, but I leave that on one side. If the
company has had, say, an income of £53,000, and it can be
shown that that income is easily identifiable, and that no other
income came in, that makes it easier to assert with confidence,
by checking the accounts, that no payments could have come in
from any sources linked to Keith Vaz. That is not what Mr Conway
was putting back to me.
(Ms Fernandes) Mr Bottomley, I am very concerned about
the fact that this company has been dragged through the newspapers.
I am being treated, in a sense, as a chattel of my husband. This
company has an independent existence. I have an independent existence.
I do not really want my records and the information about my company
to be made available to the whole world. I have a problem with
that. I am sorry, but if you are asking me specific questions,
I will deal with them.
Mr Foster: Chairman, I am sorry, can
I come back in? What we really need to be doing, if we have any
evidence, is to ask, "On 4 April 1997 was a payment made
to you for Mr Keith Vaz?" That is the sort of question that
this witness can reasonably be asked to answer: focused, definite,
certain. If we do those things, then I think it is reasonable
to ask this witness to answer them.
1005. I put my questions at Dale's request.
The witness has answered them. What I am denied is that I want
to see your paperwork.
(Mr Conway) It is a distinction without particulars
really. What you are saying is that of the £53,000 that came
in, say, in 1998, how was that money received, who was it received
from? It may be, I do not know, that there may be three or four
invoices which show how the £53,000 is earned by the company.
It may be as simple as that, and it may be finding three or four
pieces of paper, but I simply do not know.
1006. In which case an assurance can be given
(Mr Conway) That information is based all on the hypothetical
case that the income of the company derived from three or four
transactions which can be evident from three or four bits of paper.
Are you asking to see those bits of paper, or are you saying,
"Having looked at those bits of paper, can you confirm to
us, effectively on oath, that it was not for Mr Vaz?"? I
think that actually we are agreeing, but perhaps in a slightly
We need to look at all the bits of paper to give you exactly what
(Ms Fernandes) Can I just say this: that I would not
want my pieces of paper to be floating around. I am not confident
that this forum or any forum is confidential. But I am happyand
I want to be helpful to this Committeeto have my accountant
look through the payments and to confirm what you are requiring
(Mr Conway) Mr Bottomley, I think that hopefully we
are actually at one on this. Is that sufficient? Is that all you
are asking for? I got the impression you were wanting physically
to see the documents.
1007. I never asked physically to see the documents.
I do believe that all this could have been sorted out by co-operation
much earlier, but that is an outside remark.
(Ms Fernandes) You have said that. Can I just say,
Mr Bottomley, I was contacted at the beginning of January over
this. How can I possibly have responded to you and provided you
with the information earlier than now? I was contacted at the
beginning of this year.
Chairman: Could you put your question
once more, as succinctly as you possibly can.
Mr Bottomley: I do not want to go further
than what I have said, because I am not the Committee, I just
put my question in a simple way. If the accounts have been checkedand
if they have not, could they be checkedso that a reasonably
independent professional confirms that they cannot show payments
(significant payments, I am not asking for the last £50,
but significant payments); that can establish that payments from
people associated with Mr Keith Vaz may have come to the company,
or that the company spent significant sums of money which may
have been for the benefit of Keith Vaz, because it is not clear
it was spent in other ways? That is the way I put it. That, to
my mind, does not necessarily mean showing the accounts to somebody
else, all the detail, but it means they have been gone through
and they have been checked.
Chairman: We shall be sending you a letter
on this, setting out what is asked for and what anybody else has
asked for. You will be receiving this in the next day or soby
fax this afternoonand an immediate response would be very
1008. Can I ask something that I am not sure
has precisely been asked? It is entirely at your discretion, I
realise that. Would you have any problem in providing not the
Committee, but the Commissioneron an understanding that
unless it is relevant to a key element of our inquiry, it would
remain sidelined and therefore privatewith Mapesbury's
(Ms Fernandes) No, I am not happy to provide any information
to the Commissioner, because I have no confidence that it will
remain confidential. I am sorry. I want to be helpful, but I do
not feel confident, with everything that has happened, that my
documents are going to remain confidential.
1009. May I just say, Chairman, that I think
one really has to make a very important point here that the witness
is alleging apparently that she feels the Commissioner herself
might leak, or her office might leak, this information.
(Ms Fernandes) I am not here to make allegations,
I am here to answer questions, but I can tell you about my feeling
of confidence, and the fact that I do not feel comfortable about
my documents being available, in no way.
Mr Bell: Perhaps we could just tell you
of our feeling of confidence in the Commissioner, as a matter
of courtesy to her.
1010. If there are no further questions, thank
you. You will be getting this fax, and your immediate answer will
be very welcome.
(Ms Fernandes) Thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you.