Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 4B

Transcript of conversation between The Sunday Telegraph and Mr Bakshish Attwal, 18 March 2000

  Transcript of taped telephone interview with Bakshish Attwal on Saturday 18 March 2000 at 8 am.

  Interview carried out by Chris Hastings.

  NB:  This conversation was one of a number which followed a face to face meeting with Mr Attwal in Leicester. During this meeting (which was not taped) Mr Attwal told Rajeev Syal and Chris Hastings he had made a series of cheque payments to Keith Vaz MP which were collected by his mother. He insisted that the cheques were written out in Mr Vaz's name. This meeting took place in the afternoon of Thursday 2 March 2000.

  He repeatedly asked for this information to be kept out of any article and said he would deny the payments if he was ever approached about them.

  The conversation over the telephone went as follows.

  CH:  I understand the Commissioner for Standards has contacted a number of people in London and Leicester as part of her investigation into Mr Vaz.

  BA:  So far I have not had anything from anybody. You have just given me this news.

  CH:  I don't know either. I am just ringing around. If you haven't heard you haven't heard.

  BA:  No.

  CH:  Have you picked up the fact that somebody else might have heard?

  BA:  Nobody has rang me at all about this. I have not heard anything.

  CH:  I think we will do a story about the fact that a number of people have been contacted. I remember when Rajeev and I came to see you we were speaking about payments to Mr Vaz. You did say you made a number of payments.

  BA:  No, I didn't make payments.

  CH:  You did sir. You did actually say that. I remember it quite clearly. I have got it in my notes. You categorically said you wrote out a number of cheques personally to Mr Vaz not to anyone else to Mr Vaz.

  BA:  Ums.

  CH:  And actually handed them over to his money. You remember that don't you.

  BA:  Coughs nervously. I didn't make any number of payments to him.

  CH:  You made one.

  BA:  I made one yes.

  CH:  One payment to him? We are not going to do anything to offend you. We are not going to quote you. All you have done is make a payment to a member of parliament.

  BA:  Actually, I have checked my records that payment I made was one cheque and it was made to the Labour Party through Mr Vaz.

  CH:  You told me that you had written the cheque to Mr Vaz?

  BA:  It was given to Mr Vaz. But it was for the Labour Party. It is written in the books. It was a donation to the Labour Party.

  CH:  Sir, you told us you made a number of payments. I am willing to except your memory may have changed and you now remember it's one. But you were adamant those payments were to Mr Vaz. You actually said yourself his mother came around to the factory.

  BA:  She picked up the cheque that's it.

  BA:  I have a written note of the conversation, you said don't speak to me about that bloody man. His mother used to come around to the factory all the time begging for money. I must have given out four or five cheques. One for a thousand pounds others for other amounts. I can show you the records. We keep records. They were for Vaz personally. I remember once she came into the office knelt down in front of me and said thank you. I said what are you doing. I am not a God or anything like that. She said thank you for getting Keith elected we owe it to you.

  BA:  Chris, I have got in the records and one payment was for a cheque and issued on that stub that this was a donation to the Labour Party and the cheque was I think was in the name of Mr Vaz.

  CH:  The cheque was made out to Mr Vaz but you understood it was going to the Labour Party?

  BA:  It was written there on the stub. We have got a record.

  CH:  You told Rajeev and I that the cheques were written to Mr Vaz.

  BA:  Not cheques one cheque. This is seven or eight years ago, how can I remember?

  CH:  There is nothing wrong with writing a cheque out to Mr Vaz. The argument is whether Mr Vaz should have registered it in the register of members interests. That is not your problem.

  CH:  I just want to be absolutely sure there was only one cheque.

  BA:  One cheque only.

  CH:  And that was written to Mr Vaz?

  BA:  Yes it was written to Mr Vaz but on the counterfoil its already written that it was a donation to the Labour Party.

  CH:  Yes I know but you wrote it to Mr Vaz.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  It was actually written to Mr Vaz although you understood it was a donation for the Labour Party.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  And you understood his mother came to collect it.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  If you get a letter from the Commissioner and I know she has written to other people in Leicester. And I can assure you that's not through any intervention on our part but obviously rumours are flying around all over the place. If she writes to you saying have you given a payment would you be honest and upfront about that.

  BA:  I am going to tell her the truth.

  CH:  Because you have been so upfront with me and because you have admitted this one cheque payable directly to Keith Vaz. I am going to ask the editor if you can keep your name out of the newspaper.

  BA:  I don't want my name in the paper.

  CH:  I am going to tell the editor Mr Attwal has admitted one cheque payment to Mr Vaz. Written a cheque to Mr Vaz and it was for a thousand pounds no more than that.

  BA:  It was a thousand pounds.

  CH:  What I am going to do is speak to the editor. He is a decent man and knows how difficult this situation is. Not to put your name in. I will ring you back in one hour.

  BA:  Is there anybody else talking to the papers.

  CH:  I understand there are dozens and dozens of people I know have to ring who have received a letter from the Commissioner.

  BA:  Where will she get my name. She doesn't know me.

  CH:  I know the Conservative Party in Leicester is compiling its own dossier.

  BA:  Oh I see.

  CH:  They have gone around as far as I know. Rajeev and I are not happy that they have done this. Obviously we were looking at this issue long term. Now we are being forced to speed up. Anyway that is not your problem. Because it's not an investigation about Bakshish Atwall is it? It is an investigation about Keith Vaz? You are completely innocent.

  BA:  I asked my accountant before I gave the cheque if I can give to political parties.

  CH:  Yes and you wrote the cheque out to Keith. You wrote the cheque out payable to Keith Vaz. That is fine. What Keith Vaz has to do because the cheque was made payable to him is declare in the register I have received payment from the following people.

  BA:  Murmurs agreement.

  CH:  And we know that he hasn't done that.

  BA:  Murmurs agreement.

  CH:  That is a serious offence for a member of parliament. It is not a criminal offence and he can't be arrested or anything like that.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  There is no bribery no-one is saying you got anything out of your £1,000 payment or anything like that.

  BA:  Murmurs agreement.

  CH:  You are not at the centre of any investigation.

  BA:  Murmurs agreement.

  CH:  Neither is anyone else in Leicester. I keep stressing this to people. I know there are other businessmen in Leicester who have given similar payments.

  BA:  Murmurs agreement.

  CH:  I can only assume that the conservatives or who ever has passed on this information has passed on their names too.

  BA:  Agrees.

  CH:  I am going to do a quick ring round and I am going to ring you back sir.

  BA:  But to please keep my name out.

  CH:  Yes. I am going to say to the editor that you have been up front about the £1,000 payment we should keep your name out.

  BA:  If the Commissioner writes to me I can only give the right answer.

  CH:  No of course. Sir you must. Everyone tells me even before we began talking to people in Leicester about payments that you are a decent man. You are a well respected member of the community. There is no doubt in my mind you will tell the truth. Everyone else thinks that. This is not an investigation about your character. As far as Rajeev and I know your character is beyond reproach. Everybody speaks highly of you. So you should feel proud. Obviously local business people do feel the need to support the local MP with personal payments.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  There is nothing wrong with that. He must put them in that register.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  Or else we get to a situation like this. Where people are going all over the place.

  CH:  Leave all this with me.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  I am going to ring you back in an hour and let you know what we are doing.

  BA:  Is this going to be printed tomorrow.

  CH:  We are going to run a story tomorrow sir. May main priority is to speak to the editor and say Mr Attwall would rather his name not be in the paper.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  I am happy to do that.

  BA:  Thank you.

  CH:  I am going to ring you straight back. Bless you sir. Thanks a lot.

Second Conversation with Bakshish Attwall

  BA:  Hello.

  CH:  Mr Atwall its Chris again.

  BA:  Yes Chris.

  CH:  Let me tell you exactly what we are going to be doing. We are going to be running a story on the fact that a number of letters have gone out to people in London, Leicester and elsewhere.

  BA:  Yes. You are mentioning the letters?

  CH:  We are going to mention the letters.

  BA:  I see.

  CH:  I have now told the editor we shouldn't name you.

  BA:  I see.

  CH:  And he is fine about that. You are not going to be named in the newspaper.

  BA:  Thank you.

  CH:  Let me tell you exactly what we are doing. We are writing a story about the fact that the commissioner is still investigating the issue about whether the payments should be registered in the register of members interests.

  I am not going to mention you by name. But I am going to say a number of businessmen in Leicester and London have received letters asking them if they have ever made any payments to Mr Vaz.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  Instead of naming you. I am going to say one businessman who was contacted by the Commissioner had told the Sunday Telegraph he did make a payment of £1,000 by cheque to Mr Vaz personally. I am not going to name you.

  BA:  Yes. It was a donation to the Labour Party.

  CH:  Let us get this right so we both know what we are talking about. The cheque was written out to Mr Vaz. Am I right in that?

  BA:  It was made out to Mr Vaz.

  CH:  It was made out to Mr Vaz but you in your mind were giving it to Labour.

  BA:  Not in my mind. You know the stub.

  CH:  On the stub you have got donations to Labour? So what I am going to put is that one businessman who we think is going to be contacted by the Commissioner. Have you had a letter from her?

  BA:  I haven't been to the office today. I didn't have it up until yesterday. I may have got it today. I am going to tell her what I told you.

  That is why I checked the records. So that if you were going to come to me again I could tell you exactly what happened.

  CH:  I just want to assure you your name is not going to appear in the newspaper.

  BA:  If the Commissioner wrote me a letter I am just going to tell her the truth.

  CH:  I know you will because everyone says that you are that sort of person.

  All you have done is literally took out your cheque book written out a cheque for £1,000.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  You have written that personally to Mr Keith Vaz.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  And you have handed it over.

  BA:  You will mention that it was made out as a donation to the Labour party.

  But the point is. Mr Vaz may have told you that. But we don't know what he has done with the cheque to be fair to everyone. You just wrote out the cheque to him.

  BA:  I wrote the cheque to him. I did.

  CH:  He may have put it in the Labour Party fund. He may have spent it on a holiday to Majorca. I haven't a clue what he has done with it?

  BA:  As far as I am concerned it was made out to the Labour Party but it was made out to him.

  CH:  What did it say? Can you remember?

  BA:  Pardon.

  CH:  What did it say? It just said to Keith Vaz basically?

  BA.  Yes, The cheque was made into the name of Mr Keith Vaz. But on the record I keep on the counterfoil of the cheque it is written to the Labour Party.

  CH:  But that is because it is.

  BA:  I before I did that I asked my accountant if it was alright to donate to political party. He said yes.

  CH:  It is absolutely fine.

  BA:  But if as you say the Commissioner is going to write to these people. If I get her letter I am just going to accept that. I am going to admit it and tell her the facts.

  CH:  That is exactly what we are going to say in the paper but I am not going to name you. I am just going to say that the businessman who the Sunday Telegraph has decided not to name last night said if I am contacted by the Commissioner about this matter I will tell her the truth. I paid £1,000 in a cheque to Mr Vaz.

  BA:  Yes.

  CH:  That is it copper bottomed.

  BA:  If you write at the same time that I gave a £1,000 cheque made out to Mr Vaz as a donation to the Labour Party.

  CH:  You thought it was a donation to the Labour Party?

  BA:  Well not thought. But written on cheque stubs.

  CH:  The cheque is to Mr Vaz but you on the stubs have written donation to the Labour party?

  BA:  Yes. It was a donation to the Labour party. But I am going to write to the Commissioner if I get a letter that a cheque was made out to Mr Vaz. It was a donation of £1,000 for the Labour Party through Mr Vaz.

  CH:  Yes.

  BA:  This is what I intend to write?

  CH:  Exactly that.

  BA:  If I get the letter as you say or whether it is in the post.

  CH:  Let me advise you. You have been completely upfront with me. If you are upfront with her. I don't think you have anything to worry about. If you get the letter and I don't know if you are going to get the letter. If you just tell her that the cheque was payable for £1,000 personally to Mr Vaz that is all she wants to hear from you.

  In your paper you should do it the way that I am telling you. That a donation of £1,000 was made to the Labour Party through Mr Vaz.

  CH:  But it can't sir. Its not your fault. But if you make a cheque payable to Mr Vaz that has obviously gone into Mr Vaz's bank account.

  BA:  Yes. He can countersign it can't he?

  CH:  Whatever. Well lets see what he says.

  BA:  Well you can say that it was from me and it was for the Labour Party.

  CH:  You did mean it for the Labour Party and for all I know it may have gone to the Labour party. But the point is its written out to him as a cheque and that's for him to say where it went. For all I know he may have countersigned it and put it straight into the local Labour Party. That's for him to answer. Not you to worry about. You are just a local businessman who has made a donation.

  BA:  If the Commissioner asks me to send her a photocopy about the counterfoil I have got it is written there on that one.

  CH:  Of course. But what the Commissioner will do I guess is check Mr Vaz's bank accounts.

  BA:  She is naturally going to do that.

  CH:  Yes you are right.

  BA:  Has she written to other people?

  CH:  I think so. But we have always kept your name secret. We don't want to let you down and other people. If you speak to people we have spoken to about in the past before you will find they have letters.

  BA:  Have they replied in the affirmative?

  CH:  I think they have replied or are going to reply in the affirmative.

  BA:  But did anyone tell you that they had given the money.

  CH:  Yes.

  BA:  By cheque or by cash.

  CH:  Some by cheque. One by cash in an envelope. We will be mentioning the planning application for the mosque temple and other establishments in Hamilton. And that money may have been taken by the MP there.

  BA:  Unclear . . . We are not having that problem because we don't have the money.

  But Mr Kapasi's Muslims they are having it.

  CH:  It is my understanding that that man you have mentioned as also got a letter. Do you think he has given money.

  BA:  Seems to agree. No, no I am not going to tell anyone. He is a prominent man so he must have got a letter. My name is now known to the Commissioner.

  CH:  My suspicions and local politics and rumours flying around.

  BA:  You are going to mention that one businessman, without mentioning his name, gave out £1,000 cheque to Mr Vaz. Are you mentioning any other cheques like that?

  CH:  No, do you think we should?

  BA:  The one cheque you have mentioned that is not the completion of your inquiries.

  CH:  The problem is sir to be fair anyone you have been great. I have got to speak to people directly.

  The rest of the conversation is just Mr BA asking if anyone else has been contacted. He mentions no names or any other details about payments.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 16 March 2001