Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 39

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Geoffrey Bindman, Bindman & Partners, Solicitors

  Thank you for your letter of 11 July.

  Obviously my client is fully aware of the points made on the first page of your letter and the quotation from the fifth report of the Committee at the top of your second page. He has complied assiduously with all your requests over five months and has answered upwards of 100 questions. He is eager to assist and extremely anxious for this very stressful investigation to be concluded without further delay.

  His duty to disclose information must be matched, however, by a duty on your part to limit your investigation to matters which are relevant and based on evidence. At the very least you must act in accordance with the guidelines which you yourself have laid down and which have been agreed by the Committee.

  Paragraph 8 of the latter described the stage which you have confirmed has now been reached in your investigation. You have also stated that the evidence which you say is at variance with what my client has said is set out in the document sent to me on 29 June which was discussed at our meeting on 3 July and answered to the best of his ability in my letter of 5 July. As I have pointed out already, the document does not do what you claim. It does not provide the evidence. It asks a whole lot of questions, from some of which it is possible to deduce the evidence you might have received but others of which are too broad or vague to be sensibly answered.

  This is the case in relation to questions 7, 24, 26, 31 and 45. Please supply the evidence, if any, on which these questions are based, and Mr Vaz will respond to it.

  As to your follow-up questions, my client replies as follows:

  "Q13. The purpose of the Sahara Trust as I have set out in Mr Bindman's letter of 5 July was to honour the memory of my dead child. The donations to the Trust were based on people giving to it rather than bringing flowers to the funeral or attending the annual service to commemorate Sahara. I am not a signatory to the account nor have I ever been nor do I know who the signatories are. Nor have I ever asked my mother-in-law for sight of any documentation as all the donations were in the public domain. My mother-in-law determined that the bulk of the donations collected after the funeral should be split between an essay prize at Cambridge University and the refurbishment of a small room at the General Hospital as a counselling room for people who have gone through still births. The Trust has not given donations for a number of years.

  Q15. If you have any evidence of wrongdoing please let me see it and I will comment on it. I do not routinely ask constituents what their community affiliation or religion is. If they come to my surgery and ask for my help my office or I will write on their behalf. If this community group has in the past asked me for assistance as Member of Parliament my office or I would have written on their behalf. As I have over 35,000 files collected over 15 years it would be impossible for me to trace any particular letter on behalf of any member of this community.

  Q43. The name of Mr H Patel is Mr H Patel. I do not have Mr H Patel's current address but can obtain it if you wish. If there is any evidence of wrongdoing in respect to this entry please place it before me so that I can comment.

  You refer to Mr Zaiwalla's "cash books" though you have not forwarded me a copy of the extract, nor have you given me a copy of the transcript of the comments made by Mr Zaiwalla. Mr Zaiwalla is responsible for his own accounts.

  You ask about the advertisements in the calendar. You will be aware from the correspondence on file between me, Mr Sands, Sir Gordon Downey (see attachment) and Roger Willoughby of the conversations I had with them concerning the annual calendar. You will also be well aware of the advice I was given. Because I was sensitive to the importance of making sure this matter was handled properly, not only did I write to them, but I had meetings with Sir Gordon and Roger Willoughby where we discussed the calendar for several hours. The purpose of the calendar was clearly set out in the correspondence.

  The calendars were not a success and the person organising them resigned. The project was abandoned. Copies of the annual calendar for the years they appeared were given to the Registrar and his advice was followed. This is of course a matter of public record. The appropriate entries were all made on the Register as advised by the Parliamentary Commissioner.

  Mapesbury Communications Limited is a private limited publishing company. The original purpose of it was set out in my meetings and correspondence with Sir Gordon. After the calendar project was abandoned, the company continued to trade with new officers and its own activities. I was neither a shareholder or director and I derived no personal benefit or income from it. I do not have the accounts, but you may obtain them from Companies House.

  The constituency calendar you refer to does not go outside Leicester East. It is a calendar for constituents and it has never carried any advertising. I enclose a copy of the 1999 calendar. This is hand delivered to most constituents in December of the year before. A number of MPs do the same thing probably with a different format.

  In conclusion can I remind you of what I have said concerning the work I do with the Asian community. May I also please have a complete copy of my Register file."

  Finally, I note with some comfort your final paragraph. This I hope refers to the evidence which I have repeatedly requested. This should include all transcripts and tape recordings on which you may rely. In your letter of 29 June you have already undertaken to supply transcripts of any evidence contradicting what my client has said. May I please have this without further delay?

17 July 2000

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