Examination of Witness (Questions 20-39)|
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
20. 21 March
(Mr Vaz) That would be exactly the position in replying
to both the Chairman and Mrs Filkin, I would give them whatever
information I had available to me. That is that my wife does not
discuss her clients with me. If I say to my wife "Can you
tell me whether the Hindujas have made you any payments?"
my wife will say yes or no.
21. Is that you saying "Yes, you did tell
the Commissioner you would ask your wife about any payments she
might have received from the Hinduja family", business or
(Mr Vaz) If there was a file reference saying that
I would ask my wife, I would have asked my wife because I would
only reply by saying what my wife told me. My wife is not subject
to scrutiny by this House, or by this Committee. What is subject
to scrutiny is me, and what I know. Mrs Filkin knew on 15 February
that the Hindujas were clientsnot the Hinduja brothers
but various members of the family. This should have been brought
out and told to me. She should have told me then and I could then
have said "Well, put it to my wife", but she did not
do that. She kept it from the Committee and kept it from me.
22. Can you just say either yes or no to the
statement: you told the Commissioner you would ask your wife about
any payments she might have received from the Hinduja family,
business or foundation?
(Mr Vaz) If that is what I put, the answer is yes,
of course. I have already answered the Chairman's question on
this. I have asked my wife about the payments, no payments were
made to her and, therefore, I do not see what the point is.
23. The initial question is not whether you
asked your wifethat is the question the Chairman askedmy
question to you is this: did you tell the Commissioner that you
would ask your wife about any payments?
(Mr Vaz) If it is on a piece of paper saying that
I would do so, of course I would do so. Why are you asking me
a question based on what I have said I would do? If it is down
on a piece of paper and I said I would do something I would have
Chairman: Any more questions on this?
24. Mr Vaz, when you wrote that letter on 20
March saying "Neither my family nor I have received any payments
from the Hinduja brothers", when you used the expression
what was on my mind at the time?
(Mr Vaz) Family. It is a very interesting question,
Mr Ottaway. My children, who are aged 6 and 4, and my wife, my
25. I am sorry to interrupt, I did not mean
what is the definition of "family". What was your thinking
behind the use of the expression "family"?
(Mr Vaz) In accordance with what is required by the
rules: any registerable payments or donations that have been made
to the Vaz family by the Hinduja brothers or foundation.
26. When you wrote it, did it occur to you that
"oops, am I over-stepping the mark here because I have not
consulted any of them"?
(Mr Vaz) No, I did consult them. I would know if somebody
had made a donation to my wife. I would know whether the Hindujas
had made a donation to my wife, my mother, my sisters or my children.
I would not need to consult
27. But you did consult them.
(Mr Vaz) I asked. Of course I asked. I did not ask
my children. It would not have occurred to me in a million years
that what Robert Sheldon was referring to was a client who did
not happen to be a Hinduja brother who may or may not have worked
- may or may not have been a client of my wife. It would never
have occurred to me.
28. So your wife said to you "I have not
had any payments from the Hinduja brothers" and then was
silent on the question of the practice?
(Mr Vaz) No. I cannot remember exactly where we had
this conversation, but I would have ascertained that there were
no registerable benefits that need to be paid. I did not discuss
her clients or her firm. I would not dream of discussing her clients
or her firm.
29. She remained silent. She said "I have
not received any payments from the Hindujas personally" and
remained silent on the question of her practice?
(Mr Vaz) She did not mention the practice. I did not
discuss her practice. I have never discussed her practice. The
Hinduja brothers have never been clients of my wife. This is why
this whole process is ludicrous. The Hinduja brothers have never
been clients of my wife. They had never been clients of my wife.
30. Very briefly. Two words have entered this
discussion which appear to be being used interchangeablythe
words "payment" and "donation". If I look
at your response to the draft memorandum, on page 17, you remind
us that in the earlier investigation questions were about donations,
and you said that "no donation has ever been made to me by
the Hinduja brothers". Are you now distinguishing between
payments of any kind and donations? Donations would appear to
be a benefit, payment would appear to be for a professional purposes.
You are telling us categorically there has been no donation but
there may have been payments from some members of the Hinduja
family for professional services to your wife's company?
(Mr Vaz) No, Mr Levitt, you have seen my wife, she
has given evidence before you. She is not the kind of person who
I can give instructions to.
31. I am not suggesting that.
(Mr Vaz) She has sworn an affidavit to this Committee
on one of her previous clients. So she has been able to discuss
her professional activities with the Committee, as she has done
in the past.
I would regard the word "payments", "donations"
or "benefits in kind" as being exactly the same. What
is registerablewhat the code saysis what do you
register? If a member of my family had received a payment from
the Hindujas or any kind of benefit I would look to see what is
registerable and I would register them, but none had been received.
I think when we get our piece of paper at the end of the year
and the paper says "What benefits have you received?"
it surely must mean registerable benefits. When I receive that
paper I have never gone to my wife over the last eight years that
I have been married to her and said "By the way, dear, are
any of your clients people I should put down on this?", because
whoever it is, they just do not do that. There are four or five
lawyers on this Committee and there is no question of you putting
your clients down on the register except if you do something for
them in the House, for example the Baldry case. Otherwise that
32. I am minded to move on, but can I be clear
in my own mind? You say, in defence of the statement "Neither
my family nor I have received any payments from the Hinduja brothers",
firstly, that because your wife was a solicitor and her practice
is confidential you would not have known and you would not have
asked about any payments. Secondly, you are saying "Even
if payments had been made, not from the Hinduja brothers but from
the Hinduja family", you would not have thought of including
that in your reply because you excluded it because you felt only
donations and registerable benefits was what the question applied
(Mr Vaz) No. The first point is right. The second
part is a conclusion that Mrs Filkin has reached, which makes
this questioningalthough obviously the Committee can ask
whatever questions it wants and I am happy to answer them. Mrs
Filkin has reached a conclusion that none of the payments to my
wife's firm by members of the Hinduja family were registerable.
That is her conclusion. Mr Bottomley nods his head, but of course
I am at a disadvantage
Mr Bottomley: Forgive me
33. That is not the issue. In your reply to
us you have saidand I use my own words"I would
never have dreamed that the question applied to payments made
by the Hindujas to my wife as a solicitor".
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
34. That is the answer to my second question,
then, that even if you had known that there were payments you
would not have thought them relevant because you thought the question
only applied to donations and benefits.
(Mr Vaz) No, I would have said to Robert Sheldonand
we are talking about the letter back to Robert Sheldonon
20 March (which was replied back on the same day that he wrote
to me) that my wife has acted for the Hinduja brothers and I suggest
thatwhich she has not but if that was the information that
was given to meor the Hinduja family, I suggest you write
to her, which is what I have said throughout. In any answer to
these questions I have said "My wife's clients are her own".
I have said that if you have any questions to put to her, write
to her. Sir George it is very important because of the defamatory
statement that Mrs Filkin has made about me and my wife, which
I hope the Committee will explore.
35. The object of this oral session is just
to allow the Committee to ask questions which we feel will help
us reach our own conclusions. I plan to move on to the next issue,
which is Mapesbury.
(Mr Vaz) Mr Chairman, this is actuallyI am
sorry to interrupt youthis is my only opportunity because
I have not held press conferences, I have not gone to the press
and discussed these matters. It has been a matter of public discussion,
as you know because you have started the inquiry. It is extremely
important that this point is made, and that is that Mrs Filkin
has never asked me in the five months that she has conducted this
inquiry about my wife's clients. She has never asked me about
this. She has asked my wife on 4 July 2001, 5 months after Mrs
Filkin received the information, which she is perfectly entitled
to do, but she has never asked me. In answering Robert Sheldon's
question I was being absolutely truthful as to the information
that I had. If I had discovered on that day that she had acted
for members of the Hinduja family, in my reply to Robert Sheldon
I would have said "But my wife tells me she has acted for
members of the Hinduja family and I suggest you write to her".
Is that clear?
Chairman: Thank you very much. I now
plan to move on to Mapesbury Communications. Perhaps I can ask
colleagues if there are any issues they want to raise on this
36. This is an on-going mystery: find the records
and find the money. You will remember that when you first came
before the Committee in the first hearing you did indicate that
this company was purchased by yourselfalthough it was an
off-the-shelf companyto process the money you received
from your non-Parliamentary work and to use it to support your
Parliamentary work. That was in the first inquiry. That is correct,
is it not?
(Mr Vaz) That was the hope.
37. That, as an explanation, is why we continue
to press on it, because despite the fact that your wife, you say,
took it over, there was no apparent change confirmed by her and
by her solicitor in any stated objectives and so on of the company.
That is why we have continued to niggle at this. You confirm that
it was a very small company and remained a very small company
(Mr Vaz) Yes.
38. Although you said that when your wife took
over it continued to trade with new officers, in fact your wife
and your mother remained two of the officers at that time, and
it was your long-term family friend, I think, who was the additional
officer who joined.
(Mr Vaz) Her mother, my wife's mother, was the director
and then it changed. That is what I meant. The officers changed.
39. But there has been a considerable degree
of continuity, and it had been small both in personnel terms but,
also, in turnover terms. Why do you think it is so difficult for
us to obtain any information as to the extent of the income it
received, the sources of the income and where that income went?
(Mr Vaz) It has not been difficult, Mr Williams. There
are accountants who have provided reports.
1 Note by witness: Affidavit concerning clients
of Mapesbury subject to client confidentiality. Back