Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 40-59)



  40. Not normal accountants' report.
  (Mr Vaz) It is not required under the Companies Act.

  41. That is not what we asked for.
  (Mr Vaz) I understand that, Mr Williams. I cannot speak on behalf of the company because I am not involved in the company, but I understand why you ask the question. In the evidence that was given by the directors to Mrs Filkin they make it clear what the various activities were and they have produced a report that has been signed by an independent accountant, they have produced their own accountants' reports. This is a small company. Under the Companies Act it is not required to have audited accounts. I cannot create accounts when there are not any. This is not Shell. This is a very small company that was doing various things, like organising events.

  42. It just seems very unfortunate, having established that records were rather unco-ordinated—and we understand the circumstances, with the death of Mr Mahmoud. We were told that the accounting information was probably in his garage, and then a long time later it emerged that the records do not seem to be available at all.
  (Mr Vaz) I think his wife said they were—

  43. Why is there this uncertainty?
  (Mr Vaz) Because short of exhuming Mr Mahmoud it is very difficult to know what he has done with these things. Let us look at my conduct on Mapesbury. When I set it up I went to Sir Gordon Downey and I said to Sir Gordon Downey "I would like to register this company". Sir Gordon Downey said to me it did not need to be registered. He said "Register the sources of income that you benefit from". That is exactly what I did. My radio programme, etc, etc—though, in fact, in the end, none of those sources went in there because I did not last very long, as I told the Committee, on the radio programme. I wrote to Sir Gordon again on 27 September (my annex is here) to make sure that I had got it right; have I missed something? Sir Gordon wrote back on 27 September last year to reconfirm the advice that he has given, because I have always been very happy to register this company. In fact, I am quite prepared to do this. It is not a problem for me because I have not benefited from it. It is easily registerable under Category 10. There is no benefit. I do not know whether you have seen Mrs Filkin's evidence—I am sure you have—her discussion with Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan, but Mrs Filkin concludes that there is no direct benefit. No payments have been made by this company to me, but Mrs Filkin believes (this is why it is still before you) that because a Member of Parliament attends a meeting or an event and speaks at it, that promotion means there is a benefit. That is not in the rules. If we are to put down every single big event, or every single thing that we attend that promotes us - May I just read you the exchange, because it is very interesting, on the issue of promotion?


  44. I think the Committee has done you the courtesy of reading the copious papers that we have before us, rather than repeating something that is before us.
  (Mr Vaz) It is what she considers as promotion, and I have not been promoted by this company. I have been promoted by lots of other things, and what I have done is made sure that if I am promoted I put it in Category 10.

Mr Williams

  45. This issue, as I say, niggled away throughout the first inquiry, as you know, and we had no resolution; we had what ended up as a fractious meeting with your wife and her solicitor when we asked for certain information. Why do you think it took so long for anyone to establish the simple fact that the records that were thought to be in a garage were not in the garage? Would it not have been easy enough right at the outset to establish that, and then it would have resolved the whole issue?
  (Mr Vaz) Because, and this was told to the Committee on the last occasion, when someone has just died the last thing you want to do is push into their house and say to the widow "Could I have all the information concerning this particular gentlemen?" I am not responsible for this. I did not want to intervene in any of this, even though I know the family, but I think they have done everything that they can do. I have always been very happy to register Mapesbury. I will register Mapesbury if that is what the Committee wants me to do, but I want to make it absolutely clear that I have had no benefit from this company. Accountants have certified it. What I cannot understand is that Mrs Filkin accepts an accountant's letter in the case of Robert Sheldon, but does not accept an accountant's letter in the case of Keith Vaz. They are both perfectly respectable accountants. Once an accountant certifies that no benefits or payments have been made, we then go on to the second avenue, which is "Were there any benefits in kind?" The answer is no. But if the Committee wants me to register it, I have not been against registering this company since 1995. I will register it, it does not matter to me. But I want to make it very, very clear that I have not received any benefit from it.

Peter Bottomley

  46. It is not the biggest issue around but just to clear my mind, did you at any stage know that Mapesbury was being used to pay for the lecture costs?
  (Mr Vaz) Which lecture costs?

  47. When the man came to give a talk in the House of Commons?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. When The Sunday Times rang me on Saturday 17 March at approximately 7 o'clock (which is how The Sunday Times operates), they told me this. Then I rang Mr Sheldon and said "The Sunday Times are publishing an article about this issue". A message came back from Mr Sheldon saying he was not prepared to talk to me about it. The Sunday Times then published its article and on Monday 19 March 2001 I went to see Mr Sheldon, who was accompanied by Mr Sandall, and I explained the issue to him. I said that in no way was this a donation or payment to me. That, indeed, if we are to believe The Sunday Times—of course, I have not seen Mrs Filkin's final report—is Mrs Filkin's conclusion.

  48. My question is not about The Sunday Times or the donation—
  (Mr Vaz) That is how I knew about it.

  49. Other than that you had not known that the Hinduja Foundation had paid Mapesbury, owned by your wife, for this event?
  (Mr Vaz) I must have known in 1995, yes, of course. But I did not know when I replied to any letters, because it was not an issue that was in my mind. It was when The Sunday Times had done their research of the Hinduja Foundation that they said that this payment was made.

  50. So it is probable you had known and you had no reason to remember, and that is, presumably, the reason why you had not mentioned it.
  (Mr Vaz) I did not know until I was alerted to this fact. Mr Bottomley, just on the question of knowledge, on 30 January you told this Committee that you attended a party with me at New Zealand House. You did not tell the Committee that it was a party that was hosted by the Hindujas. Now it could have been a slip of your mind not to have told them or you might not have regarded that as being relevant. I am just saying that with the passage of time you cannot remember everything, and you are not seeking to mislead, you are just seeking to tell people what you know.

  51. In the same way that I tried to correct your suggestion that I nodded my head when, in fact, I had not nodded my head, the reason for mentioning that party at New Zealand House is because it was organised by the Hindujas.
  (Mr Vaz) But you did not say that.

  52. No, but that was the only reason for saying it.

  Chairman: Are there any more questions on Mapesbury? I suggest we now move on to two issues that may not take a lot of time: firstly, Wildberry Printers.

Richard Ottaway

  53. Mr Vaz, I think it has been established that members of your family were officers of Mapesbury and Wildberry, and Wildberry was doing some printing for Mapesbury.
  (Mr Vaz) No, it has not been established.

  54. The Commissioner tells me that she has established that.
  (Mr Vaz) Well, the Commissioner is wrong. Where does she say she has established that?

  55. If you do not mind, I will ask the questions. Could you tell me if you have been able to work out if there were any payments between the two companies?
  (Mr Vaz) I am trying to be courteous. I do not think, with the greatest of respect, Mr Ottaway, that the Commissioner has established this. The Commissioner asked me this question in her letter of 19 October and I replied on 3 November. She has not established that payments had been made. Payments could not have been made from Wildberry to Mapesbury or vice-versa because Wildberry was in existence for one year, according to records at Companies House which I have obtained, between 1993 and 1994, and Mapesbury was only established in 1995. So there could not have been any payments, just as a matter of fact.

  56. Did Wildberry do any printing for Mapesbury?
  (Mr Vaz) That is what has been said.

  57. I am asking you—
  (Mr Vaz) I accept that. I do not know because—if you look at my evidence to the last—we are talking about these calendars. I brought a copy and Mrs Filkin has a selection of my calendars. I did not deal with the minutia of the printing of the calendars. Mr Bottomley asked me a question about this. It is Mr Bottomley that established it. He said to me on 30 January "Wildberry did print the calendars" and I said that I do not know, it is such a long time ago, because I was not given notice of what Wildberry was doing.

  58. Have you subsequently found out if Wildberry—
  (Mr Vaz) No. Well, that is a different question.

  59. It is a different question.
  (Mr Vaz) Let us, first of all, deal with this question of Mapesbury and Wildberry. Mapesbury could not have given payments to Wildberry because it did not exist when Wildberry existed. The second question is did it do the calendar? I can only assume that it did.

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