Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 120-139)



  120. Did Mrs Matin work in the Bengali restaurant?
  (Mr Vaz) Her husband owned the restaurant.

  121. And she actually worked in the restaurant as well?
  (Mr Vaz) I do not know.

  122. As far as you are concerned she gave no assistance to your household at all?
  (Mr Vaz) No, not in the way you describe it.

  123. Well, you describe to me what she did in the house.
  (Mr Vaz) She did not do anything in the household, she was a friend, she visited. We visited and chatted to her. She is very fond of us and we are very fond of her. I attended her wedding. I signed her witness statement because I was glad she found a love with a new husband and Mr Matin is, was, a very nice man.


  124. So what Mrs Gresty says is entirely fabricated?
  (Mr Vaz) Entirely. Mrs Gresty is motivated, as I have said quite clearly, by absolute, blind hatred of my wife, and that is why she went to Max Clifford and that is why she went to the Mail on Sunday, and that is why she has been pursuing this campaign. If you look at the statements there is actually very little criticism of me, and she should not criticise me because I actually helped her with her financial problems.

  125. And Mrs Matin has not done any cooking or helped with the children at all?
  (Mr Vaz) No, she is our friend. If you were to visit my house—and I hope you would regard me as a friend as would all members of this Committee—and my children were there—she would speak to them and chat with them and play with them.


  126. In what language?
  (Mr Vaz) You do not have to have a language to play with children, Sir George.

  127. You said "chat with them".
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. My children are very young. If we are taking it from the time she knew my children—I do not want you to assume that—the last time Mrs Gresty spoke to Mrs Matin was a year and a half ago. People do have to make progress in this country and she has learnt English; she is not completely without knowledge of English. She does not have long discourses with my children about matters of state you know. She is a friend.

  Chairman: Any more questions on Mrs Matin? Can we then go on to the allegations concerning Mr Graeme Peene?

Mr McNamara

  128. When Mr Peene first came to see you, how did he strike you?
  (Mr Vaz) Very angry, as most people do when they have problems. Very angry, very angry with the DTI, very angry with the Metropolitan Police, very angry with the system. A classic constituent who has a problem but he is a good writer. I do not know about you, Mr McNamara, but where there is a complicated saga that is told to you as an MP, what I tend to do is say to the constituent, "Why don't you put this down in writing and I will forward your letter to the relevant minister", and that is exactly how he would have been treated when he came to see me, obviously with courtesy but he would have no more time than anyone else as far as I was concerned. It would be that kind of a case.

  129. But you did not doubt his integrity?
  (Mr Vaz) The word "integrity" never crosses my mind. As an MP I regard myself as standing in the shoes of my constituents so however bizarre—and I'm not saying his complaint was bizarre because I will not make a judgment about that—however odd the constituent is—and I am not saying Mr Peene is odd—I would do exactly as they want. I never secondguess my constituents. I would always get them to put it in writing and then I would send it off, I would not even have a stab at trying to deal with complaints about corruption in the Metropolitan Police or the DTI or the Attorney General's Department, I would just let them do it.

  130. In your evidence however, your rebuttal, you say, ". . . Mr Peene has succeeded in ensuring he has a platform, protected by Parliamentary Privilege, on which to make highly defamatory statements about a number of individuals and government departments. I think that this is indeed a misuse of the process."
  (Mr Vaz) I do now.

  131. You think he set out with that intention?
  (Mr Vaz) No, I do not. What has happened is that with the huge amount of publicity I had in March of last year—and all these complaints I put on the table are related to this mountain of hostility as a result of the publication of the first report and the off-the-record briefings and the on-the-record statements of members of this Committee, Mr Bottomley and Mr Bell as I have indicated, and I have said who they are—I think everyone decided they would like to jump on the bandwagon and say whatever they wanted to say, and I think he did.

  132. But you say, "Mr Peene has succeeded in ensuring that he has a platform", as though he was in fact engaged in achieving a platform.
  (Mr Vaz) Well, there are two provisos to that, Mr McNamara. The first is that if the Committee publishes everything that he has said, then the DTI, the Attorney General's department, the Metropolitan Police, the Intervention Board, will have had things—and this company,

***, which I have just incidentally looked up and got the accounts for , horrible things would have been said about them and they would never have had a chance to reply.

  133. But you were prepared, until you became a minister, to allow Mr Peene to write parliamentary questions which you would then table—
  (Mr Vaz) Draft them, yes.

  134.—on his behalf, thereby supplying him with this same platform and this same privilege.
  (Mr Vaz) No, because parliamentary questions are not defamatory. Parliamentary questions are only allowed to be tabled if they are to elicit information. If you put down an EDM, I agree, you can defame people, and I think this whole system allows people who do not like you to defame you without ever being sued, and that is why we should look at what we publish very carefully. But I do not think Parliamentary Questions—Of course, I would go along with him. If Mr Peene came to me today and I offered to see him and said, "I have a complaint about whatever", I would write for him, but what I would not do is publish the information, protected by privilege, which would enable his statement to be made.

  135. No, but the question is put down, and it is a hook for seeking information to substantiate what Mr Peene is saying one way or the other.
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  136. That has the protection of parliamentary privilege in exactly the same way.
  (Mr Vaz) Yes, but not his statements though. I can certainly ask the Attorney General, as he was asking me to do, "Will you publish your guidelines", and that is not a defamatory statement. I can certainly say to the Metropolitan Police I do not know what he was proposing to write on the DTI because in that very short period I became a minister. I actually did take advice from the Attorney General's department, and I am sure Mr Cranston is about to declare an interest here because he was the Minister—

Ross Cranston

  137. I have already done that.
  (Mr Vaz)—who replied to me. That is why I wanted you to see the file.

Mr McNamara

  138. I have read the file, that is why I raise the question that you were prepared to put down questions for him which would give that particular position.
  (Mr Vaz) But only questions to elicit information.

  139. I see. You invited Mr Peene to come and see you. Do you as a normal course ask people to come and discuss with you copies of letters or correspondence you have received from departments for them?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 8 February 2002