Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex v3

Statement by Mrs Rita Gresty

The following statement has been dictated to Eileen Eggington by me on 25/6/01  [Signed: R Gresty]

I have been told that Maria Fernandes has denied that Mary Martin worked as a nanny to her children, either in a paid or unpaid capacity. This is untrue. I worked from Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm in Maria's * * * home from 10th August 1998 until September 1999. I would arrive every morning at about 9.15 am and Mary always opened the door to me. When I first started, * * * was a baby, still in nappies but walking. * * * was about 3/4 years. Mary would usually be giving * * * his breakfast. At about 10 am Mary would take * * * to playgroups in local churches. They would walk there, about 10 minutes walk away and Mary always took * * * in the buggy. Maria later changed playgroups for * * * and it involved me driving * * * to two different churches in Edgware. (I cannot remember the names of the churches but I could go there or find them on the A-Z.) Mary always stayed behind with * * * as she could not drive at that time.

I can remember that about once every fortnight when Keith Vaz was around, Mary would cook his breakfast. It was always ham—the pre-packed sort—, and fried eggs. He also had coffee, usually filtered. Mary also ironed all Keith's shirts. In fact she did all the washing and ironing for the Vaz family. Keith was often in the kitchen, when he was around, and saw Mary ironing as the ironing board was set up in the kitchen/breakfast room. Mary also did all the housework, including cleaning the toilets. She also did all the cooking. She would take special instructions from Maria on Friday mornings for the food requirements for the weekend. She usually did a lot of cooking on Fridays and made curries for the weekend. Prawn was Keith's favourite. Lunches were usually light, just a sandwich. Sometimes Mary made a tuna and potato -cake, fried, which the children loved and Maria ate as well. Maria's favourite curries were ladies' fingers. At least once a month Keith took * * * to stay with his mother, Merlyn Vaz, at her home in Leicester. I know it was on the outskirts of Leicester near a private hospital. After a few months he also took * * * and Mary often went with them. I think she always went on the shorter trips when it was just an overnight, rather them the whole weekend. Keith always drove.

I got to know Mary very well because I would spend my half-hour lunch. break with her in the house. She wanted to practice her English with me and so we had a half hour of conversation while she was giving the children their lunch. She was a Muslim and she ate nothing during the day, except sometimes a piece of dried toast. She complained to me about the amount of work she had to do and the lack of time to do it. She told me that she left home every day, Monday to Saturday, at 7 am. She said she had to catch two buses from her home above the Bina Restaurant in High Street, Northwood, to Maria and Keith's home in * * *. I think she used to arrive about 8.30 am and I know that she then helped get * * * up and dressed and ready for play school. She did not get a break during the day and I never saw her sitting down to rest. She normally worked until 5 pm, when the au-pair, if there was one at the time, would take over. But sometimes she would have to stay and baby-sit if Maria had been unable to get a baby-sitter and if there was no au-pair around. This was rare, maybe once a month, but Maria was often out, maybe three times a week; sometimes at Law Society functions and sometimes with Keith. When there was no au-pair, Mary would have to wait for the baby sitter to arrive. When she worked into the evening, often Keith or Maria would take her home to Northwood. I used to leave about 5.30 pm and occasionally I would drive Mary home if she was ready to come. I remember on a couple of occasions whom we were in the car together she talked about her wages. She complained that Maria often failed to pay her on time and was often up to a fortnight late. She complained about the low late rate of pay, which worked out at about £1.50 an hour. She also complained that if she worked extra time, beyond 5 pm, she was not paid any extra money. She also told me that about once every six weeks or so Maria expected her to work for a few hours on a Sunday if she needed extra help, like when she had guests. Mary told me that she did not always get paid for this Sunday work.

From my observation, Mary liked Keith because he was kind to her in a fatherly sort of way. Every few weeks, when Keith took his children on an outing, he would always take Mary. I remember on one occasion, when I was working in the Harrow office, Keith phoned me from Harrods. He sounded cross and agitated and said that he had lost Mary and * * *. He asked me what to do. I advised him to got to the customer services point and eventually they got linked up. He sometimes took * * * out on his own but if * * * was with him, he always took Mary. I know that Mary took pride in the way she ironed Keith's shirts and, I think it was Maria who once commented that Mary was the only one who could iron shirts to Keith's satisfaction.

While I was still working at the * * * office, Mary started driving lessons. Maria strongly encouraged her to drive because she would be able to drive * * * to school in the future, and to take * * * to playgroup. I know that Maria did not pay for the lessons. She took the test twice when I was still at * * *. She passed shortly before I became ill in May 2000 and went on sick leave. After Mary passed the driving test she continued to travel from Northwood to * * * by two buses because she did not own a car. Maria told Mary that she wanted her to travel with the au-pair to * * *'s school, [in Hertfordshire] * * * to learn the route. I do not know if she ever drove the children because we have not spoken since 12th May 2000, when I went sick.

From about the New Year, 2000, when * * * started play group, Mary came to the Harrow office where I was working, to do some filing. This was because work in the office had become very busy due to a substantially increased workload. Maria wanted to use Mary's time effectively while the children were at school or play group. Mary was told by Maria to get to the office at 9 am. She had her own key and opened up the office. I would arrive just before 9.30 am and Mary was always there on the days that * * * went to playgroup. I think this was three days a week. Mary worked on filing until about 11.30 am. Then she would take the bus to * * * to be there in time for * * *'s return from playgroup. Mary was not given any extra money for this office work. I believe she paid her own bus fares.

When I first started with Maria in August 1998 Maria had just lost an au-pair. Maria asked me to recruit a new one. After trial and error I found one through a nanny agency in * * *. She came from the Czech Republic. I cannot remember her name. There were three different au-pairs during my time working for Maria. Their hours were 7.30 am to 8.30 am and 4.30 pm until the children's bed-time. Mary would fill the gap in the middle.

I have been asked about the Mapesbury records at either office. I do know that Maria's book on how to obtain visas was published by Mapesbury. In about October 1998 I went to Coleridge House, Coleridge Gardens with Hanif Pathan, to take minutes of a meeting connected with Keith Vaz's PR company and prospective tour of MPs to Belgium. It was to highlight the problem of people loading up with cheap alcohol and cigarettes, which in turn affected Asian newsagents. As far as I know the visit never took place. Keith Vaz was not there, nor was Maria. Apart from me and Hanif, there were three people from a PR consultants' company. I cannot remember the name. I would have typed up the minutes and sent them to Hanif's Leicester office.

25 June 2001  [Signed by R Gresty & Eileen Eggington]

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