Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Analysis (v)

(v)  Complaint alleging that Mr and Mrs Vaz had employed an illegal immigrant as a domestic servant and that Mr Vaz held her passport in his constituency office as a means of exerting improper influence over her

574.  I decided (see paragraph 2 of Section V above) that I must make enquiries into the issues raised by Mrs Gresty because of the implication in her allegations that Mr Vaz may have used his position as a Member of Parliament improperly to obtain preferential treatment from the Immigration Service to assist clients of his wife's solicitors' practice, thereby increasing the family income. Similarly, if Mrs Matin was working for Mr Vaz in his home or in his wife's office for nothing (or for unusually low wages) in return for Mr Vaz's or Ms Fernandes's intervention on her behalf with the Immigration Service this could result in a benefit to Mr Vaz arising from his position as a Member of Parliament which had not been entered in the Register of Member's Interests.

The employment of Mrs Mary Matin/Ahmed

575.  Miss Eggington alleged that from 1995/6 Mr Vaz & Ms Fernandes had employed an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, Mrs Mary Matin, as a nanny and domestic servant in their home and later in the office of Fernandes Vaz solicitors and that Mr Vaz held Mrs Matin's passport in his constituency office.

576.  This complaint was supported by statements made by Mrs Rita Gresty who said that when she took up employment in 1998 with Ms Fernandes at Fernandes Vaz, Mrs Matin was already working for the family, that Mrs Matin's employment had been arranged through a mutual friend and that Mr Vaz & Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes] helped Mrs Matin with the resolution of her immigration status. Mrs Gresty also stated Mrs Matin discussed with her the wages she (Mrs Matin) was paid by Mr & Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes]. Mrs Gresty added that Mrs Matin told her that Mr Vaz held her passport in his constituency office and that Mrs Matin believed that Mr Vaz was helping her to resolve her immigration status.

577.  Miss Eggington provided a copy of a letter dated 9 June 2000 from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty which referred to Mrs Matin working in the office of Fernandes Vaz.

578.  She also sent me a copy of a letter from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty, dated 24 May 2000 (See Annex v16), which refers to "Mary" preparing food for Mr and Mrs Gresty and the children. This letter also says that "Mary" passes her best wishes to Mr and Mrs Gresty. Mr and Mrs Gresty have confirmed that the Mary referred to is Mrs Mary Matin.

579.  Mr Gresty confirmed that Mrs Matin worked for Mr and Mrs Vaz [Ms Fernandes]. He said he had been invited into the Vaz home for coffee by Mrs Matin while Ms Fernandes was present and provided an account of a discussion he had had with Mrs Matin while he was entertained in Mrs Matin's late husband's restaurant.

580.  Mrs Matin said she had never been employed by Mr or Mrs Vaz.

Representations made about Mrs Matin's Immigration Status

581.  Mrs Matin's immigration or employment status, as such, is not a matter for me. My concern was solely with Mrs Gresty's allegation in so far as it related to Mr Vaz. I therefore sought to establish whether Mr Vaz and/or Ms Fernandes had made representations on behalf of Mrs Matin while she was working for them.

582.  Many Members of Parliament properly take up cases concerning the immigration status of their constituents and their interventions are no doubt given serious consideration by the Immigration Service. Ms Fernandes's solicitors' practice, Fernandes Vaz, specialises in immigration work.

583.  Mr Vaz said that he and his wife had always been aware of Mrs Matin's immigration status but neither Mr Vaz nor Ms Fernandes have confirmed that they took action to resolve the matter.

584.  I asked Ms Fernandes if she had ever helped Mrs Matin with her immigration issues and she denied doing so, or that her firm was representing Mrs Matin.

585.  The Immigration service has provided me with information about various representations made by Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes about Mrs Matin's case. They have informed me that on 30 July 1997 Ms Fernandes contacted IND to say that Fernandes Vaz were representing Mrs Matin/Ahmed and that Mr Vaz on several occasions took up Mrs Matin's immigration status with the Immigration service between 1997 and 2001.

586.  Although I have put this apparent discrepancy to Ms Fernandes and asked her for an explanation she has not provided one, and she claimed she did not understand my question.

587.  Coker Vis told me in November 2001 that Bindman & Partners (Mr Vaz's solicitors) had until recently been assisting Mrs Matin with her immigration issues but, because of a conflict between Mr Vaz and Mrs Matin, Bindman and Partners had now passed the case to Coker Vis.

588.  Mrs Matin answered my enquiries on this matter through a solicitor after a delay of over two months. She said that as far as she could recall she had never had any conversation with Mrs Gresty and had certainly never discussed her employment or passport with Mrs Gresty. She said Mr Vaz took up her case as a Member of Parliament but he had never kept her passport in his constituency office.

589.  I have not interviewed Mrs Matin so cannot say what, if anything, she told Mr and Mrs Gresty about her possible employment by Mr and Mrs Vaz or whether, if she did so, it was accurate.

590.  Ms Fernandes has given me no explanation for the answer "no" which she gave me when I asked her whether she had made representations about Mrs Matin's immigration status. Her answer is contradicted by the information provided by the Immigration Service. Ms Fernandes's response to my request for her to explain the inconsistency between what the Immigration Service told me and her answer led me to question the accuracy of her reply to me on 4 July 2001. For his part, Mr Vaz has made at least six separate representations on behalf of Mrs Matin.

591.  Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes have denied that they employed Mrs Matin and Ms Fernandes has denied that she has assisted Mrs Matin to resolve her immigration status. Mr Vaz chose not to respond to the allegation that he held Mrs Matin's passport at his constituency office, nor, if that was true, to give the reason. Nor has he described the nature of his representations on Mrs Matin's behalf.

592.  I have received detailed accounts from Mr and Mrs Gresty, whom I regard as credible witnesses, that Mrs Matin was employed by Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes, and copies of letters signed by Ms Fernandes which support this.

593.  The information provided to me on this matter is contradictory and in the case of Ms Fernandes it appears inaccurate. Mrs Matin may be unaware that Ms Fernandes contacted the Immigration Service to say that Fernandez Vaz would be representing Mrs Matin/Ahmed and indeed Mr Vaz may have taken on the representations himself in collaboration with his wife. Mr Vaz has not fully answered my questions on this matter.

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