Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


Letter to the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, from Mr Graeme Peene

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In the Public Interest, and in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, I now wish to make a Protected Disclosure to your office concerning the conduct of Mr Keith VAZ MP Leicester East. I make this disclosure to ensure that in this instance, appropriate and requisite action is taken, and would advise I have copied the letter to Mr George Trevelyan, Chief Executive, Intervention Board Executive Agency, and the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the Opposition.

After leaving the Department of Trade & Industry during October 1997 I took up a new position with the Intervention Board Executive Agency Anti Fraud Unit. I will not go into details other than to state that the problems and difficulties I encountered within the Department of Trade & Industry have unacceptably followed me to the Intervention Board. Whilst carrying out my duties as an Investigation Officer and investigating matters in accordance with instructions issued by line management I found myself being subjected to malicious and ill founded threats connected with my employment at the Department of Trade & Industry.

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Included in the Formal Grievance document is a complaint concerning the conduct of Mr Keith VAZ MP Leicester East in relation to a meeting that took place on 17th April 1999 at the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, Leicester. The meeting took place following the receipt of a letter dated 14th April 1999 from Mr VAZ advising, "I would be grateful if you would call to see me at one of surgeries so that we can discuss matters".

Mr VAZ's office would have held my details on file because I had previously written to him about the problems encountered at the Department of Trade & Industry.

Following the receipt of the Mr VAZ's letter of 14th April 1999 my wife *** made an appointment with Mr VAZ for 3.30 pm on Saturday 17th April 1999 at the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, Leicester. Believing that Mr VAZ had information concerning the Department of Trade & Industry my wife *** and myself attended the meeting with Mr VAZ.

Upon entering the meeting room Mr VAZ, unusually, was not accompanied by an Aide. Mr VAZ proceeded to ask questions about my problems at the Department of Trade & Industry and enquired "whether my problems at the Department of Trade & Industry had anything to do with my Russian Butter Export Refund Investigation?"

I was totally amazed and taken aback by Mr VAZ's enquiry because the Russian Butter Export Refund Investigation was at that point in time only known to a small number of Senior Intervention Board Anti Fraud Unit personnel. I refused to discuss the matter with Mr VAZ and sought to obtain an explanation from him about how he knew anything about the investigation. Mr Vaz did not provide a satisfactory explanation and went on to discuss other matters.

The Russian Butter Export Refund Investigation was politically sensitive, had not been formerly registered as an investigation, had levy implications for the United Kingdom, and concerned suspected serious criminal conduct by United Kingdom Limited Companies and non EEC Countries/Nationals.

By Saturday 17th April 1999 only one external enquiry had been carried out into the Russian Butter Export Refund Investigation. Whilst it would not be correct for me to identify the company or venue of the initial enquiry, I remain deeply concerned that within a matter of weeks of the initial enquiry I should receive an approach from a Member of Parliament concerning a highly sensitive political criminal investigation!

It is my understanding that an officer of the Limited Company visited by the Intervention Board is or was either a director, or a co-director on the board of another Limited Company that has connections with Mr VAZ. A Companies House search should confirm this.

In my opinion the following questions should be asked of Mr VAZ:

1.  Why was Mr VAZ making enquiries into a Confidential and Politically Sensitive Criminal Investigation that was being conducted on behalf of the Intervention Board an Executive Agency of H M Government?

2.  What information was Mr VAZ seeking from myself?

3.  What did Mr VAZ intend to do with the information?

4.  Who contacted Mr VAZ and requested him to make enquiries on their behalf?

5.  Was it Mr VAZ's intention to attempt to influence the outcome of the investigation?

Civil Servants and Members of H M Government should at all times conduct themselves honestly with integrity, and they should not depart from the standards that are set and which parliament and public expect.

I reported Mr VAZ's conduct through my line management chain during early May 1999, no action appears to have been taken, the matter has never again been raised, and I have not received any feedback to allay my concerns.

I am a retired Police Officer, and throughout the past 10 years whilst working as an established Civil Servant I have found myself surrounded by corruption, incompetence and a reluctance to deal with matters in an appropriate manner. Attempts have been made to incite me to act in an illegal, unethical and improper manner but no one appears concerned. This is unacceptable to myself and the Government should not tolerate such conduct. Until such time as Government Agencies accept that problems do exist, and whilst no one is prepared to grasp the nettle and deal with the problems once and for all, matters will continue to be covered up and swept under the carpet. In short nothing other than a Public Enquiry is required into these affairs.

Sir Anthony Hammond QC has been appointed to conduct an investigation into the Hindujas, and would suggest that possibly the terms of reference could be expanded to include the conduct of Mr VAZ in relation to the approach made to my wife and myself on 17th April 1999. In the alternative an independent investigation is undertaken into Mr VAZ's conduct.

As a constituent of Mr VAZ and a serving Civil Servant living a very short distance from his family home and Leicester East Headquarters, given all the events leading to this Protected Disclosure I feel that there should be no repercussions and detriment either towards myself or my family.

Furthermore, that my rights to privacy and freedom of speech are respected under the European Convention on Human Rights.

I look forward to your reply.

29 January 2001

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