Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex vi16

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Keith Vaz MP

Thank you for your letter of 19th October which I received on 23rd October. I refer to our telephone call on 26th October 2001 and to my conversation with [your PA] on 31st October 2001.

107  May I at the outset say that you have not as yet made clear what allegations you have decided have "some substance which would merit further inquiry". I use the words in paragraph 2 of your guidelines for the Investigative Process which were adopted by Parliament.

108  You have also not made clear what breaches of the Code of Conduct are alleged. For example, in correspondence you have told me that the complaint made by Mr Peene was not about casework but because I had intervened when Mr Peen was a civil servant. However as you have known from the outset he was not a civil servant when he asked me to intervene further you say that Mr Rowbathan's complaint was about me misleading the Committee yet, the matter he has complained of was never put to me. These are just two examples.

109  In your letter of 7th June 2000 during the last inquiry at the request of Geoffrey Bindman you set out the complaints you were investigating at the time and gave some indication of the breaches which might be in question. Could you please tell me what allegations against me, if any, you have decided to investigate, and specify the breaches. I believe that this should be standard procedure in all cases so that Members can respond in a full and accurate way.

110  Your letter of 19th October raises further questions which I will endeavour to answer as fully as I can, although I have not received all the documentation that you have. It is clearly impossible for me to comment on what I have not seen.

111  I did not tell your office that I did not receive the alleged statements of Rita Gresty. I told [your PA] that in your letter of 19th October 2001 at "C" you quote Mrs Gresty as talking about the event on 23rd June 1999. I have read all the statements that you have sent me and I cannot see any reference to this. You either have another statement that I have not seen or you are mistaking Mrs Gresty for someone else. Can you please let me know for completeness what Mrs Gresty alleges her role was in respect of this event so that I can provide you with full and accurate answers.

112  If you will kindly let me have a complete picture of your dealings with Ms Egginton including any statements you have taken from her. I can then give you full and accurate answers.

113  As to Mrs Eggington contacting my mother, you should be aware that my mother was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Leicester Royal Infirmary yesterday and she is under sedation. I cannot give you any additional information above what I have already told you. I explained to you that when the call was made to my mother she was told by Ms Egginton that she was a police officer and that you had asked her to ring. This occurred on 4th October and she was admitted to hospital shortly after the call. I telephoned the Leicester Police on 5th October.

114   The matter was being dealt with by Chief Inspector Paul Smith. I asked for the call to be traced and they said this would not be possible. The advice they gave was that all telephone calls to my mother should be monitored. The Leicester Police contacted Harrow police because of their previous involvement in matters concerning Rita Gresty. My mother has not returned to her house. Ms Eggington's action has caused stress to my mother at a time when such stress has direct impact on her health.

115  I can only suggest, with respect, that you ask Ms Egginton what contact she has had with members of my family.

116  Can I now turn to the points that you have raised with me about which you wish to have clarification. In A the correct procedure (which Sir Gordon Downey laid down) is that the Committee should be consulted first. In any event, in an attempt to be helpful, I have already answered this point in paragraphs 61 and 62. This matter relates to events 14 years ago.

117  In respect of B I have already explained to you that the electoral registration information is inaccurate and given you the reasons why the dates are wrong. I have already set out in correspondence with the Registrar my knowledge on these matters.

118  (a) (I) and (2) I had no arrangement with any such persons nor do I have knowledge of any arrangement. They were there under the authority of the beneficial owner who was responsible for this. I explained this to the Registrar in January, February and twice in June. I received no benefit. (3) there is no qualification of time required for Members to occupy a second home. I used it whenever I needed to, I cannot give you exact dates nor are Members required to do so. No one was in occupation of the flat when I stayed there. (4) No.

119  (b) (1) To reflect the true position that my mother was the beneficial owner. (2) beneficial owner is a clearly established legal term is defined in the Law of Property Act 1925 section 76 Schedule 2. The reason for the transfer was explained to the Registrar. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 at that stage she wished to move to London and she had not decided whether her treatment should be in Leicester or London,. She had not decided if she wished to sell the property. Instructions were given to settle these matters in 1999, she changed her mind in 2000 and changed it again. Two different sets of solicitors were instructed to deal with these matters the second set being instructed in the summer of 2000, and they began the process. I made reference both to her health and these family matters to the Committee. The timing of the transfer is a matter of legal process.

120  I can confirm for the record that I have never owned property abroad. I sold my house in London when I permanently moved to Leicester as far as I recall the sale was in 1987. I cannot say whether it was before or after the actual date of the general election. I do not accept that I have failed to provide you with all information that is relevant to your proper concerns. No complaint had been made about my ownership of any property.

121  On the Conference, please see paragraph 110 above concerning Rita Gresty.

122  I have redrafted the consent form. Liz Williams apart from being a person who worked in my office is also a constituent I also need to protect the confidentiality of information that I have about my constituents. I want to give you a complete picture and full and accurate answers in order to do so I will need to disclose her dealings with my office.

123  In relation to your narrative in C I will deal with Mrs Williams points when I get her consent. Please will you send me her statement to you. Your practice of withholding such information until after your draft report is published has lead to further complaints. Both you and I have an interest in ensuring that this does not happen.

124  I will now deal with the factual questions that you ask in C (a) Mr Pathan was not solely responsible for organising the conference. He was not acting on my instructions or with my authority he acted on behalf of the organisation. You ask me to comment on your conversation with Mr Pathan. You put to him that Mapesbury Communications booked the event for the ABN. He rightly said that it did not and expressed surprise at this suggestion. I am not aware of any involvement by this company in this event. (b) Mr Pathan was not working for me (see paragraph 121 above) (c) the organisation dealt with all financial matters. My office was not used in this way and I would have been very concerned if it has been so used (d) I do not know.

125  (e) Coleridge House is the office of the ABN which organised the conference as far as I recall, I have attended one AGM there (f) I know two persons called David Barnes one has been the Assistant Private Secretary to successive Immigration Ministers and the other has been involved in media marketing (g) I know two persons called David Golding one who was at University with me he is lawyer with a City firm, the other is a businessman (h) I have attended many events for the Asian community over the last 14 years I cannot give you a definitive list of each organisation's events.

126  I have already told you in paragraph 76 that the information supplied to you by Mr Syal and Mr Hastings is inaccurate. The information does not appear as they suggest on the BT Website. British Telecom has nothing to do with the publication of this information. The ABN has never been "registered" at this address. I have lived at this address and I have been the President of this organisation a position that as you say I have registered. It has always as far as I am aware operated from Coleridge House, Coleridge Gardens. They do a fine job.

127  If you forward to me the information from the "BTwebsite" I will explain my understanding of why this information has appeared in this way. It is a matter of public record that Mapesbury was registered there, and the then Commissioner was fully informed about the structure of the company the fact that it remained registered there after we have moved shows how inaccurate the information is. That also applies to the fact that the ABN was still publicised as being there until February 2001. If you let me have the information you have been sent I will gladly do my best to clear this up.

128  My relationship with the ABN is set out in the Register. It is a non-political organisation. The registration was made in this form after I had a discussion with the then Registrar. I have always discussed my Asian community activities with Registrars, my file will show this.

129  My answers to (a)- (c) of D are set out in the following paragraphs (up to 125) I have worked with a number of Black and Asian organizations over a number of years. When I was first elected along with the late Bernie Grant MP and Diane Abbott MP and the late Lord Pitt we asked the then Serjeant At Arms for permission to have an extra room and extra passes to enable the employees and volunteer of the Black Caucus to work from the Commons.

130  The advice that has always been given is that if any space is being provided that the public purse should not bear any cost. As I was chairing the Conference I agreed that access should be given to my office (I had offices elsewhere) for the organisation provided they had their own telephone line and paid their own bill and that they did not use Commons facilities. I had checked the propriety of this with the House authorities on a number of occasions.

131  I cannot identify a precise period when I wrote letters in support of the ABN but I would have treated them in the same way as other organisations. As with any other organization any request for support would have been payable to the organisation and sent to them at their offices and they would be responsible for financial management. I would not consider it appropriate to ask them for any financial information in the way you suggest. They would regard it as presumptuous if I asked for details of their bank and bank accounts.

132  As I explained to the Committee when I appeared before them, that many organisations within the Asian community ask me for support. You will recall that I handed the Committee a letter from a Member (now a Minister) which specifically asked me to write a letter to get financial support for an organisation in his constituency. Members respond positively when asked for help in this way.

133  I have inspected the Register of Staff (E) held in the Oriel Room and Ms Coco's name is not there. I did not personally supervise the people in the office as I worked from elsewhere. My recollection is that she was there for a short period working part-time as an overseas intern. I have no knowledge of the matters you raise. I do not have her address or telephone number. Since I have not seen her name on the Register I would be glad if you could send me the extract from the Register you refer to.

134  My answer to Mr Bottomley's question (F) was completely accurate. Paul Townsend is my brother-in-law. I have already covered in detail the position regarding the (Asian community) calendars and the advice I was given by two Registrars and [the former] Commissioner Downey. I have received no benefit from this company. If anyone suggests otherwise I would be happy to comment on any information that is forthcoming. I enclose my latest calendar which will be published shortly. This will go to all my constituents. Any of these that are left over will be sent to individuals and organisations who are known to me outside my constituency.

135  In respect of G, the summary you have set out concerning my directorship of GMH is inaccurate. I was not responsible for the date it was entered in the Register, or for its removal. The correspondence does not indicate that I asked for it to be removed. This is a matter for the Registrar.

136  I am not responsible for what is published in Annual Reports. The company will have the precise information, but here is my recollection:

137  (1) I recall I was offered the directorship in January 1999 and (2) that I accepted it shortly before I wrote to the Registrar, which would be in April. (3) I do not recall the precise details, as I have never attended a board meeting nor been involved in company business. (4) The gap between offer and acceptance would be because of another offer I received from a firm of solicitors, which, after seeking advice from the Law Officers Department I turned down as I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Law Officers, and the fact that I was in Oman during this period. Other than the dinner which I have already described I am not aware of receiving any benefits from Mr Auchi. Your question is phrased "associated in any way" I am not aware of benefits from anyone associated with him. The phrase you use is too wide to be of any practical use as I do not know who would be regarded as being associated with any other individual. I have not received any benefit from Tucan Investments plc.

138  * * *

139  I attach a copy of my letter of 6th August.

140  I attach the new consent form for Mrs Williams.

141  There is only one outstanding point concerning Mrs Williams and as soon as I have the information I will respond to it.

142  I have now given you over a hundred answers to your various questions. I have answered your questions even though they are not based on complaints in writing and supported by evidence (see Ninth Report of session 1999-2000) I hope that you are now in a position to give me a timetable.

3 November 2001

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