Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


Mrs Vaz senior

714.  On 8 October 2001 Mr Vaz telephoned me and I made the following note (Annex IV1)

    "Mr Vaz told me that his mother has now been taken ill again and was now in hospital, having received a telephone call from Eileen Eggington who asked her a lot of questions. Eileen Eggington gave Mrs Vaz senior the impression that she was asking these questions on my behalf or in relation to my office. I said I was extremely sorry to hear that and if Mr Vaz would write to me about this I would see whether there was anything at all that I could do. I assured Mr Vaz that no one acts on my behalf other than people from my office or me. Mr Vaz said he was reassured to hear this."

715.  I wrote to Mr Vaz on 11 October 2001 (Annex IV2) as follows:

    "May I confirm what I said during our telephone conversation earlier this week. No-one acts on my behalf other than staff from this office. You told me that Miss Eggington had indicated to your mother that she was acting on my behalf and you asked me to look into that. You said you would write to me about the incident so that I have the facts. I would be grateful if you would do so."

716.  Mr Vaz wrote to me in a letter dated 9 October 2001 (Annex IV3) which I received on 16 October 2001:

    "92.   I am writing to confirm that Eileen Eggington telephoned my mother in Leicester last Thursday and asked her questions apparently on your behalf. You have informed me that she was not acting for you and had no remit to gather information in this way. You will recall that during the last inquiry you took action against those witnesses who sought to interfere with your investigation. As Ms Eggington has put herself forward as a complainant I would be glad to know what action you propose to take.

     93.   I have informed the police of the activities of Miss Eggington which I regard as harassment. My mother is now in hospital."

717.  I wrote to Miss Eggington on 16 October 2001 (Annex IV4) to make enquiries about this matter. I said:

    "I have received a letter from Mr Keith Vaz saying:

    'I am writing to confirm that Eileen Eggington telephoned my mother in Leicester last Thursday [4 October] and asked her questions apparently on your behalf"

    Mr Vaz also informs me that he has referred this telephone call to the police as he regards it as harassment.

    I would be grateful if you would let me know the following so that I may decide whether I should take any action on this matter:

    1.   Have you telephoned Mrs Vaz senior for any reason recently?

    2.   If so, what was the purpose and content of the call and when did it take place?

    3.   Did you imply in any way that you were acting on my behalf? If so, please explain this and if not please can you suggest any explanation for why Mrs Vaz senior might have interpreted any conversation this way?"

718.  On 19 October 2001 Miss Eggington replied attaching a statement (Annex IV5). She said:

    "I am very happy to answer your questions and, in an effort to be as open as possible, I have prepared a seven-page statement with attachments. These are enclosed.

    You will understand that I am particularly concerned about the complaint that I telephoned Mr Vaz's mother in Leicester. If Mr Vaz has made this complaint against me in good faith, somebody, presumably a female, must be impersonating me. Should this woman be identified I would wish to consider taking legal action against her. Also, Mr Vaz has made an allegation of harassment against me to the police. I should like to know when and where Mr Vaz reported this matter. During my thirty-six years service in the Metropolitan Police Service I gained a reputation for complete integrity. I am not happy that Mr Vaz appears to be trying to undermine my unsullied reputation."

719.  In her statement Miss Eggington said:

    "Mr Vaz has said that I telephoned his mother in Leicester on Thursday 4th October and asked her questions, apparently on behalf of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. My answer to this serious allegation is that I have never telephoned Mr Vaz's mother. I do not know her address or telephone number and I would not dream of ever attempting to make contact with her. I am able to provide corroborative evidence, if required, by supplying copies of my home telephone and mobile telephone accounts. I have checked my diary for 4th October and I was working 'out of town' on a Foreign and Commonwealth assignment that day, arriving home at about 19:30 hours."

720.  I asked Mr Vaz for the name of the police officer who was dealing with the matter. In his letter of 3 November 2001 Mr Vaz informed me that he had reported the matter to Chief Inspector Paul Smith of Leicestershire Police.

721.  I wrote to Chief Inspector Paul Smith on 21 November 2001 (Annex IV6) as follows:

    "Mr Vaz has informed me that one of the witnesses to this inquiry, Miss Eileen Eggington QPM, has subjected his mother, Mrs Vaz senior, to a harassing telephone call and implied she was acting on my behalf. I asked Mr Vaz for details.

    Mr Vaz has informed me that he reported the matter to you and you are following it up.

    I would be grateful therefore if you would let me have the details, of which you are aware, which relate to this phone call and the results of any enquiries you have made."

722.  Chief Inspector Smith replied on 22 November 2001 (Annex IV7) saying that he had that day paged Mr Vaz in order to interview Mrs Vaz senior but Mr Vaz did not wish her to be disturbed as she was in hospital. Chief Inspector Smith said his report on this matter would be released when the Chief Constable had given his consent.

723.  On 27 November 2001 Chief Inspector Smith provided me with a copy of his report concerning the telephone call which Mrs Vaz senior allegedly received from Miss Eggington (Annex IV8).

724.  Chief Inspector Smith also provided me with a copy of his note of 22 November 2001 requesting clearance to send me his report. He said:

    "On the morning of Friday, 5th October 2001, the Chief Constable's Secretary contacted me to arrange contact with Mr Keith Vaz on his pager.

    Later that day he rang me and related a story covering an ex employee of his wife. This women, whilst in the employ of Mrs Vaz became mentally ill and eventually became embroiled in harassment allegations. I am told she was eventually arrested and dealt with at Baker Street Police Station in the Metropolitan Police Area.

    Connected with this ex-employee was another woman who was a friend/advocate.

    This woman, a Miss Eggington initially presented herself as a representative of the ex employee during her contact with Mrs Vaz. (She claimed she was ex'employee' of the Metropolitan Police).

    However, Mr Vaz now claims that Eggington has made several calls to his mother at her Leicester address claiming to be a police officer. The exact content of these calls are not known as soon after Mrs Vaz was admitted to the Leicester General Hospital with asthma/heart problems, where she is still being cared for.

    In short, I have given some basic advice to Mr Vaz in connection with the receipt of calls at his mother's address. I have been assured that no evidence/recording exists of the alleged phone call to Mrs Vaz and Mr Vaz was extremely vague as to the exact detail to these events although I know that he has not pressed his mother due to her condition.

    On the morning of Tuesday, 20th November, 2001, Mrs Filkin contacted me from the House of Commons. A conversation took place concerning my contact with Mr Vaz and she explained that she was conducting an enquiry into his activities.

    She explained that a Miss Eggington was a major witness in that enquiry, a fact of which I was unaware.

    I explained that Mrs Vaz had not been interviewed as yet due to her condition but I stated that I would be following this up in the near future."

725.  On Friday 23 November 2001 Mr Vaz telephoned me (Annex IV9) in a highly agitated state. He raised questions implying that:

    —  I had 'instructed' the police to follow up the call which he had reported to them;

    —  I was improperly interfering in criminal proceedings;

    —  he would 'report' me 'to the Speaker'.

726.  I explained to Mr Vaz that I had not instructed anyone. I said I had contacted the police officer whose name he had given to me as the officer who was making enquiries about harassing telephone calls his mother had allegedly received. I said I was surprised to hear there were criminal proceedings as I did not know this. Mr Vaz agreed, there were not.

Mrs Gresty

727.  On 8 November 2001 I was telephoned by Mr Gresty (Annex IV10) saying that Mrs Gresty had received a letter from Ms Fernandes's (Mrs Vaz's) solicitors implying both that Mrs Gresty had breached confidentiality and that Ms Fernandes was contemplating legal action against Mrs Gresty. I suggested he might wish to set out in writing what had occurred.

728.  Mr Gresty wrote to me on 8 November 2001 (Annex IV11) about the letter which he had referred to on the telephone which had been sent to Mrs Gresty from Ms Fernandes' solicitors. He said he regarded the sending of the letter to be "an act of unacceptable intimidation and harassment". He also said "I judge it reprehensible that Ms Fernandes should use the threat of legal action in an attempt to silence witnesses to an investigation".

729.  In the evening of 8 November 2001 I received a telephone call from Mrs Gresty (Annex IV12). She said she had received a letter that day from Ms Fernandes's solicitors and as a result she wished to withdraw the statements she had made to my inquiry. She said she felt frightened and that the only option open to her was to retract her evidence. I asked her whether her decision to withdraw her statements was based on the fact that she now wanted to say they were untrue. She replied that this was not the case as her statements were true. I said she should think carefully over the weekend about whether she wished to withdraw the statements and she agreed to come to my office on the following Monday to let me know her decision.

730.  I replied to Mr Gresty on 9 November 2001 to say I was very concerned to hear that he felt that Mrs Gresty was being subjected to approaches which seemed like intimidation and harassment and that I was referring the correspondence to the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee forthwith (Annex IV13).

Miss Eggington

731.  On 8 November 2001 Miss Eggington wrote to me (Annex IV14) about a letter she had received from David Price, Ms Fernandes's solicitors, which she found concerning (Annex IV15). She attached a statement dated 8 November 2001 in which she said she had felt threatened by the tone of the letter. She said she thought Ms Fernandes "has not believed me [her] and still has it in mind to sue me [her]". She continued "I also sense that she is trying to intimidate and bully me."

732.  I replied on 9 November 2001 (Annex IV16) that any attempt to put pressure on a witness to a Parliamentary investigation would be a contempt of the House and that I was bringing her letter to the attention of the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee.

733.  I drew to the attention of the Chairman the letter and statements from Miss Eggington and the letter from Mr Gresty.

Chairman's action

734.  The Chairman wrote to Miss Eggington on 12 November 2001 (Annex IV17). He said he had seen a copy of her statement about the communications she had received from David Price solicitors and he was disturbed to learn that she felt threatened as a result of what had happened.

735.  He explained that any evidence given to me for the purposes of my inquiries into complaints against Members of Parliament are fully protected by parliamentary privilege and that any attempt to put pressure on a witness in connection with evidence would be a contempt of the House.

736.  The Chairman also wrote in the same vein to Mrs Gresty on 12 November 2001 (Annex IV18) having seen the letter from her husband to me about the communication she had received from David Price Solicitors.

Further information from Miss Eggington and from Mr & Mrs Gresty

737.  On 12 November 2001 Miss Eggington and Mr & Mrs Gresty came to my office to discuss the letters they had received from Ms Fernandes' solicitors (Annex vi16)

738.  Mrs Gresty told me that she had found the letter she had received very distressing and was considering whether, in the light of it, she felt able to continue to assist my inquiry. Mrs Gresty confirmed that the contents of her statements to me were true. Mr Gresty said his letter to me was to remain on the record.

739.  I suggested that Mrs Gresty should consider whether the information she had provided to me should stand and she told me that she had decided that it should.

740.  Following the meeting Miss Eggington wrote to me on 12 November 2001 (Annex IV20 see also V15A and V15B) confirming that neither Mr nor Mrs Gresty had commenced employment tribunal proceedings against Ms Fernandes. She enclosed correspondence which she said illustrated why Ms Fernandes had no good reason to believe that Mr and Mrs Gresty had any intention of taking their case to an employment tribunal.

741.  The attached correspondence dating from 21 December 2000 to 2 February 2001 concerned attempts to obtain from Ms Fernandes the statutory sick pay to which Miss Eggington believed Mrs Gresty to be entitled.

742.  Following our meeting Mrs Gresty wrote to me on 13 November 2001 (Annex IV21) to describe the disquiet the letter from Ms Fernandes's solicitor had caused her and to explain why this threat of legal action had made her consider withdrawing the evidence and statements she had given to me. She confirmed that her statements to me were true and that she was willing for them to remain part of the evidence given to this inquiry. Mrs Gresty also set out the facts regarding the termination of her employment with Fernandes Vaz.

743.  On 13 November 2001 I wrote to Mrs Gresty to thank her for her letter and for coming to see me. I suggested that she should contact me immediately at home or in the office if she was approached by any other party in a way which she felt might constitute improper pressure.

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