Preliminary observations of Mr Keith Vaz
in response to draft memorandum of
the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
delivered to him on 30 November 2001
R1. Because the current investigation by the Commissioner
followed immediately after the Committee's report on the earlier
investigation (Third Report of the session 2000-1 published on
9 March 2001) and is closely linked to it, I begin with some comments
on the earlier report and the conduct of the previous investigation.
There were many unsatisfactory and unfair aspects of the earlier
investigation which I detail below. Although no misconduct was
established against me in that investigation save in respect of
one minor matter, the outcome was to cause irreparable damage
to my reputation.
R2. Sadly, the draft memorandum in the present investigation
is deeply flawed and I fear that without thorough and robust examination
and action by the new Committee, the injustice done to me as result
of the earlier investigation will be repeated in the current one.
R3. I therefore invite the Committee, many of whose
members were not parties to the earlier report, to pay careful
attention to the that report and in particular to read the correspondence
in volume II which documents the account which follows in paras.
R4 to R25.
The previous investigation and the Committee's
report of 9 March 2001
R4.The previous investigation commenced with a complaint
by Mr A J Milne on 4 and 8 February 2000 about alleged unregistered
payments to me by Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla. It was apparently followed
by a complaint by Mr Paul Gosling on 29 February 2000 that I had
inaccurately registered a donation of £5000 from a company
called Control Securities Ltd by describing the company as "Control
Ltd" and had misdescribed the purpose of the donation.
R5. In para. 1 on p.vii of its Report the Committee
states that it has considered the Commissioner's memoranda relating
to these two complaints. It does not refer to any other complaints.
Nor had the Commissioner (at least until 7 June 2000) notified
me of any other complaints made by any identified complainants.
R6. In the course of the next three months the Commissioner
asked me questions relating to two complaints all of which I answered
to the best of my ability. Apparently without specific complaints
but on the basis of newspaper articles by hostile journalists
and others information volunteered to the Commissioner by political
opponents within my own party and other a series of further allegations
came within the purview of her investigation. I refer for example
to the Commissioner's letter of 14 March 2000 (Annex 18 to Appendix
1 on p.xxxiii of volume II of the Third Report). Again I attempted
to answer the many questions which she put I felt that the scale
of the investigation was exceeding all reasonable bounds. At that
point I instructed Geoffrey Bindman to represent me. My main concern
was that an investigation which seemed to be getting out of hand
should be brought back under control so all the allegations could
be clearly identified and properly disposed of with the minimum
of further delay.
R7. Mr Bindman wrote to the Commissioner on 25 May
asking her to clarify what complaints were being investigated.
At that time only the Milne complaint had been clearly identified
as such. Mr Bindman examined the evidence which had been disclosed
in relation to that complaint and submitted that there was no
credible evidence in support of Mr Milne's allegations and accordingly
that his complaint should be dismissed.
R8. The Commissioner replied on 7 June and for the
first time identified the complaints she said she was investigating
though without identifying the complainants and without indicating
what violation if any of the Code or the Rules the complaints
were directed at. In that same letter she confirmed that I had
been helpful in discussing matters with her and in providing written
replies and information. She also confirmed that I had already
responded to all the allegations save one outstanding point which
she acknowledged had now been resolved.
R9. At this stage it seemed that the investigation
could be rapidly concluded. My solicitor wrote to the Commissioner
on 15 June: "It appears that all that remains is for you
to put to him (i.e. me) any substantial evidence which is at variance
with his account ... I hope that any such evidence can now been
communicated so that your report can then be drafted without delay."
In relation to several of the allegations there appeared no reason
why they could not be disposed of there and then because there
was no sufficient evidence to support them.
R10. However, on 21 June the Commissioner wrote to
say that it was not for her but for the Committee to decide whether
a complaint should or should not be upheld. (This was contradicted
by her subsequent actions: see para. R18 below). She also said
that she still awaited evidence from "key witnesses "
without which she could not complete her enquiry. There was not
the slightest suggestion of non-co-operation or delay on my part
or that of my solicitor. Quite the contrary.
R11. On 29 June the Commissioner submitted a long
list of questions which purported to be "the substantial
evidence which was at variance with (my) account." The questions
did not identify that evidence. Several of the questions had no
obvious relevance to any contentious issue and seemed almost random.
Mr Bindman spelled out these concerns in details in his letter
of 5 July including the failure of the Commissioner to provide
particulars of the evidence which I was required to meet. Nevertheless
his letters set out the best answers to the questions which I
could give in the circumstances.
R12. On 11 July the Commissioner submitted a list
of follow-up questions. Again these were answered notwithstanding
doubts about the purpose and relevance of many of them. On 3 and
22 August my solicitor again attempted to persuade the Commissioner
to reach a conclusion. The Commissioner responded with a series
of further questions in letters of 3, 12 and 19 October. On 26
October she wrote to say that "since some witnesses have
seriously delayed their replies to me, it may be that I will need
to add further questions in due course." There was no suggestion
by the Commissioner that I had delayed my replies. I was not responsible
for the conduct of any witnesses, with whom I had scrupulously
avoided any contact.
R13. Among the questions in the several October letters
were many which had no bearing on any of the 23 complaints listed
in the Commissioner's letter of 7 June. For example, no complaint
was alleged about the office and residential properties owned
by me in Leicester, or indeed anywhere else; nor was there any
reference to Mapesbury Communications Limited, a company which
I discussed with Sir Gordon Downey and the Registrar at a time
when I thought I might have a registrable interest but with which
I subsequently ceased to have any connection, either as a director
shareholder or beneficiary.
R14. While objecting on my behalf in his letter of
2 November to the manner in which this interrogation was being
conducted, once again Mr Bindman on my behalf sought to provide
answers on my behalf to outstanding questions. Once again, inexplicably,
the Commissioner remained unsatisfied and put a series of further
wide-ranging and often general questions in a letter of 27 November.
R15. The enquiry had by this time being going on
for 10 months. It placed a huge burden on my time when I was trying
to carry out my Ministerial as well as my constituency duties
and caused considerable stress to me and my family. The Commissioner
seemed unwilling to reach a conclusion. Although in her account
of her investigation process (Ninth Report of 1999-2000) she denies
in paragraph 3 that Members are required to prove a negative or
prove their innocence, I felt that is precisely what I was being
asked to prove. I wanted the Committee to consider the matter
and to tell me if it wished me to answer any further questions.
My solicitor made it clear in his letters of 4 and 7 December
(annexes 53 and 55 in vol. II of the previous report) that I would
be happy to answer any questions the Committee wished me to answer.
R16. In response the Commissioner could have asked
the Committee to require me to answer her further questions. In
paragraph 10 of "the Investigation Process" (Ninth Report
of 1999-2000) she refers to the powers of the Committee (to send
for persons, papers and records) and the fact that the Committee
had undertaken to use those powers to back up their inquiries
should she need this. She chose not to call on these powers and
merely informed me in a courteous letter to my solicitor of 11
December that, as I had long wished, she would draw up her draft
memorandum to the Committee. The Committee could equally have
decided of its own volition to require me to answer for the Commissioner's
further questions. Instead it decided to conduct further inquiries
R17. The Commissioner's voluminous draft memorandum
was delivered to my solicitor on 20 December. He and I were given
nine working days to respond. (We were given five working
days to respond to the current draft memorandum). The draft contained
a mass of material which had never previously been disclosed to
me, including, for example a lengthy transcript of an interview
given to the Commissioner by Sir Peter Soulsby on 23 March 2000
(annex 117 on pages cxxix to cxxxv of vol II of the Committee's
previous report). This and other newly disclosed documents contained
a number of defamatory allegations against me, my mother and others
who had been given no opportunity to respond to the allegations.
My request that these allegations be omitted from the published
report fell on deaf ears, with the result that these allegations
appeared in print protected by privilege. Most of my other objections
to the draft memorandum were rejected by the Commissioner and
it was submitted to the Committee virtually unchanged from the
R18. It is also worthy of note that the Commissioner's
memorandum referred not to 23 complaints as set out in her letter
of 7 June, but to 18 complaints including the two she added after
7 June (see para. R13 above). Although she had claimed (see para.
R10 above) that only the Committee could decide whether or not
to uphold a complaint she dropped 7 complaints without explanation
or even mention.
R19. In paragraph 2 of its report the Committee said
rightly that the inquiry had taken far too long. It went on to
say that "if Mr Vaz and other witnesses ... had answered
her questions fully and promptly, the Commissioner would have
been able to complete her report in a much shorter time."
The Committee does not apportion responsibility between me and
other witnesses and appears to exonerate the Commissioner from
any responsibility for delay. I suggest that a fair reading of
the correspondence demonstrates that far from delaying or obstructing
the investigation my concern and that of my solicitor was to bring
it to an end as quickly as possible. The accusation of delay and
obstruction led to a media storm which has done me immense personal
damage. While theoretically I could have sued several newspapers
for libel, and seriously contemplated doing so, the cost in time
and money made it a wholly impracticable proposition.
R20.The Commissioner in para. 387 [now 397]
of the present draft memorandum refers to the Committee's statement
in para. 2 of its previous report and alleges that I have again
failed to answer her questions fully and promptly. I entirely
reject this criticism. She accuses me of being "less helpful"
but she relates this only to the chairman's request for information
as to payments by the Hindujas (as to which see para. R34 below)
and to information concerning Mapesbury which was not in my possession
or available to me.
R21. In paragraph 3 of its report the Committee ignores
the fact that I had put myself at the disposal of the Committee
and made it clear that I would answer any questions on their direction,
including the Commissioner's questions. (see para. R16 above).
It was therefore inaccurate and unfair to claim, as did almost
every newspaper and broadcasting organisation, that I prevented
the Commissioner from completing her inquiries satisfactorily
into eight complaints. In any event the Committee was able to
do this by continuing the investigation itself.
R22. In paragraphs 4 and 5 of its report the Committee
deprecates the failure of some witnesses to provide information.
I do not take this criticism to apply to me though clearly the
media have unfairly done so because the Committee has not as elsewhere
distinguished my position from that of other witnesses.
R23. In paragraph 65 and 66 the Committee appears
to endorse the Commissioner's criticism of me and to conclude
that I failed to comply with my duty of accountability. For the
reasons given in para. R21 above I believe this conclusion is
R24. In paragraph 67 the Committee recognises that
Members facing a complaint (or in my case some 25 complaints)
may wish to seek legal advice. It expresses a preference for Members
communicating with the Committee directly. I have accordingly
complied with this preference throughout the present inquiry.
I would add only that the Committee's criticism of witnesses engaging
solicitors in paragraph 72 was plainly not directed at meindeed
my solicitor was described as "courteous and efficient"though
the media have widely interpreted it as if it were.
R25. Although the Committee upheld only one of some
25 allegations against me, the manner in which the investigation
was conducted by the Commissioner, and her unjustified criticisms
which to some extent the Committee endorsed, led to a media storm
which it was impossible to counter and which has caused me irreparable
My concerns about the conduct of the present investigation
R26. I have examined the previous investigation in
some detail because I am naturally anxious that its mistakes and
injustices should not be repeated in the present investigation.
Unfortunately there are strong indications in the Commissioner's
new draft memorandum that this is exactly what will happen unless
the Committee acts decisively to prevent it.
R27. I am particularly concerned that the draft memorandum
contains serious allegations against my wife, Maria Fernandes,
a solicitor who conducts her practice entirely independently of
me. (Necessarily, because I am not now a solicitor). I regard
the Commissioner's attempt to make my wife a party to the complaints
against me as wholly inappropriate and outside her powers. Indeed
the Commissioner acknowledges that her remit does not extend to
Members' spouses in para. 71 of her draft memorandum. While it
is of course true that a Member may benefit from this spouse's
contribution to the family income from her professional activities,
I have never heard it suggested that a Member is required to register
his spouse's interests.
R28. The draft memorandum also contains throughout
a large number of insulting and highly damaging allegations against
me of 'obfuscation', evasiveness, answering questions 'precisely'
but not fully, and perhaps worst of all, misleading the Commissioner
and the Committee. The Commissioner has set out the latter allegations
in a separate section (paras. 728 to 735[now 744 to 751]).
The Commissioner must know that the media will seize on these
allegations and, unless they are removed, they will again do irreparable
harm to my reputation even though the Commissioner has herself
concluded that all or virtually all the complaints are not substantiated
or at worst are of a trivial nature. I can refute all these
allegations and must be allowed to do so before any question of
publication arises. I provide a preliminary response to these
allegations in para. R56 below.
The Commissioner's failure to comply with her
R29. In several respects the Commissioner has failed
in the current investigation to comply with the procedures which
she herself laid down in her paper "the Investigation Process"
which was endorsed by the Committee by publishing it in its Ninth
Report of 1999-2000.
(a) she has never informed me that the allegations
which she is investigating have such substance as would merit
further inquiry (para. 2 of the "the Investigation Process").
Indeed it was only when I received the draft memorandum that I
was plainly informed, in para. 2 of that document, what complaints
I was required to answer. The Commissioner appears to have taken
the view that any complaint concerning me requires investigation,
notwithstanding her assertion that many complaints are not pursued.
It would have been especially appropriate to reject the law centre
complaint when it was made by Mr Robathan in April 2001, because
it was nearly 14 years old, and it is accepted by the Commissioner
to be the practice not to investigate complaints more than 7 years
old (see para. 456 [now 468]of the draft memorandum);
(b) in no case concerning me has she concluded
the matter in accordance with para. 5 of "the Investigating
Process", although in several cases she had received a satisfactory
explanation (e.g. Mapesbury, General Mediterranean Holdings, Lord
Paul) which made any further investigation unnecessary;
(c) she has failed in every case to follow the
practice set out under para. 8. She has not informed me of "evidence
which is at variance with what the Member has said, and which
I feel might have weight". Indeed the draft memorandum and
its appendices contain a mass of material which had never been
put to me. If it is not thought by the Commissioner to be "at
variance with what the Member has said" and which she feels
"has weight", it should not be there. Yet on the other
hand, she has not told me it is at a variance with what I have
said. And of course to present me with such material and give
me only 5 days to respond is absurd and plainly contrary to natural
Summary response to specific complaints
R30. I now give a summary response to each of the
allegations so that the Commissioner may reconsider her draft
memorandum before the Committee gives it detailed consideration.
I deal first, in paras, R31 to R55, with the substance of the
allegations of breach of the Code or Rules against me as set out
by the Commissioner in para. 2 of the draft memorandum. I then
go on to deal in para. R56 with the allegations of "misleading"
in paras. 728 to 735 [now 744 to 751]of the draft memorandum,
and in para. 57 with delay.
R31. that Mr Vaz had received registrable benefits,
both in cash and in kind, from the Hinduja brothers (or the Hinduja
Foundation) which he had failed to register, and that by not disclosing
these matters when asked during the previous inquiry whether he
had any financial interests to declare, Mr Vaz had misled both
me and the Committee.
R32. Andrew Lansley MP drew attention to a payment
by the Hinduja Foundation to Mapesbury Communications, a limited
company, in July 1995 of £1196.10. Mr Lansley rightly suggests
that my statement to the Commissioner that no donation had been
received from the Hinduja brothers would be inaccurate if
I benefited from this payment. I did not. It was not a donation.
As I believe has now become abundantly clear, the payment solely
reimbursed costs incurred for a lecture by a visiting Swami and
contained no element or profit payment in respect of my time.
The Commissioner states that she has seen no evidence to suggest
otherwise (para. 68 of her draft memorandum).
R33. Under this same heading the Commissioner considers
allegations made to her by Mrs Gresty, a former employee of my
wife in her legal practice. I refer to the "credibility"
of Mrs Gresty below at R56(h)(iii). The Commissioner has rightly
pointed out that her remit does not extend to Members' spouses
(para. 71 of her draft memorandum) yet she has chosen to interrogate
my wife about her professional relationships with clients. I deplore
the manner in which she has done so and the inclusion of criticisms
of my wife in a potentially privileged document.
R34. As a specialist in immigration law, my wife
is consulted by members of the Asian community among others. In
fact it does not appear that she was instructed by any of the
Hinduja brothers, who have confirmed that she did not receive
instructions from them, or the Hinduja Foundation but by other
members of the family. However, I must make it clear again that
I do not discuss my wife's clients with her. Obviously I did not
understand the Chairman's question in his letter of 20 March 2001
to relate to professional fees (I would be astonished to learn
that he intended to do so). I reject categorically the assertion
in paragraph 84 that I made inaccurate statements to Mr Sheldon.
In any event plainly fees received by my wife in her professional
capacity are not payments to me or registrable by me. In passing
may I point out that this yet another example of the Commissioner's
propensity for concealing relevant evidence from me when asking
questions. She had received a document from Vyan Gresty dated
15 February 2001 claiming that his wife had seen documentation
in my wife's office relating to "a Mrs ***". (annex
ii5B to the draft memorandum). This was never put to me until
I saw it after 30 November 2001.
R35. The Commissioner has rightly rejected the other
allegations made by Mr Gresty which are referred to in para. 78
of her draft memorandum.
R36. that Mr Vaz had received registrable benefits
through Mapesbury Communications Limited, a publishing company
established by him in 1995, and that on the basis of information
which had come to light since the publication of the Committee's
report in March 2001, his denial of having received such benefits
was inaccurate and misleading.
R37. As to Mapesbury, there is no evidence whatsoever
to dispute the clear evidence I have given consistently throughout
both inquiries that I have never had any involvement with this
company, although I was instrumental in establishing it, apart
from the matters in which I consulted Sir Gordon Downey. I acted
on his advice. I recently confirmed this advice with him (see
personal letter from Sir Gordon dated 27 September 2001 annexed
to this response). I received no benefit from the failed calendar
enterprise and I have received no other benefit from the company.
The Commissioner appears grudgingly to accept this in para. 424
[now 436]. In para. 425 [now 437] the summary of
the company's history is obviously correct and there is no evidence
to contradict it. The allegation of "deliberate obfuscation"
is nonsense and a wholly unjustified slur.
R38. that Mr Vaz failed to register a remunerated
post with Leicester City Council.
R39. This complaint is misconceived because the post
was not Leicester City Council but with the independent former
Highfields Law Centre where I employed until elected as MP in
June 1987. I have never been employed by Leicester City Council.
R40. The allegation was made by Sir Peter Soulsby
in his evidence to the Commissioner on 23 March 2000 which she
chose not to disclose to me until 20 December 2000. There was
no suggestion by the Commissioner that she considered it worthy
of investigation until it became the subject of a complaint by
Andrew Robathan MP on 26 April 2001, almost 14 years after the
R41. I am frankly astonished that the Commissioner
decided to pursue this complaint. After this length of time it
has been impossible to ascertain the facts. I did not work at
the law centre after my election and it was not my responsibility
to advertise for a successor. I resigned on my election but payments
were still made to me because I was owed holiday pay and flexitime.
This surely must be the case with many new MPs. Is it not appropriate
for the Commissioner, who recognises that complaints are not normally
considered more than 7 years after the events to which they relate,
to reflect on the value and purpose of such an investigation?
The fact that had worked at the law centre was widely known in
Leicester as was the fact of my election. Surely, after this lapse
of time and in the absence of any clear evidence, the complaint
cannot fairly be upheld.
R42. that Mr Vaz had registrable interests in
various properties which he had failed to register and, more particularly,
that when asked during the previous investigation whether he had
any further property interests to register, gave an inaccurate
and misleading answer.
R43. The Commissioner acknowledges that these allegations
were not the subject of specific complaints and the basis of her
investigation appears to be the claim that I had failed to give
full and accurate answers to questions asked by her in the previous
investigation. The basis of this claim appears to be that I declined
to answer the Commissioner's wide ranging question on 19 October
2000 about properties owned by me. That question had no relevance
to any complaint then being investigated by the Commissioner as
she made clear by her statement that she was asking the question
"for the sake of completeness". I declined to answer
it not because I had or having anything to hide but because the
Commissioner had been pursuing me with questions for nearly 10
months despite my solicitor's repeated efforts to persuade her
to conclude the investigation. I had learned from bitter experience
that every answer led to more questions. Is it seriously claimed
that I was under an obligation to assist the Commissioner to extend
her investigation into areas in which there was no complaint and
no evidence whatsoever that I had done anything wrong? I deeply
resent the suggestion that my courteous response could be characterised
as inaccurate or misleading. In any event, I was invited by the
Committee to confirm my property interests with the Registrar
which I did.
R44. The Commissioner has accepted that apart from
one matter already resolved in the previous investigation, I appear
"to have fulfilled the registration requirements in relation
to these properties according to the rules as they now stand and
as they have been interpreted hitherto". I am grateful for
this. I only wish that her account of this part of the investigation
had not been accompanied by numerous slurs and criticisms, all
of which I can refute.
R45. Complaint against Mr Vaz alleging that Mr
Vaz and Ms Fernandes had employed an illegal immigrant as a domestic
servant and that Mr Vaz held her passport in his constituency
R46. I make two preliminary points. A complaint against
my wife is, as the Commissioner has acknowledged (para. 71), not
within the Commissioner's remit and no reference to it should
appear in her draft memorandum. Secondly, while I accept that
employing an illegal immigrant would be improper for a Member,
the Commissioner has not explained what rule would be breached
had I held a passport in my constituency office.
R47. The simple answer to this complaint is that
(a) Ms Matin was not is not an illegal immigrant and (b) I did
not employ her. These facts have been confirmed to the Commissioner
in a letter from Coker Vis, Ms Matin's solicitors, dated 29 November
2001. This letter is included in the appendix to this response.
This letter also confirms that I did not in fact hold Ms Matin's
passport in my constituency office. Again I protest strongly at
the personal slurs made against me (and my wife). I can and wish
to refute several other factual misstatements by the Commissioner
when I am given time to do so.
R48. that Mr Vaz had improperly sought information
from a constituent, Mr G H Peene, about a criminal anti-fraud
investigation Mr Peene was engaged in on behalf of the Intervention
Branch Executive Agency relating to a company with which Mr Vaz
had a connection and that Mr Vaz had failed to declare a relevant
interest in the company during communications with a civil servant.
R49. I remain mystified by this complaint. I supplied
the Commissioner with the complete file relating to my dealings
with Mr Peene who consulted me as a constituent and with whom
I was in contact only in that capacity. Mr Peene had asked me
to assist him in connection with allegations he was making of
corruption in the DTI, where he was formerly employed, and the
Metropolitan Police. He wanted me to get a copy of the Atorney-General's
guidelines on prosecutions. I tried to obtain these for him. The
Commissioner told me that the file did not relate to the subject
matter of the complaint and returned to me. (It remains available
for the Committee should they wish to see it). She asked me a
number of questions which I answered. I made it clear that I did
not make the comment alleged and there is no truth in the claim
that I have some connection with any company or investigation
R50. I was aware that Mr Peene had been a civil servant
in the DTI and he had informed me that he had retired or resigned.
I was not aware that the Intervention Branch Executive Agency
was a civil service body. I did not "seek to mislead".
I cannot understand the statement by the Commissioner in para.
620 [now 635] that I have not been able to provide documentary
evidence predating 17 April 1999 which supports my account. I
cannot prove a negative. All I can say is that I did not do what
Mr Peene alleges.
R51. It was only when I received the draft memorandum
that I became aware of the basis for the suggestions that I had
some connection with *** Limited, a company of which I had not
heard when I was notified of this complaint. This appears in para.
588 [now 602] where the suggestion is made that I was a
fellow director with a Mr *** (referred to in the earlier correspondence
with the Commissioner as ***) of Skillshare Africa. My involvement
with Skillshare Africa is fully explained in the letter (included
in appendix to this response) from Mr Jack Bharier, Head of Support
Service of Skillshare. It may well be true that there was an overlap
of some 6 weeks in our directorships but I never knew Mr *** or
recall ever having heard of him and Mr Bharier says that Mr ***
has no recollection of ever meeting me. Obviously I had no knowledge
of any connection of Mr *** with *** or any other company.
R52. that Mr Vaz had failed to register a remunerated
directorship with a company, General Mediterranean Holdings, or
with subsidiaries of that company.
R53. I explained clearly to the Commissioner that
I accepted an offer of a non-executive directorship on or about
13 April 1999. I took steps to register this interest some two
weeks later. I resigned on 17 May 1999 on being appointed a Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State in the Lord Chancellor's Department.
I informed the Registrar of my resignation and he decided to remove
my entry. I received no remuneration from this company or any
other registrable benefit. There is no evidence to contradict
these clear facts, except some vague and unsubstantiated assertions
by Mr Sackville and Mr Kennady neither of whom was a director.
The chairman of the company has confirmed that no payment was
made or benefit provided to me and the Company Secretary has confirmed
that a statement that I was a director in a brochure referring
to 1998 was a mistake.
R54. that Mr Vaz had failed to register a donation
to him of £3000 by Lord Paul (or by a company owned by Lord
Paul) in 1993.
R55. It is undisputed that Lord Paul, through his
company Caparo, made two donations to me in1993 and 1995 for computer
and electronic equipment. Evidently I should have registered all
his donations in the name of his company, though, as the Commissioner
has accepted (para. 697 [now 713]), there is no evidence
that I had any intention to mislead when I ascribed one to Lord
Paul personally. The total of the two donations was registered
in 1995. It remains the case, as I said in my letter of 28 September
2001 to the Commissioner, that if there was an unreasonable delay
in registering the first payment, I cannot now explain it after
this length of time. I would respectfully suggest that any fault
was cured by the fact that registration did take place in 1995.
My comments on other allegation
R56. I now turn to the matters referred to in part
V of the draft memorandum.
(a) para. 728 [now 744]. I have responded
to these complaints and I do not know in what respect it is alleged
that I may have misled "us". While I absolutely deny
that I have misled either the Commissioner or the Committee in
relation to any of these complaints, I cannot respond further
without particulars of the allegations. Unless they are forthcoming
this damaging allegation should be withdrawn.
(b) para. 729 [now 745]. I refer to para.
R43 above. I declined to answer questions which were not the subject
of or relevant to any investigation or complaint. It would be
an abuse of language to regard this as misleading. As the Commissioner
has found, I have complied with my duty to register properties
owned by me. This allegation should also be withdrawn.
(c) para. 730 [now 746]. I have dealt with
both these allegations in paras. R53 and R55. The complaint in
relation to General Mediterranean Holdings is baseless and at
worst it could be said that there was delay in registering a donation
from Lord Paul or his company. No one could be in any doubt that
Lord Paul has supported my work generously as other donations
from him have also been registered. In neither of the cases raised
by the Commissioner is there any evidence that I misled anyone
and this allegation too should be withdrawn.
(d) para. 731 [now 747]. I have dealt with
this point in para. R34. I cannot accept that my proper ignorance
of the clients of my wife's firm falsified my answer to questions
about whether I or members of my family had received donations
or benefits from the Hinduja family. It would be unreasonable
to regard such questions as embracing fees for professional services,
which were plainly not in my mind since I had no knowledge that
there had been any, and which in any event could not be regarded
as a registrable benefit to me. The view of the Commissioner that
my answers were inaccurate and that I am at fault for not correcting
them is at best pure pedantry. However, it must be obviously that
I had no intention of misleading.
(e) para. 732 [now 748]. I have already expressed
my concern at criticism of my wife and others who have been given
no opportunity to respond to damaging allegations. I deny absolutely
that I have misled anyone because I did not succeed in obtaining
for the Commissioner information known only to third parties.
That again would be an abuse of language.
(f) para. 733 [now 749]. I cannot comment
on these allegations against my wife save to repeat my comment
in the last paragraph. However, I will deal with these matters
in my detailed response.
(g) para. 734 [now 750]. Again I can only
suggest that it is quite inappropriate for criticisms to be made
of Mr Pathan without giving him an opportunity to respond. However,
I will deal with these matters in my detailed response.
(h) para. 735 [now 751]. If there are other
examples of instances in which am being accused of giving inaccurate
answers which are not spelled out in this paragraph, then I must
be told what they are and given an opportunity to respond or the
allegation must be withdrawn and removed from the report. As to
the three points which are specified:
(i) I have explained (R50) that when Mr Peene
came to see me he had ceased to be a civil servant in the DTI.
He consulted me about matters relating to his former employment
there. I honestly believed he had ceased to be a civil servant
and was not aware that he had joined another civil service department.
(ii) I told the Commissioner that I believed
Mrs Gresty was involved in an industrial tribunal case against
my wife. I did not know how far the case had got. I have now been
able to establish that Mrs Gresty, whom the Commissioner has described
as a "persuasive" witness, (para. 426 [now 438]
of draft memorandum) did in fact threaten an industrial tribunal
case through solicitors. My wife has been able to supply me with
documentary evidence of this without breaching professional confidentiality
because of course she has no solicitor and client relationship
with Mrs Gresty. (see correspondence included in appendix to this
response). The annexed correspondence shows not only that Mrs
Gresty threatened an industrial tribunal case against my wife
but through her solicitor made blatant threats that such a case
would damage my reputation including contract with a Mr Max Clifford,
in order explicitly to intimidate my wife into making a financial
settlement. I am sure the Commissioner will in the light of these
documents wish to re-evaluate her view of the credibility of Mrs
(iii) It is surely self-evidence that a person's
mental state may affect his or her credibility and is a relevant
factor to be taken into account in evaluating it. Mr Gresty himself
raised the matter of his wife's illness with the Commissioner
in his note of 15 February 2001 (appendix ii5B to the draft memorandum)
but does not identify the illness. Mrs Eggington makes constant
reference to Mrs Gresty's mental illness.
R57. I refer to the comments made by the Commissioner
in para. 11 of her draft memorandum. She does not refer to me
in this paragraph and it is not clear to me whether she is accusing
me of causing or contributing to the difficulty to which she alludes.
Bearing in mind the media storm to which I was subjected during
and following the previous investigation it is imperative that
the Commissioner spells out clearly what allegations of "obstruction"
she levels against me so that I have an opportunity of answering
them. Already, in the Sunday Times of 16 December 2001 (see article
included in appendix to this response) it has been claimed that
I am criticised by the Commissioner "for failing to co-operate
fully with the investigation". This is a lie which will be
repeated and do me immense damage if I am not given a proper opportunity
to respond to particularised allegations.
17 December 2001 Keith