Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee on Standards and Privileges

from Ms Maria Fernandes

Thank you for your letter of 22nd January 2002. The answers to your outstanding points are as follows:

(i)  In relation to questions concerning Mapesbury I enclose a letter from the accountants together with a letter from Mr Pathan. As far as my knowledge of these matters are concerned I gave evidence to the Committee last year and was interviewed by the Commissioner on 4th July 2001. I first became involved in 1996.

(ii)  I have dealt with this point in the comments I have made on the extracts you sent me. I have not been sent any indication of what the "discrepancy" is, and I would like to see this.

(iii)  These are attached paragraph by paragraph.

(iv)  I have not seen the Annexes to the Commissioner's report and therefore I cannot complete this exercise. I would like all references to my clients, my practice and my personal life removed especially in view of your comments that neither I nor my practice are under investigation.

Please let me know if I can assist the Committee in any way or if they require any further information.

27 January 2002



I would like to thank the Committee for giving me an opportunity to make my comments on the extracts you have supplied.

There are a number of general points which I wish to make before responding to each paragraph separately about this process of investigation and in particular my role.

In doing so I am mindful of the fact that I have not despite my requests received any Annexes (ie evidence) relating to any of the extracts which contain a barrage of criticisms about me. I am therefore necessarily limited in making my comments.

I have also not seen the conclusions which have been leaked and widely reported in the Sunday Times and other newspapers. The Clerk to the Committee informs me that he does not have authority to release this. You may wish to re­consider this. I assume that other than the extracts that you have supplied and the conclusions which I have not seen that there is no other reference to me, my clients or my practice.

I would like you to note that I regard the statement "collusion to conceal facts" as particularly serious and defamatory of me. It is also likely that the statement made by the Commissioner if unchallenged will be accepted as fact and this will cause immense damage to my reputation generally and more particularly as a solicitor. I have not seen any evidence to support such a statement.

Protecting confidentiality

1.  Keeping and protecting the confidences of clients is a core duty and responsibility of a solicitor and is a well established principle in law. It merits particular consideration because it is a fundamental right of a client. My obligation is to protect it. It is also a breach of confidence for a former employee or anyone appointed on her behalf to disclose any details about clients of my firm to anyone for any purpose without my express authority and the agreement of the client. I would expect alarm bells to ring in respect of the receipt of such information and to be informed about it. Rules of confidence are there for a reason. Anyone conducting a public function should be aware of these basic rules and the potential dangers of interfering with such a duty.

For a person in my position, practising as an independent solicitor because I am married to an MP breaching it could mean that I could never guarantee client confidence. And without guaranteeing it I could not remain in practice. Can I make it absolutely clear that I never discuss my clients with my husband or any other person. Nor would I give him any information about my clients. This would be a breach of confidence. Many other MPs have spouses who are professional people. I am certain that they would act in the same way.

Confidentiality of proceedings

2.  Another feature of this inquiry has been numerous leaks of confidential information provided in confidence to the Inquiry which have resulted in false and defamatory allegations being played out in the press on a regular basis. The Mail on Sunday article of the 3rd June 2001 was yet another such leak which appears to be endemic within this investigative process. I have not been told of any action being taken to discover who had leaked this information and why. The Commissioner's denial on the 4th July 2001 that she had seen the article is in my view an attempt to distance herself from the leak. I note that the Committee now takes the Sunday Times leak as a serious matter. Had this approach been adopted earlier it might have prevented the complete devastation that it caused to innocent parties and increased confidence in the process. And the damage is not merely confined to clients. I have reacted properly at all times to ensure the protection of my reputation and that of my clients and in doing so have exposed the weakness of the statements of Mrs Gresty my former employee. And what is even more astonishing is the fact that in taking legitimate action to protect the interests of my clients and practice I have been subjected to further criticism.

Personal view

3.  In personal terms I was treated with total contempt by the Commissioner. The Commissioner's central piece of "evidence" used to discredit me arises out of a meeting on the 4th July 2001 where I was taped without my knowledge. I was asked wide ranging questions about my practice, my clients and my domestic arrangements. I expected at the very least that an Inquiry involving my husband, would grant me some basic rights, set parameters and above all be fair. The Committee have confirmed that neither I nor my practice is under investigation. This however does not sit well with the unwarranted intrusion and an attempt to draw me into a matter that concerns my husband.

Motive of bitter employees

5.  A bitter ex­employee of my practice Mrs Gresty has channelled her complaints into me by bringing complaints against my husband. For this she is accorded the full protection of Parliamentary privilege. She is a central witness yet the Commissioner failed to ask me a single question about her. She was not interested in my views. However she has undoubtedly asked Mrs Gresty several questions about me and my practice and apparently encouraged her to breach confidence. I have not seen the supporting evidence and so it is difficult to know what is in her statements, how much of it is true, how much is factually inaccurate and how much is completely false and/or malicious. The damage that Mrs Gresty caused is not confined to clients alone. She went further by casting aspersions on hard working civil servants who are completely beyond reproach. If I was asked (which I was not) what the motive behind this was I would say that that the Mr. and Mrs Gresty do not want to take responsibility for taking up employment which Mrs Gresty was not suited to because of her mental history. There is also likely to be a financial motive. The Commissioner has stated in press articles that she is not interested in motives of people but in the facts. In my view malicious motive is likely to taint the facts. The Mail on Sunday settled a claim in respect of material provided to the Inquiry by Mrs Gresty which they accept was defamatory.


6.  The remit and ambit of the Commissioner has been far from clear and far too wide. The Committee has emphasised that neither I nor my practice are under investigation. If this is so I would have expected the Commissioner to have settled receipt of any information relating to me as a preliminary issue before proceeding with this matter any further. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that I am under investigation even on a cursory reading of the extract.

Moving onto specific responses to paragraphs:

79    The Commissioner quite correctly points out that I am not subject of any complaint. Neither are my clients nor my practice. I believe that I have been totally co­operative and open in answering questions as far as I am able to. However I have a parallel right to a personal identity, separate from my husband, a right to an independent livelihood with professional duties and responsibilities this entails and a right to a private life.

I enclose a copy of my Code of Conduct[24] and the Committee will be aware of my letters of 13th October 2001 to the Commissioner as well as the Chairman on the same date setting out my position in full.

The Commissioner does not wish to acknowledge or recognise the fundamental nature of the duty of confidentiality between a solicitor and client. This underpins the role of a solicitor. And it exists not only as a matter of law, but it is also enshrined in a solicitors rules of professional conduct.

As you will see from the Code itself it is a duty which is rarely overriden and then only where there is a clear justification for it, it is in the best interests of that client and the client expressly consents in writing to waive their right.

As I have said above as an independent solicitor I never discuss my clients with anyone and this particularly includes my husband. Because of his profile and the areas of responsibilities he has held it has been vital for me to operate completely independent to him and it is a rule which I have strictly adhered to in all my years of practice.

The Commissioner should be aware that this duty cannot simply be discharged by writing to a client. There are consequences to a client of doing so and it is my duty as a solicitor to consider these and advise accordingly. I considered the Commissioner's request and the potential implications to any clients of requesting them to waive their right within an intensely hostile political climate in which any "connection" is an opportunity for political victory and adverse media comment.

The Commissioner states that as I have not indicated whether I was prepared to approach a client to seek a waiver the only conclusion she could draw was that I had no intention of co­operating with the Inquiry. The fact is that any communications between myself and my clients are privileged and therefore I am not in a position to divulge any further information and had the Commissioner understood that nature of the duty she would have appreciated this.

I clearly stated at the meeting on the 4th July that I have a duty of confidentiality and this duty is absolute unless the client want that information to become available.

When the Commissioner first raised my practice and I objected as I was there to answer questions about Mapesbury she replied:

"Yes you are but what I have to find out—and I do not want to find out about your legal practice ... If you do not want to answer them that is your choice"

I was given no prior indication of the Commissioner's interest in my independent professional practice. The Commissioner had not written to me and at my meeting with her she denied having any knowledge about the article in the Mail on Sunday of the 3rd June 2001 or its contents.

I was aware that a former member of staff had disclosed confidential information to a newspaper and to the Commissioner. As this related to my practice, my work and my clients I would have expected the Commissioner, as a matter of fairness to have raised this matter with me first.

At that meeting I openly answered questions about my social relationship with the Hinduja family. The exchange that then took place was as follows:

Mrs Filkin: " I do understand that you have carried out work through that practice for the Hinduja brothers"

My reply: " Who do you understand that from?

Mrs Filkin: " I am afraid that I cannot tell you but the source is good"

     Ms Filkin: And perfectly respectable and solid and that is not known outside this office

My reply: "Can I just say in terms of my clients that I am bound by the duty of confidentiality and that duty is absolute unless the clients themselves want that information to be made available. That is why I am asking you the source of that"

The Commissioner wanted confirmation from me that I had acted for the "Hindujas" yet when I pressed her for the source of the information she declined to give it. She then concludes that "they" ( meaning the Hinduja brothers) were my clients and were prepared to give information.

The reason the Commissioner gave for the request for confidential information to be imparted was so that she could concentrate on the "narrow bit" involving "relationships" with the Hindujas." She now states that the reason was also contained in the Chairman's letter of 20th March 2001 . That letter sought information specifically about Mapesbury. This matter relates to my role as a solicitor which contains totally separate obligations and responsibilities.

Far from concentrating on "a narrow bit" when the Commissioner wrote to me in a letter dated 10th July 2001, she had she considerably widened her request. She now wished me to

"approach any client who is connected in any way with the Hinduja brothers, businesses or Foundation to seek their agreement to disclose to me a list of the activities carried out for them with dates and the payment received f or each piece of work"

The question was too wide to make it meaningful. It also had the potential for getting others involved in matters totally unrelated to them and yet the relevance of the information was still far from clear.

I took the Commissioner' s request seriously and consulted the Head of Ethics of the Law Society who brought in an experienced consultant to advise on this matter particularly as some of that information, although factually inaccurate and defamatory, was already in the public domain. I was given clear and unequivocal guidance that my duty of confidentiality remained intact whatever disclosure there may have been by others and furthermore that I had no obligation to write to clients to ask them to waive their right. In the end the responsibility for making the decision depended on me taking into account such factors as the clients interests, reason for disclosing information and the relevance of it.

80    The Commissioner does not state anywhere in her correspondence that that this was all the information she was seeking. It was possible that the range of her enquiries could increase (as had already been demonstrated by her request on the 10th July 2001—see above) placing clients in an impossible situation and as an adviser this is one of the factors that I would have had to take into account.

I do not act for the Hinduja brothers.

I can also confirm that no client of my firm has waived their right to confidentiality.

81    As the Commissioner was fully aware I was seeking legal advice and professional guidance. This involved dealing with two separate issues of legal privilege and guidance on Conduct matters. These are complex matters. There were also legal proceedings pending and leaks were commonplace events.

82    The Commissioner confines her comments to the Hinduja brothers who provided her with this information. She chose not to put the information or the source of the information to me at any time. She certainly had the opportunity to do so as I specifically asked her at the meeting.

I am also unclear, given her knowledge, why the Commissioner felt that she had to press me for several months for information which she already had in her possession.

252  The Commissioner will know that at the start of the meeting on the 4th July 2001 that I told the Commissioner that

"The only comment that I would make is in relation to the fact that it was suggested that I managed the company. I own and I am a director of the company but I did not have day to day management of it"

Later I emphasised several times that

"I was not involved in the day to day running of it"

"I do not run the company"

"I did not deal with the day to day work"

I gave evidence in the last enquiry and the Committee is aware of the problems in locating company papers. I have told the Commissioner as much as I know. I had no further information to give. The Commissioner appeared to acknowledge this fact yet continues to criticise me for not being able to provide it.

286  I completely reject the suggestion that Mrs Matin did filing in my office. I particularly note that this information (provided on the 25th June) was supplied a few weeks after the article that appeared in the Mail on Sunday. By the 11th June 2001 my solicitor was already in touch with Mrs Eggington, the Gresty's agent and they were aware of the likelihood of legal proceedings.

The Grestys claimed that the cause of her illness was her stress at work with me and in particular:

"especially the sheer volume of work she was required to do in an environment where she had no other contact with people for many hours on end"

Mrs Gresty now contradicts her own statement.

The Commissioner points out that my letter to her stating that "Mary was already doing some work" is evidence that she was working from me. This phrase is taken completely out of context. The sentence continues " and I know that Rita found it helped her". She completely ignores my preceding paragraph which states:

"She took the job in the full knowledge that it involved working alone and I thought she enjoyed it although she did say it got lonely at times"

289  If according to the Commissioner's interpretation of my letter Ms Matin was working for me it would be totally inconsistent with what I had said in the preceding paragraph and also with the Gresty's complaint that one of the stress factors which led to her breakdown was Mrs Gresty working alone.

My letter refers to two occasions when Mrs Matin accompanied me to public meetings unrelated to my practice which I had arranged at short notice. Both events were in the evening. Mrs Matin was very enthusiastic about her involvement and her contribution allowed Mrs Gresty to do her work and enable her to return home at the usual time.

I have known Mrs Matin for some years and regard her as a friend of the family.

She makes two comments at para 286 and 289 which again in which she attempts to link Mapesbury in her conclusions about something wholly different. There is no suggestion that there were papers relating to Mapesbury in my office and therefore I find it surprising that she made no enquiries about this with Mrs Gresty. One of the claims made by the Mail on Sunday was that Mrs Gresty was responsible for the filing of Mapesbury papers in my office a claim which they later retracted. It is a point which should not be left to adverse comment without any evidence.

Mrs Matin has confirmed that she was not employed. It is not clear why her evidence is rejected.

312  I do not have a complete list of events as I was not actively involved in the day to day business of Mapesbury. This was made clear to the Commissioner on several occasions and during the last Inquiry.

342  There have been many requests for information about Mapesbury. Mr. Pathan was brought in to help. I know that he has devoted substantial time and effort to this matter. The accountants have prepared a summary which I attach with their letter dated 22nd January 2002.


When I attended the meeting I was not aware of the stay. I did not state that the winding up was going smoothly although I had absolutely no reason to believe that it would not. The matter was being professionally handled by accountants and was a routine closure of a company. I enclose a letter from my accountants which states that they were informed about it in early July and did not communicate it to the Company Secretary until the 10th July. I personally knew about the stay less than 2 days before two journalists, Chris Hastings and Rajeev Syal contacted my solicitor David Price with a view to writing a an article some weeks after my meeting with the Commissioner. There is no "discrepancy."

I enclose a copy of a letter from accountants dated 22nd January 2002 confirming this.

391  I did not know who Wildberry Printers were nor had I any reason to know. I stated at the original enquiry that I was not involved with the calenders.

392, 393

There are two separate issues here. The printing of the calenders which the Comissioner informed me was printed by Wildberry. I cannot confirm or deny this. I had no involvement with it.

The other issue concerned the printing of my book. This as I explained to the Commissioner was done in association with Hansib Publications, a well known company whose business was to publish books. I was involved in the publishing process. The book was printed by printers engaged by Hansib. I have been informed that they were taken over some years ago and the original people I dealt with are no longer there.

394  It is a fact that Paul Townsend is not my brother in law. My mother in law however is my mother in law and a family connection.

395  It is a fact that Paul Townsend is my husband's brother in law.

396  As I stated in my evidence in the last Inquiry I did not know anything about Wildberry. I clearly told the Commissioner at my meeting in response to her questions that I had no knowledge of Wildberry. The Commissioner suggests that this is "less easy to understand." I do not know what my own close family members do in their private lives.

I am still not clear what the point of questions was concerning this matter. There is no evidence as far as I know that Wildberry did any printing for Mapesbury. I have no personal knowledge of Wildberry and that remains the case. The Commissioner informed me that some calenders had Wildberry printed on them. There has obviously been a great deal said about this issue and it is difficult to know which calendars they relate to. I said at the last Inquiry that I did not know much about the production of the calendar.

401, 402, 403, 404

The meeting on the 4th July was set up following my suggestion that we meet in order to assist the Commissioner with her Inquiry about Mapesbury. The Commissioner certainly did not indicate any urgency. When we did meet she will recall that she stated that

"The Committee is not even set up so it is unlikely that I shall be making any report until the early autumn"

The Commissioner criticises me for not providing her with a contact telephone number. I was not aware of any urgent need for her to contact me but as she was fully aware of the name of my firm, its affairs and its location she could easily have obtained these details.

405  The Commissioner was aware of the difficulty in obtaining company papers. Significant efforts were made by me personally to get details of the event and supporting invoices from others. I just did not have the information about an event 6 years ago in which I was not involved. Neither as it turned out did Mr Pathan.

406, 407, 408

What the Commissioner describes as a "protracted exchange" involved important issues of principle. The Commissioner had taped me at that meeting without my knowledge or consent. Therefore in accordance with the Procedures laid down by Parliament I had the right to ask that a note be prepared.

She chooses unjustifiably to criticise me for the delay when the correspondence will show quite clearly that I was not prepared to approve a transcript as I had not had my basic right observed of being told that I was being taped.

However, as I appeared to be getting nowhere and there was no mechanism to clear this point up I approved the transcript.

There is little point in having procedure rules unless they are observed.


The Commissioner indicated to me at the start of the meeting that she retained the authority to delete matters from the transcript which in my view she had obtained by unauthorised means. She then wrote to me to ask what I wished to have deleted but continued to raise matters which were about my practice, my clients and me.

411  The Commissioner implies that she did tell me that she did not have the authority to delete material. Yet using her own words

"If there is anything you think "well I would prefer that that was not used please suggest it to me. If I do not need to use it to inform the Committee I will not use it"

412  On the one hand the Commissioner suggested that she retained the authority to delete matters (see above) and proceeds to obtain details and on the other appears to be stating that she does not have that authority.

413, 414, 415, 416, 417

See my responses to paragraph 79-81 which deals with these points.

The Commissioner suggests that she derives the authority to request this information on the basis of a letter to me dated 20th March. That letter specifically refers to Mapesbury. This matter relates to my professional obligations which is a completely different matter.

423  I had no knowledge of the detail of the events. I enclose my accountants letter dated 22nd January 2002 setting out the VAT payments..

424  See my comments on paragraph 394 and 395 above.

426, 427, 429

The Commissioner was specific in her questioning to me. She mentioned the word "employed" on six occasions in the one minute exchange. Employed has a specific meaning and to the best of my understanding employed means paid employment.

435  I can only supply information which is in my knowledge. The Commissioner pointed out at the meeting:

"If you give me any help even if you are putting question marks by it £1000 about or whatever by this list to give me any more help on dates, amounts that would be very useful. If you cannot I will leave it as it is and assume you cannot"

436  The list which was provided to the Chairman was clearly marked "Within the knowledge of the Directors". When I met the Chairman (with Mr Sandall) I made it clear that the list was not comprehensive. I also asked him if there was any other name which came to his mind about which he required information about. He did not indicate any.

Analysis (v)

As I am not the subject of this investigation the framing of the complaint in so far as it refers to me cannot stand and should be removed.

574  There is not a shred of evidence to support the comment from the Commissioner that my husband used his position improperly in relation to my clients. I find these comments, albeit unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, extremely serious and damaging. I invite the Commissioner to withdraw these comments. I have already commented on the aspect of allegations that Mrs Matin was employed by me at paragraphs 286 and 289 above.

I think that it is appropriate for me to set out the history of Mrs Gresty's employment with my practice. I have already supplied my husband copies of my file of correspondence relating to Mrs Gresty's employment dispute.

Mrs Gresty was recruited by a reputable employment agency. Mrs Gresty failed to disclose her mental history which had required in patient treatment for around a year. I would have expected this matter to be highly relevant to her employment with me particularly as at hat time she started working from my home where there were 2 young children. She continued to maintain that lie throughout her employment and attempted to blame me for her illness when she relapsed.

Mr and Mrs Gresty have also had severe financial difficulties with debts of around ***. They were under constant threat of losing both their home and their business and they owed substantial sums of money to suppliers. I asked a friend (who is a barrister who specialises in these matters) to help them. He provided free advice and drafted the appropriate documents which I believe stopped her from losing their shop. He advised over a 4 month period.

After some time my friend felt unable to help any more. This time the Grestys were facing threats of losing their house. Mrs Gresty sought the help of my husband who attended a meeting with her and her husband to persuade a bank not to foreclose. The Grestys blamed the bank for lending them the money. The bank did not foreclose.

Mrs Gresty became ill in May 2000. The Grestys claimed that the job had caused her stress, which led to her illness and demanded full pay for 3 months of her absence. They later instructed employment solicitors who threatened Industrial Tribunal proceedings and sought to threaten harm to my reputation and particularly that of my husband (who had no involvement in my firm) in order to obtain a financial settlement.

I formally ended her employment in November 2000.

Mr Gresty and Ms Eggington have spent months taking it upon themselves to"investigate" this matter. I have seen Mr. Gresty outside my office on at least 2 occasions. As recently as the end of November 2001 Mrs Eggington was attempting to involve an accountant who operates from offices below me. He has spoken to me about this and is willing to be identified.

575  I worked from home during the early years of my childrens lives specifically to enable me to be with my children whenever possible whilst maintaining my practice. I employed a wide variety of, childminders, a nanny, mothers helps, and au pairs. In addition my mother provided a considerable amount of help.

Mrs Matin was never employed as a nanny or domestic servant. To describe her as a domestic servant is an insult to her. I had live in help at all times.

I have already dealt with the issue of Mrs Matin working at my practice above

576  I have not seen the statements which support this complaint. I did not help Mrs Matin with the resolution of her immigration status. She was not employed by me.

577  I have explained this in full at paragraph 286 and 289 above.

578  Mrs Matin was a friend of mine who had met Mrs Gresty on many occasions. It is hardly surprising that I would mention someone who we both knew.

579  I have no recollection of Mr Gresty visiting my home during a working day and I cannot comment on a conversation which is alleged to have taken place.

580  It is not clear why Mrs Matin's statement made through her solicitor Coker Vis is rejected.

581  If it is accepted that I am not the subject of this complaint then I find it hard to understand why the Commissioner was investigating any representations that I might have made.

582  I am not clear what the suggestion is in this paragraph. It is common knowledge that my husband in the course of his work takes up immigration cases and that I specialise in immigration law. We serve our respective clients or constituents in different ways and act independently of each other. I have specialised in the area for around 16 years and several years before I even met my husband.

583  I was aware of her status. I did not act for her. To do so there would be a conflict of interests.

584  My firm has not acted for Mrs Matin, made representations or taken any action to further her case. To make a representation requires the putting forward of evidence, information or argument to support a client's case. I have never made a representation. To suggest that I did is an extremely serious matter as it implies that I was acting for Mrs Matin at the same time as my husband was and this could result in a conflict of interests. As I have not been given the evidence to support this "contradiction" despite my request I cannot make any further comment.

585  The Commissioner alleges that she has received evidence from the Immigration Service that I was representing Mrs Matin. I refer to my comments above and re­iterate my request for the Annex which relates to this matter so that I can provide a detailed response. My comments are not complete as I have not been given the evidence.

586  The Commissioner wrote to me on the 10th September 2001 . She stated as follows:

I have subsequently received information that you did make a representation on Mrs Matin's behalf about her immigration status. In the light of this I would be grateful If you could explain the discrepancy

She did not put the discrepancy to me but merely stated that there was one.

If there is information suggesting that I did in fact act or make representations I would like to see a copy of the "representations" I am alleged to have made.

She then goes further by suggesting that [I] "claimed she did not understand my question". The first point as I explained above is that she did not put the discrepancy to me but merely stated that there was one. Secondly, there is no suggestion in my reply that I did not understand the question. It is regrettable that the Commissioner should read into my reply a comment which I have simply not made.

587, 588, 589

No comments to make

590  I have explained this in detail above

591  Explained above

592  The credibility of Mrs Gresty will need to be assessed carefully

593  There is no contradiction. My replies are completely accurate.


I have had no intention whatsoever of deterring the Inquiry or intimidating Mrs Gresty or Eggington. To do so would have served no purpose as any information which they had presumably had already been disclosed.

In the very first letter between David Price my solicitor and Miss Eggington dated the 11th June 2001 (see attached letter), he stated quite clearly that:

"We are not at present concerned about the propriety of you providing information to a Parliamentary enquiry. However we would stress that providing information to a national newspaper for publication is of a completely different order".

A false and defamatory article appeared in the Mail on Sunday on the 3rd June 2001. I took immediate and proper steps to deal with this matter.

The statement which the article relates and which was provided to the Inquiry could only have been leaked to the Mail on Sunday by 2 possible routes:

1.  Mrs Gresty and Mrs Eggington

2.  By the Commissioner or her office.

Whilst I have the greatest respect for a Parliamentary Inquiry this one has been repeatedly played out by the media not of my choosing. It has caused immense detriment to the people involved in it. These people are entitled to be protected.

Ms Eggington and Mrs Gresty are widely quoted in the article and appear to be intimately involved with it.

I am entitled to pursue my legal remedies and if the issue has become clouded with the Inquiry as a result of a leak then that is a matter which Parliament itself needs to address. The fact remains that defamatory statements have been made in a national newspaper about myself, my clients and my practice and this cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

The Mail on Sunday settled their (second) defamatory allegation on 9th November 2001 (see enclosed letter).

The only outstanding issue left was an assurance that Mrs Gresty and her agent Mrs Eggington would not cause any further damage. I am at the very least entitled to this and indeed it is necessary to protect my clients, my reputation and my practice both now and in the future.

I felt that it was the appropriate time to draw a line under this difficult period. I sought advice from the Law Society about the propriety of taking these proceedings and was told that this was a matter for my judgement, based upon my concerns and knowing that my husband will remain a public figure.

As David Price my solicitor has put it in his letter of 22nd November 2001, I required:

"sufficient comfort that there will be no further disclosure of information concerning her clients."

They have both chosen to ignore my reasonable request for undertakings with allegations of intimidation. There was and still is an offer of settlement which if either party accepts will draw a line under these events.

If I do not seek to obtain an undertaking this could leave clients exposed to risk particularly as the Inquiry draws to a close and is likely to attract press attention. It is not an unreasonable request.

I find it an absurd situation that having legitimately exercised my rights which arose purely as a result of the actions of Mrs Gresty and Mrs Eggington I then find myself being accused of intimidating them.

727, 728, 729

Mrs Gresty had breached confidentiality by statements made to the Mail on Sunday. These very same statements were passed to the Commissioner. The Mail on Sunday accept that their story was defamatory. Despite this on two occasions the Commissioner asserts that Mrs Gresty's statements are true.

730, 731

I enclose a letter from my solicitors of 22nd November 2001 regarding this matter.

732, 733

I find it surprising that a letter from my solicitor who has been in contact with her before would "intimidate and bully" Mrs Eggington.

734, 735, 736

The Chairman did not write to me about this matter. Had he done so I would have provided a full explanation which I have done above.

737  I have not seen the Annexes referred to.

738  I note that the Commissioner confirms that Mrs Gresty continues to assert that her statements are true.

739  No comment.

740  I have not seen the Annexes referred to in this paragraph. I have already supplied correspondence to my husband about the Industrial Tribunal proceedings and which also includes a threat by Mrs Eggington which was more current.

741  Correspondence from Mrs Eggington has been selective.

742  This contains an another assertion from Mrs Gresty that her statement is true. I have not seen the "facts" regarding the termination of her employment. I was never asked what the facts were from my point of view. I would like to see these facts so that I can comment on it.

743  No comment.

747  Payments made to my firm are not registrable by my husband. If the intention is that spouses of MP's must disclose details of work legitimately received in the course of independent practices such as mine then this must be introduced with the Code of Conduct and I would expect to be consulted about this.

Payments amounting to £3000 (according to newspaper reports) can hardly be described as considerable. The amounts are likely to include 17.5 percent VAT and disbursements.

748  I have not deliberately misled the Commissioner. I have answered all the points she raises above.

749  I have answered this point above.

The question has been put to me by the Committee and therefore it is vital that I see this communication. I maintain what I said at the meeting and subsequently. I have not represented or acted for Mrs Matins.

Paragraphs provided to me for comment on:

79, 80, 81, 82, 252, 286, 287, 288, 289, 312, 342, 360, 361, 362, 363, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 423, 424, 426, 427, 429, 435, 436, 574, 575, 576, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586, 587, 588, 589, 590, 591, 592, 593, 727, 728, 729, 730, 731, 732, 733, 734, 735, 736, 737, 738, 739, 740, 741, 742, 743, 747, 748, 749.

27 January 2001  Maria Fernandes

24   Not printed. Back

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