Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 83

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Mr John Maxton

23 June 2000

Mr Maxton telephoned my office because he said...

...That my letter of 22 June was unclear about who had employed Chris Winslow. He asked me to phone him back— — — —.

I returned his call and he said that he had now read the letter again and it was all right. I said I was glad the letter was clear, I was clear about who had employed whom at what point.

The call then was unpleasant throughout, culminating in a very concerning comment. Without pausing for breath Mr Maxton revisited, loudly, many of the comments he has made before.

1.  That I am dragging out the case to "try to prove it against" him.

2.  That the only explanation for the length of time the investigation has taken is that I "go and on to try to prove things against" him when I find "I have no evidence against" him.

3.  I have found no evidence against him whatsoever and should therefore dismiss the case.

Mr Maxton said he is "putting down a lot of questions" about how I have been conducting this inquiry, why I am dragging it out and the expense. He said "You`ve flown people from Scotland to London, paid for them to be accompanied by friends and have proved nothing". He went on to say that I am only "dragging it out as a tactic".

Mr Maxton said that if I do not go to the Committee next week to say I am dismissing the case he is thinking of sending copies of all my correspondence to him to every Committee Member and the Speaker.

I asked him if he would let me speak and when he allowed me to I said that I did not wish in any way to interfere with anything that he thought that he should do but I felt I should say that I could not see that it would be in his interest to interfere with the inquiry while it is underway. I said I wanted to repeat what I had said throughout that I was not trying to prove anything against him. All I was trying to do was to get a clear and truthful account of events to present to the Standards and Privileges Committee. I said that I had told him on a number of occasions that I shall provide the Committee with his responses in full. He asked whether I would provide them with all the evidence I have received and I said I always provide them with the supporting evidence which I think is relevant and that of course the Committee could ask for more. He said he would send everything to the Committee so they have "everything". I repeated again, that this was unnecessary but that he would have the opportunity to make any comment he wished on my report and I would make sure that that response in full went to the Committee this would allow him to raise any of the issues with them at that point before I had come to any conclusion. I repeated that I was in no way trying to prove anything against him. He said "that`s what you say but I know your tactics". He said that I kept asking questions and then changing them. I said I didn`t think that was the case—they were in writing. I also said that I understood how annoying it was to have a complaint investigated and that I also hoped to get it finished soon but that some people were not providing me with items of information which I needed before I could do so. He replied "Yes I know, I have heard from Suzanne and she says you ask her questions then change them". I said that I could not comment on what she said and was not willing to discuss other witnesses, but the reason for the delay was because I had still not received information from others.

Mr Maxton told me he wasn`t the only person who thought my inquiry was totally unnecessary and should be stopped. He said that "many other senior Members thought the inquiry should be stopped". He said "I am a senior Member you know". I said I was aware of that.

Mr Maxton said I was not to present my report to the Committee while he was away. I said I would make sure he could read and comment on my report before it went to the Committee and that that was why I had asked him how I could contact him while he was away. Mr Maxton said he would not be reading reports while he was away and would not be back until 28 July. I said I would ensure that he had the opportunity to read and comment on the report before it went to the Committee.

Mr Maxton then said "I know what your game is". I said that I was surprised by this remark I had no `game`. He went on "Your tactic is to smear and clear". I felt that I had not clearly heard the phrase or understood it—so said " I didn`t catch that could you repeat what you said". He said "smear and clear, smear and clear you can work that out". I said "What a dreadful thing to say—I would never try to smear anyone". Mr Maxton then said that he was going to ring off now.

And I thanked him for telephoning me.

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