File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner
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 casethey
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 itso
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 sayI 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.