Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 36

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr John Maxton MP

Following your recent letter to me, I would confirm that I have gathered materials and prepared a response in respect of the complaint made by Mr Dean Nelson against me which I reject. I have considered the allegation set out in the e-mail of 27th January forwarded to me with your letter of the same date.

Before I send you my response I would be grateful if you would clarify your procedures in cases like this. I note you decided to investigate the complaint on the day you received it. I have been told that you have written to Chris Winslow and some others named in Mr Nelson`s letter prior to receiving my response and without informing me that you had done so.

As I understand it, the procedure on receipt of a complaint by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is that she must first decide whether it has some substance to merit further enquiry.

Paragraph 69 of the Guide to the Rules states: —

"If the Commissioner is satisfied that sufficient evidence has been tendered in support of the complaint to justify his taking the matter further, he will ask the member to respond to the complaint and will then conduct a preliminary investigation."

My expectation derived from this paragraph is inter-alia: —

1.  You will not decide to take a complaint further unless sufficient evidence has been tendered.
2.  You will not decide to conduct a preliminary investigation until my response to the complaint is before you.

So far you have Mr Dean Nelson`s statements of belief. Do you believe this to be "sufficient evidence"? Surely he should be required to produce evidence before you decide to proceed with the complaint.

On reading his letter to you it is clear that Mr Nelson is not a witness to any direct fact bearing on the complaint. You have told me that you have asked Mr Nelson for the tape recordings he claims to possess. (I would be grateful if you would inform me if you have made any further approaches to Mr Nelson and if so how many of what nature.)

You ask me to make a response to the allegations in Mr Nelson`s letter. Without the tapes it is very difficult to do so since I do not know what they contain. Am I expected to respond without knowing the full extent of the complaint or the alleged evidence against me?

As mentioned earlier I understand that you have contacted possible witnesses. It thus appears you are commencing an investigation without having fully formulated the complaint and without having obtained my response.

You will understand that I am concerned that your actions appear at least premature. You are required to decide inter alia whether a prima facie basis for the complaint against me obtains. Your role is thus in part quasi-judicial. I have a legitimate expectation that you will act in a procedurally fair manner. You may wish to consider whether your actions to date meet the test of procedural fairness.

I would suggest that you should not proceed further in this matter. If Mr Nelson tenders evidence to substantiate his allegations it would then fall to you to consider it. Only then would you be in a position to decide whether or not to proceed.

If you are determined to press ahead at this stage then I would be grateful if you would respond to the issues I have raised with you. I will thereafter provide you with my response to the complaint explaining why I reject it.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

14 February 2000

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