Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 46

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Mr Maxton

Telephone call from Mr Maxton—16 March 2000

Alan Williams had alerted me to the conversation he had with Mr Maxton at lunchtime today. Mr Maxton had been very aerated about the investigation which he thought was groundless and improper. Alan Williams had convinced him that he could not get involved in matters to do with an investigation as that was my area of responsibility. Alan Williams had suggested that the sensible thing would be for him to sit down with me and try to work things out with me and that anyway this would stand him in good stead if the matter came to the Committee in due course. He said he believed Mr Maxton would contact me.

Mr Maxton began by saying that he would like to see me and we agreed a time and date but he then went off at great length about how I had not replied to his questions from his e-mails and how I was not following the rules which I was subject to. I confirmed to him that I had sufficient evidence to make an inquiry. That did not in anyway mean I thought I had evidence which found against him in any way. What I was required to do was to have sufficient evidence to justify taking the matter further and that was what I was doing. I would continue to do that until I was satisfied either that there was nothing further to do. If I found nothing I would report that to the Committee, or if there was something that I ought to report in more detail to the Committee I would do that. I again assured him that if there was any evidence which supported a view that was different from his he would see it in due course and would be able to comment on it.

He said he wanted to make it clear that he was only coming to see me on a voluntary basis and it was entirely informal and that he wanted to be shown and given any evidence that I had. I said I was giving no undertaking to give him evidence at this point. I was reviewing the evidence that I had and seeking evidence from other people who might be able to corroborate or undermine the evidence before deciding whether any of it had substance and therefore should be put before him.

He said he felt I was not following the rules to which I was subject and I was responsible to the Committee and to the Speaker and they could supervise what I was doing. I agreed with him that the Committee was responsible for the scrutiny of the processes which I used and that they could criticise them if they saw fit in due course. He then insisted that I agree that the Speaker could do the same. I said that I believed the Speaker put this responsibility squarely in the hands of the Committee but of course it was entirely up to the Speaker if she wished to put anything before the House. The House could always to decide that it didn`t wish to employ me but I believed that they would only do that on the recommendation of the Committee and I didn`t feel that this was the point we were at currently.

I said I felt it was not helpful to continue with this argument on the telephone and that it would be much better if we sat down together and tried to work out a way forward. He said it thought it was terrible that it had taken 4 months already. I reminded him that it was only recently that he had provided a response to me. He said this was because he had spent so much time trying to get clear from me whether there was any basis other than the letter from Dean Nelson for my pursuing the matter. I said there was evidence in addition to the letter but I was not ready to put that in front of him as yet I was testing that evidence currently. He was most unhappy with this but said he would agree to see me next week.

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