Letter to the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP from
the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Thank you for your two letters of 6 and 7 June. As
you say in your second letter, some of the points raised in your
letter of 6 June were dealt with in my letter of 5 June. I will
attempt to address the outstanding matters.
Letter of 6 June
You ask whether I have assessed the evidential basis
for Mr Nelson`s complaint. Under paragraph 69 of the Guide to
the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, I am required to
form a judgment as to whether the information supplied by a complainant
in support of a complaint is sufficient to warrant my "taking
the matter further". That was all I needed to decide when
examining the information provided by Mr Nelson.
My conclusion was that the accounts, which Mr Nelson
gave me, of interviews he had conducted with Labour Party officials
and the formal letter of complaint submitted by Mr Nelson required
me to conduct "a preliminary investigation". It is the
results of that investigation which I have now put to you in the
form of my letter of 19 May, together with the evidence which
I have collected which might be at variance with your initial
response, and the accompanying written questions. I say again
that because I am conducting an investigation in no way implies
any wrong doing; it is the method by which a complaint is looked
at in order to decide whether it has any substance. It is all
the material assembled as a result of this processincluding
your own detailed responses to my written questionswhose
evidential value I will need to weigh up before reaching my conclusions.
As you are aware, it is open to me at any point to
conclude that there is no case to answer and dismiss the complaint,
but to date I have not revised my initial view which is that it
is in the interests of all parties that these allegations are
properly investigated. I shall give my view on whether I regard
the complaint has having any validity when I make my report. At
this point I continue to keep an open mind, believing this to
be the fair way to proceed.
I turn to your questions using the numbering first
in your letter of 6 June.
- I was prepared to respect Mr Nelson`s responsibilities
as a journalist towards his sources and, having satisfied myself
from his account, hearing extracts of the tapes and the letter
he wrote to me (which you have seen) decided that they ought to
be followed up through further inquiries by me. (I have listened
to all the tapes mentioned in the letter.) What you now have is
the evidence of witnesses whom I have interviewed myself and the
transcript of Mr Nelson`s taped conversation with Mr McKinney.
- I have not checked the shorthand note in detail
but confirm that it supports the transcript of the tape. I am
content that the transcript is an accurate record of the tape.
- I can confirm that you have seen all the material
in my possession which may conflict with your initial account
or which otherwise tends to support the complaint. As I said in
my letter of 19 May, I will let you have any further such evidence
as it comes to hand. I am pressing for urgent replies from one
or two witnesses from whom factual information is still outstanding.
All that I require from you is any information you have which
answers, explains or throws other light on these matters and those
which I raise in my questions.
- See paragraph 3 above. I will of course make
sure that you see any material on these documents when it is provided
- The references you seek are as follows (using
(i) Telephone conversation
with Mr Rafferty on 6 April, Q4; Q5; Q8 to Q 10;
telephone conversation with Mr Rafferty of 18 April,
Q10 to Q12; and Q 15 and Q 16.
(ii) Telephone conversation of 6 April with Mr
Rafferty, Q1 to Q3.
(iii) Conversation with Mr Rowley of 21 March,
(iv) Conversation with Mr Rowley of 21 March,
(v) Conversation with Mr Rowley of 21 March,
Q 3 to Q6, Q10. To be fair to you I wish to receive your own explanation
for the figures contained in the budget projections in the context
of the quotes from Mr Rowley for which I have given the references.
(vi) Conversation with Mr Rowley of 21 March,
Q 13. (I accept that, since your son no longer had any Parliamentary
commitments by the time of the election campaign proper, Question
24, in so far as it draws upon the evidence quoted from Mr Rowley,
Mr Rafferty and Mr Sullivan, relates only to Ms Hilliard. But
I still wish to check with you that, despite the various references
to your son working full-time for the Party whilst still employed
by you, you maintain that he nevertheless managed to carry out
his Parliamentary duties fully in whatever time remained.
Of course, if you dispute the authenticity of any
of these references, or wish to challenge the interpretations
being placed upon them, that is a matter to be addressed in your
response to the questions.
- I would not expect you to provide answers in
relation to Mr Winslow unless you have any information which would
assist my enquiries into the complaint against either yourself
or Mr Maxton (for example any information you might have about
the circumstances surrounding the conference call involving Mr
Rafferty, Mr Winslow and the other special advisers shortly after
the elections to the Scottish Parliament or any other discussion
you have had with other Members of Parliament, Labour Party officials
or others which included reference to Mr Winslow`s employment).
Your letter of 7 June
I understand your concern about the references to
you by Mr Nelson and Mr McKinney in their taped conversation.
I can only repeat that, for the reasons given in my letter of
5 June, I thought it necessary to include this material in the
papers sent to Mr Maxton, but that it has not been seen by any
other witness. I am sure that we can both rely on Mr Maxton to
treat this document with the confidentiality it deserves.
Of course I accept that as the subject of the complaint
you are in a different position from the other people whom I have
approached for evidence. But you are under the same obligation
to Parliament to provide me with a full and truthful account of
the events in question and, to that extent, I regard you as a
witness for the purposes of my investigation. Whatever conversations
may have taken place in the past, if any future approach is made
by one witness to another (other than for the purposes referred
to in the fourth paragraph of my letter of 5 June) I would deprecate
it and I would expect to be informed of it. However, if you have
any point which you would wish me to put to any other witness
to ensure that a full and accurate picture is available, please
let me know and I will pursue it.
I hope you will now feel able to let me have your
full response as soon as possible. Like you, I too wish to bring
my investigation to a speedy conclusion.
13 June 2000