Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 68

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

I acknowledge receipt of your letter and the enclosed documents.

With one exception none of the evidence comes from Dean Nelson. I have been asking for the evidence you had from him on January 27th which allowed you to inform me and the media that you were starting an inquiry under Clause 69 of the Code of Conduct. This makes it very clear that you had none. Indeed in paragraph (iv) you say, "Mr Nelson had previously agreed to provide me with tapes and transcripts only where the evidence I collected appeared to differ in a material way from the information which he had published in his original article or provided in his complaint letter."

It seems apparent from that sentence that Mr Nelson provided you with no evidence but his letter. The Clause 69 is very clear and I will not quote it again.

Further from the quote it seems clear to me that you "collected the evidence". As I have said again and again to you Clause 67 says `Both the Commissioner and the Committee on Standards and Privileges will be guided by the view of the former Select Committee on Members` Interests that "it is not sufficient to make an unsubstantiated allegation and expect the Committee to assemble supporting evidence", and that it "would not normally regard a complaint founded upon no more than a newspaper story or television report as a substantiated allegation". Yet it seems clear to me that that is what you have done.

I have received the letter you wrote to me in response to mine of May 17th. In neither letter do you make any effort to refute my concern that you misled me by implying you had heard Dean Nelson`s tapes on January 27th. As I said in my last letter to deliberately mislead a Member of Parliament is a very serious matter. I have replied separately to the other matters.

I have sought the evidence above almost from the inception of this inquiry but you have singularly failed to respond to a very reasonable request from a Member of Parliament.

It seems obvious you started the inquiry into my affairs on nothing but the letter from Dean Nelson that contains totally unsubstantiated allegations.

I intend to make only four comments on your letter and the enclosed documents.

Firstly in your first paragraph you " remind me that you should not discuss, or seek to discuss, with any person the form or content of your evidence to me or that of any other person in connection with my investigation into the complaint made against you by Mr Nelson".

As you will be aware I have studied all the relevant documents related to your work and the Committee on Standards and Privileges. Nowhere can I find anything that gives you the right to order a Member of Parliament to act in this way. I will discuss these matters with whomever I wish including members of the Committee, other Members of Parliament and those who have been involved in the investigation.

Secondly I am very surprised and concerned to receive from you material that appears to relate to an investigation into Dr John Reid. This material contains many matters that have no bearing whatsoever on the complaint made against me. You have provided me with what is presumably confidential information concerning Dr Reid and his son, Kevin. I can see no reason for providing me with this material. Did you obtain permission from Dr Reid and other persons involved to provide this information to me?

My concern is that you have provided information concerning the complaint against me to others who are not relevant recipients of such information. Have you done so?

I must insist on a reply to this point forthwith in order that I may consider what action to take.

Thirdly I note that the only evidence you include from Dean Nelson is the transcript from his interview with the originator of the story, Paul McKinney. I also note that, as I am sure you have, that neither my name nor that of Chris Winslow or Suzanne Hilliard are mentioned in that transcript.

How in the circumstances did you and indeed do you feel able to persist with investigating Mr Nelson`s complaint? Mr Nelson told you that he had taped interviews of "many senior Labour officials and politicians" apparently confirming his complaint. The excerpt from the McKinney tape is all that has been provided. Does not this give you pause for thought about the sufficiency of evidence underlying Mr Nelson`s complaint?

In my letter to you of February 23rd I said, "Surely it is not for you or indeed me to prove the allegations false but for him to prove that they are true. So far he has singularly failed to do this yet you appear to be working on the assumption that he has." This is still the case. Indeed all the interview transcripts show nothing which would indicate any guilt on my part.

It is totally unacceptable for you to persist with this complaint in these circumstances.

You have the statement I made concerning my employment of Chris Winslow and you have interviewed him. I have read the transcripts from the three witnesses that refer to Mr Winslow`s employment by the Labour Party. Nothing in them proves that he did not work for me as I described. They are merely statements of those witnesses view of Mr Winslow`s employment by the Labour Party. I had no conversations, contact or meetings with anyone from the Labour Party to discuss their employment of Chris Winslow or mine during the period of that employment.

Mr Rafferty`s statements are exculpatory in that they show that Chris Winslow told him on a number of occasions that he was doing work for me. Neither Mr McKinney nor Mr Sullivan states that Mr Winslow was not doing work for me. Mr Rowley`s answers do not provide any link to suggest Chris Winslow was not working for me. Whatever Mr Rowley may think he agreed with Ms Whyte or understood from Ms Whyte it had nothing to do with me nor did I know anything of it. I note that you have not sent me Ms Whyte`s statement so I must conclude that she did not support Mr Rowley`s assertions.

Fourthly I note that you appear to have changed the nature of the complaint. The original letter quite clearly accuses me of paying Chris Winslow while he worked full time for the Labour Party. Somehow you appear to have changed this to an accusation that he worked more for the Labour Party than he did for me particularly, indeed only, during the relatively short period (three to four weeks) of the election campaign.

Certainly he did work long hours during that period but as John Rafferty makes clear he was still doing some work for me. Chris also had holiday entitlement to take and as I knew he was leaving my employment I allowed him time off during the election.

If after four months of very intensive investigation, the most that is said is that Chris Winslow worked especially hard for the Labour Party in the short period immediately before the Scottish election then that does not support the complaint nor does it justify you proceeding further with it.

I now call on you to dismiss the complaint against me and inform the Committee accordingly. If you do not do so I request a reasoned statement from you as to how it is you consider you are entitled to proceed any further with it.

4 June 2000

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