Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 71

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

    Dr J Reid and Mr J Maxton
    12 June 2000
    Telephone call from Mr Maxton...

...Mr Maxton telephoned me to say a variety of things in criticism of me, my inquiry, the evidence that I had sent him and the way in which I was proceeding.

He said I shouldn`t have sent him any evidence which refers to Dr Reid. He said the evidence that I had sent him of the transcript of the conversation between Mr Nelson and Mr Mc Kinney was actionable and libellous and he might take action about it. I told Mr Maxton as I had in my letter, that this information had only gone to him and to Dr Reid in absolute confidence and I could not believe that since it had only gone to two senior Members of the House of Commons that there was any question of it undermining Dr Reid in any way.

He said that he wanted to make it clear that his letter of last week was indeed his response, that he was making no further response and that he was not going to answer any of my questions any further than he had done so already.

He said that he believed my procedures had been wrong from the outset and he repeated his contention that I had not followed the procedures set out in the Code of Conduct and that I had had no evidence which would allow me to undertake an inquiry.

I explained once again that it was for my judgment as to whether I thought there was enough information to require further investigation and this was my judgment in this case and that I had not changed my views to date. I again repeated that undertaking an investigation is just a method of getting to the bottom of a complaint, it does not imply that there is anything amiss.

Mr Maxton said that he didn`t believe me, that I had had no evidence, and that I had not heard the tapes. He also believed that I had deliberately misled him (he has repeated this on several occasions) by telling him that I had sufficient evidence and had implied to him that I had heard the tapes when I had not. I said I had only told him that I had heard the tapes when I had heard them and I had certainly not tried to mislead him in any way, I could not understand why he believed that I had, but I was firmly of the opinion that I had sufficient evidence on which to inquire into the matter and that was all I was doing.

He said he was definitely not coming to see me and he would see the Committee if necessary to tell them how I had contravened the procedures— but that he was certainly not seeing me. I said I regretted that but if that was his decision perhaps he would put that in writing. I explained that I wished to give him the opportunity to answer the questions so that I could deal with the matter fairly and report accurately to the Standards and Privileges Committee. However, he went on at length saying that he did not believe me, he thought that I was trying to prove a case and that I had breached the Code of Conduct. I stressed to him that I had not been trying to prove the case one way or the other and was still not trying to do so. I explained that what my job was, was to investigate a complaint and get hold of the facts so that I could take a view and provide my advice to the Committee.

Mr Maxton said he would try and write to me this afternoon but he didn`t know when he would be able to do so as he had to go to a lunch but he would try and that I should report to the Committee immediately that I was dismissing the complaint. I said that I was sorry that I could not do that and I had to have his response before I could make any report to the Committee whatsoever but that if he wrote to me and told me that he was not going to see me, I would of course make that known to the Committee because they might wish to use their powers to encourage him to answer the questions.

Mr Maxton said that he intended to sue me if it was at all possible once the investigation was over.

The whole conversation was characterised by Mr Maxton`s sounding very intemperate and angry and he told me at one point during the conversation that he had had to go to the Doctor for stress because of this inquiry. I said I was sorry to hear that and I shared his view that it would be good to bring the inquiry to an end as soon as possible but that I could not do that without his response and without pieces of information that I was still waiting for.

I said to Mr Maxton that I didn`t think it was sensible for us to go on having this same discussion over and over again and that I had written to him and I had said these thing to him previously but that perhaps he would write to me to give me his final response to my letters. We agreed that he would do that.

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