Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 79

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


May I thank you again for your e-mail of 14 June and confirm that I have received the hard copy. I am grateful to you for the answers you have provided to the written questions in my letter of 19 May. I will, of course, give careful consideration both to your specific responses and to the accompanying observations. You also raise several questions for me. For the most part I will also treat these as observations on, or challenges to, the evidence of other witnesses, which I will also take into account in reaching my conclusions.

There is, however, one specific factual question in your letter and which we discussed on the telephone to which I am happy to supply the answer. The other document, in addition to the Code of Conduct, which is relevant to the complaint is the so-called Green Book (Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Pensions) which I understand is drawn to the attention of all Members by the Fees Office. This states, at page 15

    "To qualify for the Office Costs Allowance (OCA), any expenditure must be incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of parliamentary duties. This is a strict and long-established rule approved by successive Speakers. You cannot therefore claim for expenditure that is personal or party-political."

It goes on

    "These are the normal direct costs of a Member`s Parliamentary office and acquiring research services associated with Parliamentary duties. They exclude personal expenses associated with party political activities and services."

So far as Annmarie Whyte is concerned, I am still awaiting a reply from her to further questions from me and it is therefore premature to conclude whether her evidence is at variance with yours or not. Should this prove to be the case, I will, of course, let you see a copy.

I have two further questions to put to you arising from your responses.

    1.    You say in answer to Questions 11-13 that you had no knowledge of the Scottish Labour Party budget papers. My original questions 11 and 12 to you, however, were designed to give you the opportunity to comment on, first, Mr Rowley`s interpretation of the figures as providing evidence for a cross-subsidy between the Office Costs Allowance and the Labour Party and, second, the appearance in the budget documents of the notes referring to you and Dr Reid. May I give you a further opportunity to answer these very important questions?

    2.    You claim that three of the four people mentioned in question 19 were dismissed by the Labour Party. Could you please tell me to which of the four you are referring and whether you wish to provide information on the reasons for dismissal? If you have any further information on any of these questions do let me have it to consider.

May I have a reply by the 22 June please? I will then let you know whether I need to talk to you in person before drawing up my report, though, as I have explained before, I would be happy to meet you at any time.

I drafted the above yesterday and will let it stand in answer to your previous letter and as it deals with some of the matters raised in your letter of 15 June which I have now received. I will add answers to your further questions where possible.

I have provided you with evidence, which has been confirmed by witnesses, which may be at variance with your account so that you may have the opportunity of addressing it in your reply.

During the course of an enquiry I often have several conversations with a witness (as I have with you) but I regard as evidence their considered confirmed replies. It is true that some witnesses speak more vividly informally and that it is only as an enquiry progresses that I become clear about the detail of allegations. For example, I was not clear as to how the research money was allocated to each individual and who were the employers at different times until I had interviewed all the researchers. However I can reconfirm that I am not keeping from you any other evidence which is at variance with yours.

I have set out for you the questions raised by the evidence and have provided you with the documents which include the confirmed statements from relevant witnesses. I do not have further information to give you on these matters and I am grateful to you for confirming that you will not contact, or attempt to intimidate, any others involved in this enquiry.

I provide information about the powers of the Committee when asked questions about the powers, when I believe someone may have conflicted loyalties, or when I am concerned that a witness may not be clear about the serious nature of a parliamentary procedure and the necessity of providing the truth and the whole truth to Parliament through such proceedings.

May I stress again that all that is needed from you is a full account of matters about which you have knowledge.

16 June 2000

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