Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Response submitted by Mr John Maxton MP


The Evidence appearing to support Dean Nelson`s allegations about John Maxton MP

The Committee will note Miss Filkin`s view in paragraph 9 of her draft memorandum that the "standard of proof I have adopted is the balance of probability." In my view that is a clear indication that she has little "evidence" and she does not even attempt to meet her own supposed standards.

Again Mr Goudie deals with this at considerable length and with a legal skill that I cannot match. He shows how Miss Filkin should not have applied this standard of proof and then having applied it fails to attain it.

There are two issues involved in the evidence that Miss Filkin has collected during the course of the last 8 months. First is the evidence itself and whether there is sufficient to prove the allegation. Second is Miss Filkin`s interpretation and analysis of the evidence in the draft memorandum I have seen.

Within the memorandum or report Miss Filkin identifies four witnesses whose evidence appears to support Mr Nelson`s allegations against Dr Reid and myself. They are Paul McKinney, Alex Rowley, John Rafferty and Willie Sullivan. All of them were employees of the Labour Party for some or all of the time under consideration.

She also encloses the notes (all names taken out) of interviews done by Mr Nelson. She does NOT include either copies or transcripts of the tapes that figured so strongly in her earlier letters to me. Why not?

Miss Filkin also obtained budget documents from Mr Rowley that she claims are relevant to the case.

The references in Mr Nelson`s notes concerning myself and Chris Winslow are very few and very irrelevant. (References to my employment of Miss Hilliard are not relevant, as I did not employ Miss Hilliard until AFTER the Scottish elections were over and Miss Filkin in her memorandum implicitly accepts this.)

Paul McKinney`s evidence makes no mention of Chris Winslow or myself. This is hardly surprising since his employment by the Labour Party and my employment of Mr Winslow overlapped by only a few days.

Mr Sullivan`s "evidence" relates entirely to the election period itself and I will deal with that matter later.

Mr Rafferty in his evidence makes it clear that on several occasions Mr Winslow told him that he was undertaking research for me and indeed had asked for latitude over deadlines for Party work in order to be able to give precedence to his Parliamentary duties.

The only evidence he gives that in any way supports the allegation is his description of remarks made by Mr Winslow during a conference call after the election that "he hoped that the media would not start making mischief with the fact that he and Kevin Reid had for a while been simultaneously employed by the Labour Party and by Members of the House of Commons as researchers" (see John Reid`s submission for a more detailed analysis of this).

Mr Winslow has provided an explanation of his remarks with which Mr Rafferty agreed in the first interview with Miss Filkin. That he then changed his evidence is a matter for him but it does not give his later claims great credence. Mr Rafferty also claimed he informed the late Donald Dewar, then First Minister in Scotland, of this conversation. In a letter to the Commissioner Mr Dewar stated that he had no memory of such a conversation with Mr Rafferty. I spoke to Mr Dewar personally and he made it very clear to me that if he had had such a conversation then he would have remembered it. Those of you who knew Donald knew his reputation for gritty honesty. As a close friend of Donald`s I find Miss Filkin`s inference that he was lying to her extremely distasteful.

Thus the Committee must either accept Mr Winslow`s explanation or Mr Rafferty`s third explanation of the remarks Mr Winslow made. Miss Filkin places some emphasis on the fact that Mr Winslow did not supply her with the names of the others involved in the conference call. Firstly I can find NO evidence in her letters or interview with Mr Winslow that she ever asked him for the names and secondly and more importantly Mr Rafferty failed to give her the other names.

Thus the only evidence that in any way appears to support the allegation made against myself by Mr Nelson is that from Alex Rowley, the General Secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland during the period and the budget documents that he provided to the Commissioner.

The evidence from Mr Rowley is summarised in paragraphs 51 & 52 of the draft memorandum. All Mr Rowley`s evidence in relation to Mr Winslow and myself is dependent on his claim that the first offer of help with staff for the Party`s election campaign was made by myself to Ms Annmarie Whyte, the office manager at Labour Party headquarters. Miss Filkin in paragraph 51 refers to Annex 148A. This is a report of a telephone conversation she had with Mr Rowley on the 4th September 2000. In no previous evidence had Mr Rowley been so precise in his statements.

Why did it take so long for him to give this information and the Committee will note that it was at Miss Filkin`s prompting? I wish to state categorically that I had no meetings, telephone calls or any other contact on this matter with Ms Annmarie Whyte or indeed any other member of the Labour Party staff either prior or during my employment of Chris Winslow. Ms Whyte also has stated that she had no contact with me at the time in question or after. (See the statement from Ms Whyte attached to John Reid`s submission.)

Indeed if I had made such an offer to make it would be very odd to contact the Party`s office manager rather than the General Secretary of the Party and make such an arrangement with her.

Miss Filkin has chosen to believe Mr Rowley in this matter rather than myself and Ms Whyte. She has nothing to corroborate Mr Rowley`s statements. Indeed all they show is that Mr Winslow worked for the Labour Party. They do not prove that he was not working for me at the same time. I do not believe the unsubstantiated word of one witness is sufficient to allow the Committee to accept my guilt on the allegation made against me.

Even Mr Rowley`s interpretation of the budget documents depends on the truth or otherwise of the above. If there was no such arrangement between myself and Ms Whyte then his view of the budget papers does not stand up to careful analysis. So again for Mr Rowley`s interpretation to be believed then the Committee must accept his version of events rather than those of myself and Ms Whyte. (See the accountant`s analysis in John Reid`s submission on this.)

I find it very interesting that Miss Filkin so clearly accepts Mr Rowley`s view of these budget documents rather than those of the most senior staff in the Finance Department of the House of Commons. Included in the evidence provided there are copies of the extensive correspondence between the Commissioner`s office and the Finance department.

Andrew Walker and his staff carried out an exhaustive analysis of the budget documents. They are responsible both for the payment of Member`s Office Costs Allowance and for ensuring that it is properly spent. They are qualified to carry out the analysis they did. Yet Miss Filkin seems determined to believe only Mr Rowley`s account. As far as I know Mr Rowley has no qualification in accountancy. I note that Miss Filkin claims that Mr Rowley gave her the budget papers at her request. I have very carefully read all papers relating to the Mr Rowley`s evidence and can find no reference to such a request. There are also discrepancies between the dates on the provision of the budget papers. The first reference to them is in an e-mail dated 20th April from Mr Rowley to which the documents are attached. Yet Miss Filkin refers to them in letters dated the 17th and 19th April.

On April 17th Mr Rowley failed to obtain the Labour Party nomination for the Parliamentary seat of Central Fife, which is his home constituency. If Miss Filkin did not ask for the documents why did Mr Rowley offer he documents that he had no right to have let alone give to someone else.

Lastly I will turn to what I would call the negative evidence the Commissioner brings in support of the case against me.

She has persistently asked that I prove my innocence despite there being nothing but unsubstantiated allegations made against me by asking me to provide evidence of work done. Miss Filkin refers to frequent requests for evidence of the work carried out by Mr Winslow for myself. She also refers to the fact that I did not meet with her to discuss the allegations.

I did inform Miss Filkin in a phone call very early in the enquiry that I would try and obtain examples of work done by Mr Winslow but it would be very difficult since much of it was of a transitory nature and since we had both obtained new computers since the work was done there would not necessarily be any evidence left.

On the basis that the only evidence I had received from Miss Filkin prior to the 19th May was the letter from Mr Nelson which was a completely unsubstantiated allegation, I could see no reason to spend time and effort collecting evidence to prove my innocence of such a charge. In the letter of 19th May Miss Filkin does ask for this information but since then she has made no further request for it either from myself or Mr Winslow. Certainly there have not been repeated requests as she suggests.

When I heard nothing from her after 22nd June then I assumed obviously wrongly that she had no need for such evidence. This is was a very fair assumption given that I knew that since then Miss Filkin has written frequent letters to Miss Hilliard`s solicitors concerning telephone accounts and the Chairman on behalf of the Committee had written to various witnesses asking them to supply the evidence Miss Filkin was seeking. Neither Mr Winslow or I received such letters.

Again following my submission of 14th June to the Commissioner and the subsequent letters ending on 23rd June I expected Miss Filkin to contact me to arrange a meeting with her to discuss it. She never did so as the documents show. It is therefore incorrect for her to infer that I had refused to see her.

I believe the above show that Miss Filkin has failed to produce any substantial evidence in support of the allegation made by Mr Nelson. I am concerned, however, at the way in which she seems determined to do so. I fear that she has lost her objectivity in this matter. Member of the Committee will wish to read very carefully the memorandum and the evidence to see the relevance of my argument.

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