Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Response submitted by Mr John Maxton MP


My Relations with Miss Filkin during the inquiry

Miss Filkin has included in her draft memorandum a section dealing with my attitude to her during the inquiry. She has also included copies of letters, e-mails and notes of phone calls she had with me.

Firstly I do not understand why she should do so since it has no relevance to the allegations she has been investigating. She does not suggest that I have tried to subvert her inquiry. Unless she is implying that my attitude was governed by a sense of guilt (which the correspondence between us clearly illustrates was not the case) I can see no reason for making the remarks at this stage. At a later date she may wish to complain about my attitude and behaviour and I will certainly wish to complain about hers.

Secondly she includes in the evidence provided notes on telephone calls we had. She never told me she was doing so which to say the least is discourteous. She did not provides the notes to me immediately after the phone conversation to ask me to check that they were accurate. Indeed some of the detail she provides would imply she recorded our conversations without my permission. They are her memory of phone calls made and do not necessarily agree with my memory. The Committee will note that while she includes notes on my calls (not all) she does not include any record or notes of the extensive phone calls she had with Mr Dean Nelson in which as she admits she discussed in detail the evidence that she was collecting.

Since she has included this passage in the memorandum with which you have been provided I will reluctantly respond to her attack on me. She accuses me of being hostile and intemperate. Those of you who know me will find this description difficult to accept as I have a reputation for being too calm for my own good.

However after months of Miss Filkin`s refusal to answer the simplest of questions I have to confess to becoming increasingly impatient and even hostile. As I have stated earlier, I asked Miss Filkin again and again for month after month to provide me with the evidence that Dean Nelson has provided on January 27th which allowed her to state on television in Scotland that she was undertaking an enquiry.

I pointed out to her again and again that under Clause 69 she had to have such evidence before instigating an enquiry and that the letter from a journalist with only second hand information and with only the baldest of statements about myself was not sufficient.

If you read our correspondence and other notes the Committee will see that she refuses to answer the question with anything but the blandest of remarks and she often distorts my questions to give a different answer. She repeatedly suggests that I quoted from Clause 67 concerning newspaper articles when my concern was that part of that Clause relating to the Commissioner collecting evidence.

Undoubtedly there were occasions when my frustration at her arrogant intransigence led me to make remarks that were stronger than I would like. If so I apologise to the Committee for them.

However it is clear from paragraph 172 of the draft memorandum that Miss Filkin believes that no Member of Parliament should challenge the procedures she has adopted and that she is somehow above and beyond the Code of Conduct under which she expects Members to operate. As I have said earlier this cannot be the case. I do not believe that my request for the information I sought or the challenge I made to her to show that she had evidence to support the allegations from a journalist were unreasonable and well within my rights as a Member of Parliament.

I will not deal in detail with her other complaints since they all stem from her unfounded belief that she is above criticism. Certainly anyone reading her memorandum with an open mind would see that she has made every effort to construct a case against me even though she has in the long run failed to do so. I have discussed this with other Members of Parliament and with members of the Committee. Again I can see no reason why I should not do so.

Miss Filkin ends the section on my behaviour by saying that "I have not encountered such behaviour on this scale by a Member of Parliament in any other investigation I have carried out."

She has been the Commissioner for two years. As such she is an employee of the House of Commons if one in different position from other employees. I have been a Member of Parliament for 21 years and I have never before been treated by a member of the House of Commons staff in the manner in which Miss Filkin has treated me. Her arrogant refusal to answer simple questions would not be tolerated from any other member of the House of Commons staff and I can see no reason why it should be tolerated from her. As she suggests members of the Committee should read our correspondence to see that I had every reason to ask the questions I did and to feel very frustrated and angry at the answers I was given.

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