Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Note submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Sequence of Events:

Mr Nelson`s submissions of the complaint concerning Dr Reid and Mr Maxton

20 January 2000

Mr Nelson telephoned my office to check information in the Register of Member`s staff. He informed my member of staff that he was investigating possible misuse of staff employed by the House of Commons, who assisted in the Scottish Election Campaign. Her note is as follows:

"Issue is that if they are paid by the Fees Office of the House of Commons they undertake to assist the Member in his parliamentary duties which do not include party political campaigning."

23 January 2000

The Observer carried a detailed article on the allegations which was headlined:

"Reid hit by poll cash scandal" sub heading : "Minister broke rules by using his MP`s expenses to pay party campaign staff." (attached)

24 January 2000

Mr Nelson telephoned me. He asked me if I had seen the Observer article, which contained some of the information he had collected. He set out the complaint as it appeared in the article and read extracts from his notes, which had supported what he had published, without revealing the speakers. He confirmed that the members in question were Dr Reid and Mr Maxton. He also said that his sources were people he believes were involved in setting up the arrangement.

Mr Nelson asked me to explain the complaints process. I informed him that the complaint could be made by any person, must be in writing and signed, and should include supporting evidence, dates, names and details. I said that I then must decide whether there is sufficient evidence to make enquiries. I ask the Member for a response and make enquiries as necessary. I explained that I may need to interview the complainant, witnesses and the Member concerned. I said when I have undertaken any enquiries, which I believed to be necessary to try to establish the facts, I then write a report for the Standards and Privileges Committee. I explained that the Committee may wish to interview witnesses themselves before deciding whether the complaint is upheld. I informed him that the Committee published a report on every complaint, whether they uphold it or not and that my report is published together with it. Mr Nelson said he would be making a complaint during that week.

27 January 2000

Mr Nelson`s complaint letter dated 26 January 2000 received by my office on e mail. He also attached a copy of the Observer article to the hard copy.

27 January 2000

I telephoned Mr Nelson to ask whether he or the Observer was the complainant, since he had informed me on 24 January that he was about to join the Scotsman. He said he was the complainant.

27 January 2000

I wrote to Mr Nelson to acknowledge the complaint and to say I would be investigating the matters he had raised and asking him to provide the other evidence which he referred to in his letter.

27 January 2000

I wrote to Dr Reid and Mr Maxton immediately setting out the complaint and providing a copy of Mr Nelson`s e mail (Annex 5. and 30.) In response to a request from Mr Maxton I provided him with a hard copy of Mr Nelson`s letter on February 4 (Annex 35.)

10 February 2000

Interviewed Mr Nelson. Read anonymous transcript of tapes, listened to extracts of the tapes and his notes which he showed to me. I should correct paragraph 15 page 10, MAXTON/REID 8 which should have read: "However, Mr Nelson had read his notes to me in full, so I was aware of their content. And in addition shortly afterwards (10 February) he showed me the notes (with the names removed), but without handing them over and played the tapes to me."

Annex 2. Copies of Mr Nelson`s notes received 14 March 2000

1 November 2000

Elizabeth Filkin

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Prepared 22 December 2000