Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr John Maxton MP
Following your recent letter to me, I would confirm
that I have gathered materials and prepared a response in respect
of the complaint made by Mr Dean Nelson against me which I reject.
I have considered the allegation set out in the e-mail of 27th
January forwarded to me with your letter of the same date.
Before I send you my response I would be grateful
if you would clarify your procedures in cases like this. I note
you decided to investigate the complaint on the day you received
it. I have been told that you have written to Chris Winslow and
some others named in Mr Nelson`s letter prior to receiving my
response and without informing me that you had done so.
As I understand it, the procedure on receipt of a
complaint by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is that
she must first decide whether it has some substance to merit further
Paragraph 69 of the Guide to the Rules states:
"If the Commissioner is satisfied that sufficient
evidence has been tendered in support of the complaint to justify
his taking the matter further, he will ask the member to respond
to the complaint and will then conduct a preliminary investigation."
My expectation derived from this paragraph is inter-alia:
1. You will not decide to take a complaint further
unless sufficient evidence has been tendered.
2. You will not decide to conduct a preliminary investigation
until my response to the complaint is before you.
So far you have Mr Dean Nelson`s statements of belief.
Do you believe this to be "sufficient evidence"? Surely
he should be required to produce evidence before you decide to
proceed with the complaint.
On reading his letter to you it is clear that Mr
Nelson is not a witness to any direct fact bearing on the complaint.
You have told me that you have asked Mr Nelson for the tape recordings
he claims to possess. (I would be grateful if you would inform
me if you have made any further approaches to Mr Nelson and if
so how many of what nature.)
You ask me to make a response to the allegations
in Mr Nelson`s letter. Without the tapes it is very difficult
to do so since I do not know what they contain. Am I expected
to respond without knowing the full extent of the complaint or
the alleged evidence against me?
As mentioned earlier I understand that you have contacted
possible witnesses. It thus appears you are commencing an investigation
without having fully formulated the complaint and without having
obtained my response.
You will understand that I am concerned that your
actions appear at least premature. You are required to decide
inter alia whether a prima facie basis for the complaint against
me obtains. Your role is thus in part quasi-judicial. I have a
legitimate expectation that you will act in a procedurally fair
manner. You may wish to consider whether your actions to date
meet the test of procedural fairness.
I would suggest that you should not proceed further
in this matter. If Mr Nelson tenders evidence to substantiate
his allegations it would then fall to you to consider it. Only
then would you be in a position to decide whether or not to proceed.
If you are determined to press ahead at this stage
then I would be grateful if you would respond to the issues I
have raised with you. I will thereafter provide you with my response
to the complaint explaining why I reject it.
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
14 February 2000