File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner
Mr John Maxton
23 March 2000
Meeting with Mr John Maxtonpresent John Maxton and Elizabeth
I had had several inconclusive telephone calls with
Mr Maxton in which he had challenged the process of my investigation.
He said that I should close the investigation down as Mr Nelson
had not provided any evidence. Challenged me to produce evidence.
Said that he must hear any tapes which Mr Nelson had. Said he
would be reporting me to the Chairman of the Committee and to
the Speaker. During the last telephone call of this nature I had
said to him that I didn`t feel that we were making any head way
with me giving him my answers on the telephone and wondered if
he would like to come and see me and I would try to explain the
process that I was using. I stressed that I understood that being
subject to an investigation was worrying and concerning. Mr Maxton
arrived and repeated the same messages that he had set out in
our various telephone conversations.
Mr Maxton is of the view that I have insufficient
evidence to begin any sort of inquiry. And that I had therefore
contravened the Rules in the Code of Conduct about how I should
proceed. I explained to him several times what my procedure was.
I said that when I got a complaint what I had to decide wasis
there sufficient evidence to support/in support of the complaint
to justify my taking the matter further. If so I asked the Member
to respond to the complaint and then conduct a preliminary investigation.
That is what I had done in this case. As soon as I had received
the e-mail from Mr Nelson I had forwarded it to Mr Maxton for
his comment and I had begun preliminary inquiries to discover
whether I should proceed. I explained again that if at any time
I decide there is no matter to concern me I can close an investigation
down and I would report that briefly to the Committee. I said
the process this time was lengthy because there were a lot of
people that I had to see and that I had to write to. I assured
him that when I had completed those inquiriesif there were
any matters that were at variance with what he had told me I would
put them to him so that he could comment on them of challenge
them. I stressed that I had not made up my mind as to whether
there was anything or something in these complaints. I stressed
that I had responsibilities to both complainant and Member of
Parliament and they were that I must treat each equally fairly
and I must look rigorously at what each side had said.
Mr Maxton was very agitated and cross about this
description. He felt it was most unfair, he felt he had been damaged
by the allegations and that my saying I was conducting an investigation
had added to this.
I said that I knew that this was an issue but in
this case as in many others the matter was in the public domain
and the newspapers were inquiring about it prior to any complaint
I explained I never volunteer information to the
press about complaints that I am undertaking. However, if the
press are informed about complaints either from complainants,
or others, or indeed from a Member of Parliament complained about,
and then they approach the office and ask if an investigation
is underway, I always answer that question honestly. I also inform
people who ask if I have completed an investigation and reported
it to the Committee. I always explain that I can give no further
information until the Committee publishes its report and mine
and then I will be glad to answer questions to clarify the report.
Mr Maxton went to great lengths to tell me that he had contacted
nobody since my inquiries began and had no conversations with
others about it. However, when I mentioned to him that I had understood
that he contacted Mr Nelson, he said "oh he reported that
to you did he" he said "I told him how disgusted I was
with what he had done". He then did say to me that he had
had a conversation about these matters with John Reid. He also
said that he had consulted lawyers and that everybody was agreed
that it was quite improper what was happening that I had broken
the procedure for complaints.
I said that I was sorry we had to disagree but I
was afraid all we could do was to disagree and that it would be
entirely up to the Committee to decide when I reported to them
whether they felt that I had followed the procedures properly.
He said it was not entirely up to the Committee, I was an employee
of the House and he was going to take this further and he would
be thinking about what he should do. He said if I decided that
if there was nothing further to investigate at any point he would
expect a letter of apology from me and he would then decide whether
he should take legal action. I thanked him for coming to see me
and said we should agree to disagree for the time being and that
I sincerely hoped my inquiry would not take much longer because
I realised how concerning it was for people who were subject to