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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 20:50 GMT
Key extracts from the Filkin letter
Michael Martin
The letter was sent to Michael Martin
In a letter to Commons Speaker Michael Martin, parliament's standards watchdog Elizabeth Filkin accuses him of undermining her role, attacks MPs for applying pressure against her and criticises proposed changes to her job.

Here are key extracts from the letter, released on Tuesday.

On the actions of some MPs she has investigated:

The degree of pressure applied has been quite remarkable.

In some cases, this has been applied directly by Members, some holding high office.

In other cases, it has been applied indirectly by unchecked whispering campaigns and hostile press briefings, some, I regret to have been informed, executed by named civil servants.

On co-operation received during her investigations:

Fairness to both Member and complainant required that the investigations established the facts both accurately and fully.

Parliament's own code of conduct and rules requires Members to be open to scrutiny.

Unfortunately, this requirement has not always been met by Members being investigated.

In a few instances, Members have been unwilling to provide simple information or have otherwise obstructed the inquiry.

On changes to the commissioner's job made by the House of Commons commission, which is chaired by Mr Martin:

I am sure that a majority of Members, like the public, wish to see Parliament maintain standards of conduct defined by a published code of conduct and rules laid down in the House.

I am sorry that you have decided to undermine the office established by the House for this purpose.

I suspect that most people, including many Members, will regret your decision as much as I do.

For my part, I cannot reapply for such a post where independence is unprotected and the resources are not supplied to ensure justice.

On future commissioners having to re-apply for their job every three years:

Job security in such posts matters because it allows, where necessary, conclusions to be reached which may be unpopular with the employer in the short term.

On cutting the commissioner's hours by 25%:

In my experience, this will be less than half the hours required by the post, even if the staff support were to be increased to the correct level.

Based on the well-documented evidence of the past three years, these changed terms of employment will make it impossible to provide a proper service to Parliament and the public.

On the affect critical reports could now have on the commissioner's post:

It has, in my view, been made clear that a parliamentary commissioner for standards, appointed on the basis of an initial short first term, will not be reappointed where, despite thorough and fair investigations, conclusions have been reached which are unwelcome to powerful individuals or interest groups.

On Commons Leader Robin Cook telling MPs her post was being re-advertised after one term in the interests of openness and transparency:

This is hard to accept.

This arrangement was not required in the case of my predecessor, nor, it appears from the published advertisement, will it be for my successor.

See also:

11 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Vaz inquiry widens
15 Dec 00 | UK Politics
MP censured over speaker bets
23 Mar 01 | UK Politics
MPs warned on sleaze
24 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Robinson faces three week Commons ban
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