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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 22:17 GMT
Filkin 'fails to prove hostile campaign'
Speaker says there was no plot to 'undermine' Filkin
Outgoing Commons sleaze watchdog Elizabeth Filkin has failed to prove her claims that a "whispering campaign" was waged against her, according to Commons Speaker Michael Martin.

A spokesman for the speaker said Mr Martin would be repeating his request that Ms Filkin substantiated her allegations.


The most alarming development at the time was this whispering campaign which coincided with Elizabeth Filkin's investigation into certain high profile MPs

Martin Bell
Former MP
But former MP Martin Bell maintained there had been a whispering campaign against Ms Filkin which had coincided with her investigations into "certain high profile MPs".

Ms Filkin wrote to the speaker to give details of her complaints that MPs and officials briefed journalists against her.

But Mr Martin's office said she had named none of the people she believed tried to undermine her as she conducted a series of high-level investigations into politicians.

The parliamentary standards commissioner, who recently announced she would not be reapplying for her job, has apparently been warned not to publish her letter by Mr Martin.

She has said journalists were among those who have told her about the "powerful individuals" behind the hostile briefings.

Mr Bell, who successfully defeated the disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton in 1997, said: "The most alarming development at the time was this whispering campaign which coincided with Elizabeth Filkin's investigation into certain high profile MPs.

"Everybody knows there was a whispering campaign and I don't think she should be required to substantiate it."

Evidence challenge

Mr Martin chairs the House of Commons Commission, the body charged with appointing a successor to Ms Filkin.

Earlier this month he asked the sleaze watchdog to provide details to back up claims she had come under pressure from MPs.

He challenged her to name the civil servants she believed had briefed against her.

Peter Bottomley
Mr Bottomley said Martin Bell should get involved
In a statement, his office said: "In the judgement of the House of Commons Commission, Mrs Filkin's response fails to provide the evidence requested.

"No members or civil servants are named in her letter."

Earlier Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, who sits on the Commons' standards and privileges committee suggested former BBC journalist Mr Bell should look into whether Ms Filkin's letter should be published or kept secret.

But Mr Bell said his phone had remained silent before going on to suggest that some MPs had deliberately tried to undermine Ms Filkin.

He said: "Some MPs would go quite legitimately to the speaker and say 'look the system isn't working, it drags us into disrepute'.

"Others would bend the ear of MPs - especially MPs they know on the standards and privileges committee - and it was an attempt to undermine her."

Witch-hunt

Martin Bell
No ring for Bell
Labour MP David Winnick, who has been a prominent defender of Ms Filkin, said the three main political parties were guilty of a witch-hunt against her.

He said: "There is no doubt at all in my mind that the parliamentary commissioner for standards has been the subject of a sustained campaign to get her out of her job.

"This campaign has been going on almost from the time she was appointed.

"There has been a witch-hunt against her. This witch-hunt has involved all the main parties in the House."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andy Hosken
"The timing is not good for her"
Former Independent MP, Martin Bell
"Of course there was a whispering campaign"
See also:

21 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Campaign against watchdog was 'real'
11 Dec 01 | UK Politics
'No plot' to undermine watchdog
07 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Standards body backs MPs watchdog
06 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Sleaze watchdog's plea to MPs
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Speaker hits back in sleaze row
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Sleazebuster's high-profile scalps
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Profile of Elizabeth Filkin
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