Suicide MP had made death threat at Commons

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The Independent Online
Friends of the dead Labour MP Gordon McMaster stopped him jumping into the Thames from the terrace of the House of Commons, it emerged last night.

Roger Stott, a close friend of Mr McMaster, who last week gassed himself in his car at home, said the friends at the Commons had persuaded Mr McMaster not to go ahead with his threat to kill himself.

Mr Stott said he could not help blaming himself for failing to do more to prevent the tragedy. "I didn't do enough. I think collectively as MPs we should do something to help MPs like Gordon who are clearly under pressure," he said.

"We need a parliamentary system to help MPs in stress. It crosses all parties and it happened to Iain Mills [a Tory MP who died after heavy drinking]."

Mr McMaster, the MP for Paisley South, left a suicide note in which he was reported to have condemned two colleagues, Lord Dixon, a former deputy chief whip, and Tommy Graham, MP for the neighbouring seat of Renfrewshire West. Both deny any involvement in a whispering campaign and unsubstantiated smears about him being homosexual and suffering from Aids.

Mr McMaster asked for a copy to be sent to the Prime Minister and for the letter to be published. Close friends of the MP said it was unlikely that the Government would publish the letter which was clearly written when his mind was disturbed.

The chief whip, Nick Brown, is carrying out an inquiry at the request of the Prime Minister into the allegations contained in the note, but Downing Street sources said it could take some weeks.

The whispering campaign against Mr McMaster, and the hatred within the Paisley Labour Party that lay behind it, could come under the spotlight if the Crown Office in Edinburgh decides to hold a fatal accident inquiry into the MP's death. Contents of the suicide note might also be made public if such an inquiry were held.

However FAIs - similar to an inquest in England - are by no means automatic in Scotland and last night official sources were doubtful if one would be ordered.

An investigation by Strathclyde police concluded there were no suspicious circumstances behind the MP's suicide. The police sent a report to the Procurator Fiscal for Paisley, but it would be for his superiors at the Crown Office to decide whether further action should be taken. The police have received no request to pursue the case further or investigate claims of a poison-pen campaign against Mr McMaster.

Fatal accident inquiries are normally ordered when the Crown Office consider issues of public interest are involved, such as the Dunblane shooting or accidents on North Sea oil rigs.

Meanwhile, Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, came under pressure to speed up a decision on the future use of pesticides which may have played a part in Mr McMaster's decision to commit suicide.

A former professional gardener, Mr McMaster believed he was suffering from the chronic fatigue syndrome ME and that it might have been caused by organophosphates which he used as a pesticide.

Mr McMaster was a supporter of the All Party Group on Organophosphate Pesticides. Its leader, Paul Tyler,wrote to Dr Cunningham calling for an urgent meeting on banning the chemicals. He said: "I hope you will now agree that our meeting is all the more urgent, if only to ensure that our former colleague's commitment to help the victims of OP poisoning is carried on."