Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. Do you know who was the origin of the story?
  (Mr Rafferty) I have no idea. I was very circumspect with him and reported his calls to me immediately.

  41. I am sorry?
  (Mr Rafferty) I reported his call to me immediately.

  42. I cannot hear you.

  43. I was very circumspect and I reported his call to me immediately.

  44. To whom?
  (Mr Rafferty) To the General Secretary, and asked that she inform the First Minister that this inquiry had been made.

  45. Do you think these things are abnormal? You have followed this story, and I understand there is more in The Herald in Scotland today. Is that correct?
  (Mr Rafferty) I have no idea.

  46. Is there anything abnormal about what is happening? Does the word "normality" about all this strike you as odd, or do you feel that these are extraordinary developments that you feel may have taken place?
  (Mr Rafferty) I could not say. I had never worked in that capacity in a general election campaign before. I do not know.

Mr Forth

  47. I am still not entirely clear as to what hours you would estimate these individuals, Hilliard, Winslow and Reid, worked in the campaign office for, let us say, the first three months—January to March, you have talked about, roughly speaking - and then the final month. Could you try and pin that down a little bit more for us, as to whether typically they would be in the office originally from, I think you are indicating, 8.30/9 in the morning and then, latterly, from, maybe, 7 in the morning? Typically, until when? Have you got some idea of the amount of time that you were aware of them being in the campaign HQ during these periods?
  (Mr Rafferty) To be clear about this, Suzanne Hilliard worked in media monitoring. They worked shifts, so that they were available—there was a great debate about this because previously the first editions were not covered. So the system was developed and the people engaged on media monitoring worked shifts. So she would be there sometimes and not there at other times, until the last month when, I think, she took over from Kevin Reid and was there most of the time. In terms of Chris Winslow, I understood him to work full-time for the Labour Party in the campaign, and that was my understanding of Kevin Reid's employment as well.

  48. From January onwards?
  (Mr Rafferty) Yes.

  49. You used the phrase "most of the time" in connection with Hilliard. Could you be a little bit more specific?
  (Mr Rafferty) I cannot, really. There was a group of, maybe, ten of them taking turns at coming in late at night getting the first editions and then coming in very early in the morning.

  50. Certainly in terms of Winslow, you would use the term "full-time from January"?
  (Mr Rafferty) Yes.

  51. That would be 8/9 in the morning until what—late afternoon?
  (Mr Rafferty) About 6 in the evening.

  Mr Forth: Thank you.

Mr Foster

  52. Mr Rafferty, I want to ask more about this conversation from Mr Chris Winslow. When you received this call, did it start with this suggestion in September 1999 that he was worried about his hours and the allegations that were being made?
  (Mr Rafferty) The circumstances of the conference call were that we had learned on the Thursday or Friday previously that The Observer were going to print a story about—or were going to print allegations about -lobbying activities with one of the ministers of the Scottish Parliament. The First Minister had taken the view, as the minister himself, that this matter should be referred to the Standards Committee. It was the first event of that gravity. We understood that in the transcript that The Observer were going to print, special advisers were going to be named, so I organised a conference call on the Saturday to tell the advisers that this was about to happen. It was during that conference call that Chris Winslow raised the issue with me and he said "I hope the newspapers don't now make mischief of ... "—I think these were his words—" ... of the fact that I have worked for John Maxton and Kevin Reid has worked for his father."

  53. So when he said that, presumably, there were two interpretations possible: one was that he obviously did not want mischief to be made, but that may be mischief for valid or invalid reasons.
  (Mr Rafferty) Yes.

  54. Did you distinguish whether or not he was concerned that it was simply mischief for invalid reasons or mischief for valid reasons?
  (Mr Rafferty) I was not in a position to make that judgment. I was very concerned that, perhaps, we had yet another difficulty. So I referred the matter to the First Minister.

  55. When you reported this concern on, I think you said, to the General Secretary, did you give an opinion as to whether or not it was a justified concern?
  (Mr Rafferty) I am sorry. Just to be clear, I was asked the question about the first contact from The Observer newspaper, and that occurred a considerable time later—I think in January. At that point I informed the General Secretary.

  56. So not before then?
  (Mr Rafferty) Not before then.

  Mr Bottomley: January or June, The Observer?

Mr Campbell-Savours

  57. January.
  (Mr Rafferty) January. Late in January.

Mr Foster

  58. If you had been concerned about impropriety when you talked about mischief, would you not have, at that time, passed on your concerns to someone more senior?
  (Mr Rafferty) I did. I informed the First Minister that this had been raised.

  59. Did you express a view to him as to whether it was a justified concern or simply a mischief based on invalid reasons?
  (Mr Rafferty) I think, as I said clearly to the Commissioner, we were not in a position to know the facts of this. I had no access, I did not know who worked for who or on what basis they had been employed, but the possibility of a serious impropriety had been raised with me and I had reported that to the First Minister.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 22 December 2000