Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. You were not?
  (Mr Rowley) Definitely not.

  161. Whose idea was it to tape Mr Reid?
  (Mr Rowley) For me to tape Mr Reid?

  162. Yes?
  (Mr Rowley) It was my idea.

  163. Did you discuss it with anybody else?
  (Mr Rowley) I discussed it with friends that I was very concerned that he seemed to be making threats towards me and I felt that I was in a very difficult position. On the one hand if I told the truth then these threats were coming towards me. It was not threats by somebody in the community, this was someone who was the Secretary of State for Scotland, a Member of the British Cabinet, basically telling me that if I told the truth then certain things may or may not happen. I took that very seriously as a threat. On the basis of that I decided that for my own safety I was going to try and get it on tape that he had threatened me.

  164. To be fair to Mr Reid, I am sure you will understand we seek to be about fairness, I am sure he will argue when he comes before the Committee that if we look at the transcript of what was said, he never in any way during the course of that conversation appears to be threatening you in any way?
  (Mr Rowley) I have not suggested that. Certainly I have not suggested that to the Commissioner. When I made that tape available I never suggested there was any threat on that particular tape.

  165. You did not feel you wanted to induce the threat you alleged to have taken place during the conversation? You have said you did tape it because of the problem of what you allege to be previous threats.
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  166. You did not feel in any way you wanted to?
  (Mr Rowley) No. I would not have tried to play with words to get John to threaten me again. I think that would have been pretty clear that that was what I had done. From my point of view it was simply to try and tape the conversation to try and wait and see if he came out with these threats again. Certainly I felt, as I say, it was a very extreme course of action I took in terms of making the tape but I felt that the threats that had been made against me were pretty extreme and I was left in the middle not knowing what to do because I knew I was going to tell the truth. From day one I decided I was going to tell the truth but I was feeling pretty threatened by a senior Member of Government who I had worked with over a period of a year or so.

  167. The tape did not indicate a repeat of any threat? Can I take you on to an area which interests me. You use the term "grey area".
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  168. Now, like us all you have probably been in the Labour Party for a life time.
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  169. Do you feel that political parties generally have a problem? You have been General Secretary, it is an important position. Do you feel that political parties more widely and generally have a problem with demarkation and the line between political activity and parliamentary activity? Do you feel there is a need for reform there? Do you feel all this may have happened simply because people do not really know where that grey line is? Can I put that as a proposition to you?
  (Mr Rowley) I genuinely believe that, for example, take John Maxton, I do not believe that John Maxton for a second thought he was really in serious breach of any rules. The reason I say that is not because I think John Maxton is not a clever man, I think it was custom and practice. I think these types of things have been practised before. That is why I believe had we simply acknowledged that, yes, there was a grey area in terms of the recruitment policies that we had operated with these people, had we acknowledged that and said "This is an area that needs to be cleaned up", if that is the right word "much more specific rules given", then that would have been acceptable. In terms of whether it is a grey area, I think it depends on the profile. For example, as the campaign for the Scottish Parliament progressed, we had the services of some very senior advisers in the Government and some of them had to resign as special advisers and go on to the Labour Party books for the course of the final part of the election campaign. It was clear, if you like, to people that you could not bring across advisers, etc, that would be paid by the Government. In the early days I think John Maxton genuinely did not believe he was breaking any rules. There was certainly never any suggestion of that and, as far as I was concerned, coming to the job new it was custom and practice. It was something that had been practised before in the Scottish Labour Party and I suspect it was something that was practised elsewhere.

  170. Do you feel it is more widespread as you feel it happened in the Labour Party? You go to all sorts of political functions and you see all sorts of people all over Scotland from the Labour Party, do you think it should be reformed?
  (Mr Rowley) The reason we became concerned in the first place, and the reason John Reid asked for Kevin Reid to be put on the Labour Party books, was because the issue had been raised in a national newspaper. The finger was being pointed at the Conservative Party. This may be the kind of area that has to be looked at. The Neill Committee has looked at a lot of the arrangements that are in place for party funding. It is an area which needs to be looked at, and perhaps then we would not be in the position we are in today with this particular instance.

Mr Foster

  171. You say the practice was something we should have come clean about. I want to know exactly what practice you are talking about in that context?
  (Mr Rowley) The practice was that we had employed two people who were employed and paid part-time by the Labour Party but were working full-time for the Labour Party and the other part of their salary was being paid for by MPs, MPs' research money. That was, if you like, the practice that had been in operation. That was the practice somebody leaked to The Observer journalist, Dean Nelson, and that was a practice where I believe when the thing came out we should have said "Yes, there was a grey area there". The lesson for us out of this is that you do not employ people with a political party that are also employed by individual Members of the House of Commons or Members of the Scottish Parliament or whatever it is because there is clearly a conflict between the two. That was the argument I had with John Reid when this thing first broke.

  172. It was not your argument that they were not working for the MPs as well but simply you believed it was wrong that the party should employ people who were, as well, being paid for by MPs when they were doing the work? (Mr Rowley) I was absolutely clear that neither of the two were working for MPs, they were working full-time for the Labour Party. I was very clear about that. John and I argued again about the definition of who was working for whom and who could be doing what in the evenings and at weekends. My view was very clear we had broken the rules. We had undoubtedly broken the rules. Had we not broken the rules John Reid would not have panicked in the first place and asked forcefully that Kevin be put on the books of the Labour Party. We were clearly breaking the rules. I think what I am saying to you is I suspect that over the years a lot of rules have been broken and the whole point when Labour came to power was we were going to clean this whole thing up, even where we were doing things that were not proper, we would acknowledge that and deal with it. That is what the Neill Committee was meant to be about. That was what we should have done. When this thing came out, it was a question for me, do you lie your way out of it, my view was that we should have learnt from previous experience and previous administrations that when people try and lie their way out of things they just tend to dig themselves deeper in. My view is that we should tell the truth but we should acknowledge this is a grey area. It is an area that for us, the lesson for us should have been never again will we employ people that are also employed with Members of Parliament or Members of the Scottish Parliament for that matter. I would have rather taken that course than have lied.

  173. I think I understand where you are coming from but I just want to be clear about this. Are you saying that the very fact that they were employed by Members of Parliament, and being paid part of their salary through the Office Costs Allowance should debar them from working for the Labour Party?
  (Mr Rowley) Certainly I believe that is the case. I think that is something whether it is the Neill Committee or whoever, they need to look at it. Yes, you are either working for an MP or you are employed by the Labour Party but clearly to be employed by both can create problems.

  174. Let me go on. Looking at the practicalities, you have been in politics a long time, what if they simply decide to work in a voluntary capacity for the Labour Party whilst employed by a Member of Parliament, or any party?
  (Mr Rowley) I think it is a grey area. People who are employed by MPs in constituencies, for example, whether it is the Labour Party or any other party, will undoubtedly get involved in some kind of work that is political. That is not what I am talking about here. What I am talking about is that the Labour Party as an employer employed people to work from a central office in a major campaign. At the same time these people were then being employed by MPs. I think that is where you have a problem and that is where the problem can be. It is not about everybody who is employed by an MP and has worked on constituency work themselves for an MP, I know there is an area there where we can have a cross over both ways, that would be in any party. This is about centrally the party actually employing people who are also employed by MPs. In this case that might have been playing with words but my view is that we should have at least come clean and said there was a problem and acknowledged that and said that we would not do it again.

  175. There was a difference of opinion between you, I think, and Mr Maxton, and Mr Reid, as to whether they were also working on their parliamentary duties.
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  176. Can you tell me how did you resolve that conflict? Why did you believe the position was other than Mr Reid and Mr Maxton were stating it to be?
  (Mr Rowley) The first point was that I was in charge of the Labour Party in Scotland at that time so I do know the arrangements that I entered into. I would be lying if I said anything other than I reached an agreement with these people: John Maxton through Ann-Marie Whyte and John Reid directly in discussions with him that both Kevin and Chris would be working for the Labour Party full-time but we would be paying half of the salary, a part-time salary of some sort or another and the other part coming from here. I know that because I was the person who was in charge of the monies of the Labour Party in Scotland. I tried to point this out to John. He and I have had these discussions, so now to try to pretend to each other that it was somehow different and not the case; to pretend anything other than and simply to lie; we had these differences of opinions. In discussions that we had John said to me, "Can you say what Kevin did in his spare time in the evenings or at the weekends?" I said, "No, of course I can't say what he did at the weekends." It was not my business to ask any member of staff what they were doing with their spare time. It was at this point, "when Kevin was working for me then. He was working for me in the evenings and whatever". It is fine for him to say that. Obviously we had that arrangement.

  177. What I did not quite understand is what is wrong with an arrangement that he could be available "full-time" for the Labour Party and you paid him for half the time, if he was also doing his work for which he was paid under the office cost allowance? Is that not an interpretation which could be on the offer which was made?
  (Mr Rowley) It is the interpretation that John Reid does put on that. That is not the case.

  178. How do you know?
  (Mr Rowley) Because I was there. I was the person who was in charge of the party. I know the agreement we made with these people. We would have Chris and Kevin working full-time for the Labour Party. We would be paying them part-time and they would be paid part-time by both John and by John Maxton.

  179. What was full-time in your definition?
  (Mr Rowley) Full-time in terms of Chris Winslow was certainly a lot more hours than Kevin Reid. John made the point that Kevin went home in the evenings. He did not work every weekend. I would not hesitate to say about Chris Winslow, on the other hand. He was in a Policy and Research Unit, focusing very much on economics issues. He came from the university and had studied economics. He was very, very sharp and very good. Full-time on his part was certainly early morning, well into the evenings, in terms of Chris Winslow. He worked weekends. Most of the staff on the campaign were working very long hours. In terms of full-time for Kevin, as I mentioned to you and the Commissioner, Kevin would be there early morning. Once we moved for the operation into Delta House, Kevin would be there very early to prepare the morning briefs and would leave after lunchtime, after he had the lunchtime news bulletins, which would be round about 1 or 1.30.

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