Examination of Witness (Questions 180
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
180. So what you tell me in the case of Mr Winslow,
he was working exceedingly long hours, as indeed was Mr Reid,
during the time before the Election, but by then Mr Reid was employed,
was he not, by the Labour Party?
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
181. Going back before then, was Mr Winslow
working long hours even in the early stages?
(Mr Rowley) Yes. It was very a difficult year; very,
very hard throughout that year, so he was working much harder.
182. Was there a clocking-in or clocking-out
system in operation?
(Mr Rowley) No.
183. How could you assess the hours that he
was working from your position as General Secretary?
(Mr Rowley) Once we moved into Delta House it was
easy to access because it was an open plan office and as well
as that I had an office at the top end of the open plan office.
It was a small office but generally I worked out on the floor
along with the staff, so I was there in the evenings and he was
there in the evenings, and he was putting in a lot of hours. Certainly
in Chris's case, I remember in one instance he was told by one
senior politician to go home because he had the flu and was still
working very hard, but we were under a lot of pressure and everybody
was working hard.
184. May I ask you: you say you came to a realisation
that what was happening was wrong. When did that Damascus road
to conversion occur?
(Mr Rowley) I am not sure what you mean by Damascus
road to conversion.
185. You say one moment that it came to your
notice or you acknowledge, well, you knewlet me put it
that wayyou knew all the way through what the arrangement
was that you had made with Mr Reid or Mr Maxton, indirectly with
Mr Maxton. Is that correct?
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
186. Did you, when you made that arrangement,
regard it to be improper?
(Mr Rowley) I do not think I gave it that much thought.
What I was told when the first arrangement was put in place, that
this was something that happened in the past. I was given names
of people my predecessor had been involved with in similar arrangements.
That this was almost, to use the words, custom and practice. I
took it that this was something that happened previously. We were
absolutely desperate to get staff and we made these arrangements,
so I am not going to say to you that I did not know that it was
an improper thing to do. What I am saying to you is that I really
did not give it that much thought. Certainly, from the point where
John Reid raised it with me and raised it as being something that
was not proper, something which could cause problems, obviously
from that point on I was very much aware that it was something
that was not necessarily the right thing to do. Yes, we continued
to use that practice right until the Election.
187. Your experience of party administration
has been over a long time. I would put it to you that if what
had been put to you had been at an earlier stage, namely at the
agreement that aid would be available full-time, but paid at the
same time through the office cost allowance, that is up in lights.
That was the agreement. That is up in lights that that was improper,
(Mr Rowley) I am saying to you, I am not claiming
that I was somehow innocent up to the point where John Reid drew
it to my attention. What I am saying to you is that I did not
give it much thought. It was something that was practice. I have
already tried to say to the Committee that my view is that it
is probably something which has been practised much more widely
than simply two individuals in that particular case. Therefore,
I did not give it much thought. I am not claiming that I did not
know there was anything wrong. I am simply saying that I did not
think about it much. We were very desperate for staff. We had
major staff shortages within the party at Scotland at that time.
We were 14 points behind in the opinion polls. We had real problems
outwith the party itself. The party was in some sense in absolute
chaos and had been very badly managed. Therefore, I was very glad
he offered his staff.
188. Is it not possible that the reason why
you took that view at the time, rather than now you looking at
it in retrospect, was that Mr Reidthis is his explanation
- which is the least(?) one, had offered you an individual to
work full-time whilst he continued to employ that individual,
namely his son. That is why you thought at the time, "That
(Mr Rowley) No. I am absolutely clear on this. There
are two things for me to do. One is to tell a lie and say, "Yes,
there was some arrangement in place." The other is to tell
the truth. I am telling the truth and I have told the truth from
day one: that the arrangement I made with John Reid was that Kevin
Reid would be employed by the party on a part-time basis, but
would work full-time for the party and his salary would be made
up by John's allowances. That was the arrangement by Westminster
that I made with John; the discussion I had with John; and if
I say anything that wavers from that I would be lying. That was
the arrangement that was put in place. That arrangement stayed
in place until John got himself into a right panic over some article
that appeared in the paper down here and started to phone me,
and when I did not reply started phoning others. That is true
and is exactly what happened.
189. Is the fact that there was a likely newspaper
article something which would have been of concern to you politically
whether or not the issue was, as you expressed, in a grey area
or outright dishonest?
(Mr Rowley) We did not think it concerned me. The
first I knew of the article was when John raised it with me. He
faxed the article to me at some point, so I read the article which
was on about Conservative MPs and Conservatives researchers working
for the Conservative Party. So at that point, that is when we
moved him on the books at the request of his father.
190. Can I ask you, looking back on it, do you
accept on what you say in your evidence today, that it was in
fact dishonest to agree with Mr Reidif indeed, on your
interpretation, namely going to pay through the Westminster allowance
for someone to work for you as the Labour Partythat this
was outright dishonesty on your part?
(Mr Rowley) Clearly this is a breach of the rules
of this place. What I have said to you is that I did not really
give it a lot of thought. You can use the word dishonest but that
is playing with words. My view of it was that when the thing came
out we should have described it as a grey area; and coming from
that point of view, tried to explain it from that point of view.
Clearly we were in breach of the rules. I have to accept responsibility
for that. I have not run from that. From the moment that this
was first raised with me and I realised it had been leaked, I
knew I was implicated because I was the person in charge of the
party in Scotland. My choices at that point were to lie about
that or tell the truth, and in telling the truth to acknowledge
that I was clearly wrong, along with other people. I chose to
tell the truth because, first, I was brought up to tell the truth;
and, secondly, from a political perspective, after looking at
the last administrations and how they managed them, they got themselves
into much more trouble because when you lie it is crazy politically;
when clearly people were given this story and so to lie would
be crazy politically. Even if you forget the moral argument of
whether you lie or tell the truth, politically from our perspective
it was crazy to do anything but tell the truth at that point.
191. So when you use the words "a grey
area", as Mr Campbell-Savours said earlier on, what do you
mean by that? What is grey about that? What is grey about a deal
along the lines of your earlier allegation?
(Mr Rowley) I think it is a play of words. From that
point of view it is a play of words at the point this story come
out. My view was that we should not lie about the fact that we
had employed these people by using Westminster resources to do
so. We had to become clean, we had to be honest, but I do believeand
I sincerely believe this todaythat it was not the first
time that this practice had been used. Certainly not the first
time in Scotland and I suspect not the first time the practice
had been used elsewhere, not just by the Labour Party but other
parties. The whole point when we came to power as a party was
that we were going to clean up politics. We were going to get
people's confidence. Clearly in saying that we would have breached
the rules. I pointed out one example earlier. If we had used the
Blind Trustand we acknowledge now that this was the wrong
thing to doI saw this in a similar light. So a play of
words or whatever, I saw it politically as the point of view of,
"This is a grey area." We accept that. Yes, we should
not have used these employment practices but we would put it right.
We will put it right by saying never again; will the party centrally
employ people who are not also being employed by Members of Parliament
or Scottish Members of Parliament. I saw that as a correct way
to go forward and not tell lies. It might be playing with words
but it was not lying. That was an argument I had for over an hour
with John Reid, when I was in Lerwick and he phoned me, I said
that: "This is the way it should go. This is the way we should
handle this. We should be upfront, we should be honest."
(Mr Rowley) Was this when he said to you in the interview,
that was taped, that you should tell the truth?
(Mr Rowley) He told me that this is the truth, which
is that he employed Kevin to work for him. We are at loggerheads
over that. John's view is that this is the truth. It seems to
me that his view is that he said he stopped it very strongly but,
as far as I am concerned, if I went along with that point of view
it would not be the truth.
192. The difference between you and Mr Reid
is not simply that there was an agreement that young Mr Reid,
Kevin Reid, should work for you full-time, should be available
full-time, but whether or not he continued to work for Mr Reid
at the same time. Is that, in a nutshell, the difference between
you, do you think?
(Mr Rowley) Yes. In the discussions I have had with
John Reid I have acknowledged that. I am pretty sure, as his employer,
that the arrangement that I have said was made, was made.
193. But that, in a sense, is distinct from
your allegation that there was something improper. All your evidence
really amounts to, is this not true, is that Mr Reid offered you
Kevin's services full-time and that you would then have to pay
half his salary?
(Mr Rowley) The first point to make is that I have
not made any allegations. From day one I have not made any allegations
against anyone. These stories were leaked to a newspaper and I
had to make a decision in the very early days of what I was going
to do and the decision was to tell the truth. Since that point
I have told the truth. When asked I have told the truth. I have
not alleged anything against anybody. I have simply told the truth
when I have been asked. That is the case here. That particular
point you made is that Kevin ReidI do not know what Kevin
Reid did when he went home, I do not know what he did at weekendsbut
all I know is that when asked about the arrangements that I had
then made with his father, in terms of his employment, I have
explained them and have been truthful in that. When asked why
Kevin Reid was put on the books for the Labour Party full-time
I have explained that and been honest about that.
194. It would be possible that both you and
Dr Reid are telling the truth?
(Mr Rowley) No, it could not be possible that both
of us were telling the truth; because John denies the arrangement
that was made.
195. That we will need to decide; but that is
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
196. I would like to go back to the threats,
certainly perceived threats; one was possible prosecution and
the other was non-selection in Central Fife. Were there any other
(Mr Rowley) No, they were the two. What I picked up
in Scotlandbecause I still do some work with MSPs in the
Scottish Parliamentis that some of the people, particularly
the younger people that were coming down here and being interviewed
here or up there by the Commissioner, certainly felt under massive
pressure. None of them have actually said they were threatened
as such. These were the two main areas that I perceived. It was
not that I would not be selected in Central Fife, but if I was
selected there were question marks over it being endorsed. I have
to be endorsed by the Labour Party.
197. What actually happened? Were you not selected?
(Mr Rowley) I did not get selected.
198. Is there any possibility at all you could
have misunderstood, misconstrued or mis-perceived the arrangement
you have so graphically described?
(Mr Rowley) No. That was the arrangement that was
in place. The first time I got a phone call about that I was totally
taken aback how this managed to be out in the first place. I am
clear about the arrangement.
199. This must have caused you a lot of anxiety,
and maybe a few friendships as well?
(Mr Rowley) I think in terms of the Scottish Labour
Party (and I was told by somebody the other day) the view was
that there was an acceptance I had not leaked the story; that
somebody had leaked the story and opened the door but I then walked
through the door and that was somehow a betrayal of the Labour
Party. In the short-term, yes, it has certainly given me a great
deal of grief; it has certainly cost me quite a number of friends
that I have had for many years. In the longer term, I have been
a member of the Labour Party since I left school and have been
an active member; I have held positions in the Labour Party and
have been a council leader; the Labour Party I believe in, in
the longer term, will support people telling the truth. I think
we learned that from previous administrations, and perhaps you
serve as an example of that.