Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 180 - 199)



  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 knew—let me put it that way—you 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, surely?
  (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 Reid—this 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 sounds okay".
  (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 Reid—if indeed, on your interpretation, namely going to pay through the Westminster allowance for someone to work for you as the Labour Party—that 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 believe—and I sincerely believe this today—that 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 Trust—and we acknowledge now that this was the wrong thing to do—I 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 Reid—I do not know what Kevin Reid did when he went home, I do not know what he did at weekends—but 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 your view?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

Mr Bell

  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 threats?
  (Mr Rowley) No, they were the two. What I picked up in Scotland—because I still do some work with MSPs in the Scottish Parliament—is 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.

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