Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 220 - 239)



  220. You said you worked for Dunfermline East, is that the Chancellor's seat?
  (Mr Rowley) That was the CLP secretary in Dunfermline East.

  221. You were paid, you said earlier?
  (Mr Rowley) I worked for the Party, and back in the 1980s we did a massive recruitment campaign and people in the Party were being paid by the Party for that.

  222. You were paid by the Party—because it appeared earlier that you seemed to be saying you were paid out of the Chancellor's pocket? That is how it came over to me.
  (Mr Rowley) No, I was never paid by the Fees Office. The Party in Dunfermline put a fund together to employ students to do work on recruitment and I was employed at that time in Dunfermline East to do that.

  223. Has the Chancellor put money into this fund?
  (Mr Rowley) I do not know if the Chancellor put money into the fund. What I am saying is that the Party had a fund.

  224. When you said earlier that he was going to be paid for it out of his pocket—
  (Mr Rowley) What I said earlier was that I have worked for an MP's office and worked for an MP. To be absolutely clear and clarify, if there is a need for clarity on it, certainly I have not been paid by the MP for Dunfermline East in the past.

  225. Moving on to when you left the Labour Party, it does not appear it was in very happy circumstances. Would you like to tell me a little bit about how you felt having been General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, what, a year, quite a short time?
  (Mr Rowley) It is no secret that my view very much was that when I went into the job, in terms of the Scottish Labour Party, the Party was in an absolute mess. Kier Hardie House leaked like a sieve. In the months leading up to my appointment there was a bitter battle in the Scottish press, people briefing against each other and the whole thing had gone disastrously wrong, in my opinion. We were 14 points behind in the opinion polls, and had the first Scottish General Election for this first Scottish Parliament in 300 years so it was a pretty tough year. A lot happened in that year. There were a lot of people drafted in. At the end of the day, it was a very tough year. My view at the end of that very tough year was that I would only start to do my job once the election was out of the road, once the place was clear of the many bodies that had been parachuted in to try and support the campaign, and that was the time it was correct to start modernising and building the Labour Party in Scotland. Obviously I felt unhappy at not being given the opportunity to do that; but it became apparent to me that there was no way I could stay in my job because I did not have the support of my superiors in London, so I left the job.

  226. Margaret McDonagh, the General Secretary of the Labour Party, told you she wanted you to go after just a year?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  227. How did you feel about that I would have felt bitter.
  (Mr Rowley) To begin with I felt very unhappy. I have been in the Labour Party since a teenager. I fought for 18 years and never knew anything but a Tory Government. My loyalty remained absolute and total to the Labour Party. I think the point you are trying to get is the suggestion by John Maxton that somehow these are bitter people running about trying to take revenge. I was absolutely clear that—when I left the Labour Party, and held a meeting with all the staff and said to them I had decided to tender my resignation and that things were not working out properly—I believed it was in my best interests and in the Labour Party's best interests for me to leave at that point. Those were the discussions that took place with the staff and I made absolutely clear my total and absolute commitment to the Labour Party. Can I say to you that total and absolute commitment is as strong today as it was when I walked into that job over two years ago. So there is no question on my part—

  228. So you were unhappy that—
  (Mr Rowley) If you are getting to the point, there is no question on my part, one, of bitterness, two, I would never, ever do anything that would damage the Labour Party, because it is the only opportunity for working people in this country—

  229. Do you not feel that what you are saying today could be potentially very damaging to the Labour Party?
  (Mr Rowley) Absolutely and that was the dilemma—

  230. How do you reconcile that?
  (Mr Rowley) That was the dilemma I faced. I think it was the dilemma that others faced. It was a question whether you told the truth and possibly damaged the Labour Party, or whether you try and lie. From the perspective of the way I was brought up, it was not hard for me to say I was going to tell the truth, but from a political perspective—and that was the point I tried to make earlier—I believed it was right for everybody to tell the truth. I argued with John Reid about this very fact. The first time Dean Nelson actually contacted me re this story, I contacted my predecessor, and she said to me, "Tell the truth. Don't get yourself dragged down with this. You are going for a seat in Central Fife. He is going down, he is going to want to take people with him", and she told me that he had asked her only the day before to destroy some evidence. So the person I took over from, in answer to your question, was very firm and clear with me, "Tell the truth." That is what I have done throughout.

  231. But it appears that is linked to your wanting to get selected to stand for Parliament. Are you still looking for a seat?
  (Mr Rowley) No, I only went for that seat because it was a chance I felt I had to take. I come from Fife—

  232. So do I.
  (Mr Rowley) Right. The seat had been vacated because McLeish had gone to the Scottish Parliament. Had it not been a Fife seat, I would never have gone for a seat at that point. It was simply it was a Fife seat. I used to be Leader of the Fife Council, Fife politics was what I was brought up on, if you like, and therefore it was a chance I could not miss. As it turned out, I did not get it but a friend of mine that I worked with in local government for many years did get it, so that was that, and again there was no sense of bitterness. There was disappointment but—

  233. But losing the job as General Secretary must have affected your chances.
  (Mr Rowley) No, I do not think so. At the end of the day people say, "Why was it only a year?" If I want to write a book on the year in the job, I am sure I would be able to explain it, but from the point of view of this Committee I did not leave that job with any bitterness whatsoever in terms of the Labour Party.

  234. So you can say very honestly, frankly and openly, that although you were unhappy to lose the job, there was no bitterness, you did not bear a grudge, you are not being motivated by any sense of malice?
  (Mr Rowley) There is a saying, "What's meant for you won't go by you." I was disappointed, very disappointed, to begin with, there is no doubt about that, but I tended to take that perspective on it. Since then I have started working in a lot of areas I had not worked in previously, with trade unions, a lot of the work I am doing I am really enjoying, I have spent the last year touring around England working for the TUC, I have really enjoyed that, so there is no bitterness on my part in that sense. I am very disappointed because I do believe had I been given the opportunity, the Scottish Labour Party would have been in a much stronger position now and its membership would be rising, not falling, but I cannot prove that. My loyalty remains absolutely to the Labour Party. We are making a difference and we will continue to make a difference and that commitment remains.

  235. Who do you think gave the story to Dean Nelson? Who briefed Dean Nelson?
  (Mr Rowley) I have my views on it.

  236. Do you wish to share them with the Committee?
  (Mr Rowley) If that is an appropriate question. If you want me to give you my views, I will, but—

  237. You have said it was not you.
  (Mr Rowley) It was definitely not me. There was nobody more surprised than I when I got a phone call from Dean Nelson and he started to tell me about it.

Mr Williams

  238. Can I clarify two things to start with? First, the situation of the dual employment, can you explain to me whether in your mind you see it as improper or unwise, that differentiation, for someone to work part-time, say, for MPs and part-time for the party, even though the jobs are clearly differentiated? Do you still think that is improper?
  (Mr Rowley) If there is a clear distinction between both posts, a clear contrast for both posts, clear job descriptions for both posts, my view would be that it was unwise. However, what we did was clearly not proper. So that is the difference. Any point there is a grey line, then you are better to be on the safe side. I think it would be unwise but what we did was not just unwise, it was not proper.

  239. Certainly the rules do not preclude dual employment as long as there are very clear lines between them. The other point of clarification was because something you said about Suzanne Hilliard came as a surprise to us. You said she was employed by the Party, are you absolutely sure of that?
  (Mr Rowley) No, I am not sure. I did say when the Commissioner interviewed me as well that I was not sure of Suzanne Hilliard's employment. I knew we employed her because she took over the media monitor role for us. I am making an assumption.

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