Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 276 - 299)




  276. Thank you for coming to the Committee this afternoon. Would you like to introduce your colleague for the shorthand writer.

  (Dr Reid) This is James Goudie, QC, who is not here to assist me with any answers but is here to answer on any points of law, which you find may be part of my submission, on which you would welcome information.

  277. As you know, we do not normally take evidence on oath but it may be that if there is a subsequent evidence session such an oath may be administered. Perhaps you would like to make some introductory statement at this stage.
  (Dr Reid) I would like to do that if that is possible but I hope it does not bear too much on the Committee. If you feel that you want to stay a considerable amount of time and have plenty of questions, I am also more than willing to spend as long as possible. It is difficult, I think, to distil the last ten months into something like ten minutes but I will try to do that. So let me say at the outset that I am not guilty in any respect of the initial complaint, or indeed any variation of that complaint, because it has varied, as far as I can see, over the last ten months. My employees discharged their duties to me. They did that in return for the monies received from the Fees Office and the Office Costs Allowance. Since they did that, the complaints cannot be upheld on any rational or reasonable grounds. This, to me, and I hope, to you, is the crux of the matter. If my staff fulfil their part-time contract to me, as they did, as they were always intended to—as the evidence shows that they did and, indeed, as Ms Filkin says they did, with the exception of a few weeks—then public monies were not and could not have been misused, and the Fees Office could not and was not misled. The Fees Office themselves have made that clear. They made it clear in various ways, including a letter about the principle of that matter which was sent to me and I supplied to the Committee. The Fees Office also made clear, as they did at the time, that there is absolutely nothing wrong in my employees, or indeed your employees, the employees of any Members of Parliament, having an occupation or a commitment in addition to their work for a Member of Parliament. The Director of Finance of the House of Commons takes the same view. So far as I can see, the only person who does not take that view, who thinks it is intrinsically wrong, in the whole of this investigation, is Mr Rowley. I would only say that I have had something like 15 minutes to read the transcripts of Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty but I will attempt to answer your questions in dealing with some of the issues there, although I cannot promise to deal with them all. In upholding the complaint, as far as I can see, Ms Filkin appears to have decided that there was a widespread conspiracy involving me, Kevin Reid, John Maxton, the late Donald Dewar, Suzanne Hilliard, Ann-Marie Whyte, Jonathan Upton, Lesley Quinn, Chris Winslow, and unnamed labour officials amongst others, in an arrangement to misuse the Office Costs Allowance; but she now appears to accept in her report that this was an arrangement that was never actually put into effect. Yet she also decides that all these people are continuing the conspiracy by working consistently to hide an arrangement that was never put into effect. There was and is no such conspiracy. The truth is very, very simple. Kevin Reid had free time in May 1998 after finishing his university classes. He gave that free time to the Labour Party—the time he had previously spent on a university degree. Suzanne Hilliard created free time later that year by sacrificing her university course; by leaving university. She gave that time to the Labour Party. Both continued to combine this time, that they now exchanged for the Labour Party, with working for me, as Kevin Reid had previously done while at university. Completely proper. Completely simple. I have treated the complaint throughout with considerable seriousness and I have spent enormous time and effort in attempting to deal with all the matters raised with me. Ms Filkin, at one stage, believes I was either not co-operating or attempting to frustrate the inquiry. I have not brought these to read to you. These (indicating) are not Ms Filkin's documents. This is the work I have done on this. It is not just my submission. These are my lap top computer notes. This is the submission I gave to Ms Filkin, which she did not supply to the Committee, with all the evidence in it. I have spent considerable time on it. Despite growing misgivings about the conduct of the investigation, I tried to deal with the Commissioner in a reasoned manner. I will not hide that I am bitterly disappointed at her report. I am not a liar. Kevin Reid is not a liar. Suzanne Hilliard is not a liar. The people who work for me and with me are not liars. Yet Ms Filkin seems to hold that we are. The only real accuser I can detect in her report is Alex Rowley. You saw him today and will have formed your own impression. Alex says I wanted to help the Labour Party. That is absolutely true. I did. There was nothing improper in that. He says the Labour Party knew they were being helped. There was nothing improper in that either. He appears to believe that I could not have done that without a breach of the House of Commons regulations. He admits, as far as I can see, that he did not think that at the time but only when this was impressed upon him by a journalist. He was right first time round and he is wrong now. The important point is that Mr Rowley had no knowledge -nor was there any reason for him to have any knowledge—of the additional work done by my staff. It is frustrating beyond belief to be unjustly accused. It is more frustrating to be accused on the basis of your probity, attacked on inference and not on facts, from Mr Rowley, who knew practically nothing at all about how or what Kevin Reid and Suzanne Hilliard did for me when they worked for me. I thought it was for Ms Filkin to prove the complaint but it seems from the report that speculation, accusation and ill-informed beliefs, however sincere on the part of Mr Rowley, are sufficient for my reputation and those who have worked for me to be successfully attacked. I understand also that you have heard from other witnesses in the course of this investigation, who have given evidence, and Ms Filkin has concluded that the evidence that my employees work for me is beyond doubt. That alone makes Mr Rowley's evidence this morning wrong since he emphatically declared to you that they did not work for me. "I certainly knew they did not work for John Reid," he says. That alone makes his evidence unreliable. It is not necessary for Mr Rowley to lie to be wrong. He could be sincerely stating his beliefs on the basis of some previous experience but it certainly was not true in my case. As far as I can understand the report, which I have done the courtesy to Ms Filkin of studying in some detail, Ms Filkin says there is insufficient evidence against me regarding the complaint concerning Kevin Reid's employment. Thus, on the established fact after ten months' inquiry, Kevin did fulfil his contract to me. But then she still goes on to uphold the complaint against me in regard to Kevin Reid's employment. In the light of this attitude I do not see how I would ever show to Ms Filkin that I am innocent of this complaint. My employee, Suzanne Hilliard, is treated in an even worse fashion, I believe. She gave up a year of her university career to work for me. If she had not being doing work for me, she would not have had to make that sacrifice to give up that year at university. If she has been receiving money from me for doing little or no work, she could have quite happily combined staying at university with working for the Labour Party as she had been doing months before she started to work for me. That, I believe, is why Ms Filkin is obliged to find that Suzanne did carry out her duties to me as well, apart from a number of weeks which I will answer detailed questions on, because I believe Ms Filkin exaggerates two or three weeks into five or six. But I am afraid Ms Filkin then piles speculation upon speculation to extend that period of Suzanne's period of shortfall in hours to the five or six on the basis of what I regard as non-sustainable evidence. That is important because if it is two or three weeks where one of my employees is falling somewhat short, it is a variable contract and there are other times where they could make it up. If anyone can point on this Committee today to a single fact, a fact instead of speculation or an impression or a "belief", that shows me guilty in any particular of improper acting, please would they point it out to me. I am serious about this. If Committee Members can show me a single real fact showing my guilt, I would ask them to point that out to me today because this report has failed throughout to deal with facts. As the investigation proceeded over the months, I found it increasingly difficult to believe what was happening. My requests for information were ignored. My requests that fairness be used in the investigation were similarly left unanswered. That is why I eventually instructed James Goudie, QC, to advise me on what was happening. I did this reluctantly but I did it because I simply could not accept that I was being dealt with fairly or properly. I wholly agree that Members of Parliament must be answerable for their conduct if it falls short of proper conduct, but conduct should be judged on proper, fair standards. If we are to be investigated, this should be done competently and according to general principles of fairness. Mr Goudie is a leading counsel who specialises in public law. His views are clear on this report. You have seen them. No-one who reads Mr Goudie's analysis of Ms Filkin's report can believe that I have been afforded the procedures that protect any individual from false accusation. You have seen that Mr Goudie himself describes Ms Filkin's report, and I quote: "The more than shoddy outcome of an investigation that has been mishandled throughout." Later in his further advice, as quoted: "a series of attempts by the Commissioner to smear Dr Reid." I do not believe someone in his position uses expressions like that lightly at all. Ms Filkin has great power to destroy MPs' reputations and careers. My only remaining protection is this Committee. The Committee upholds standards of conduct and I hope they will also uphold the standard of justice and fairness towards those who are the subject of the investigation. If any Member of the Committee can explain to me why Mr Goudie's analysis is to be disregarded or discounted, then I would ask them to do so today. If Mr Goudie's analysis is sound, which I believe it is, then there is something very, very seriously wrong with the procedure I have been subjected to and others might be subjected to in the future. So, Mr Chairman, I ask you to exonerate me. I am not guilty. But I ask more finally. I believe Ms Filkin's report should not be published, certainly not in its present form. In paragraph 11 of her own report she is good enough to note that: "the procedure laid down by the House of Commons for the investigation of complaints requires me to establish the facts on the basis of the evidence and to report those facts, together with my conclusions on them, to the Standards and Privileges Committee." In short, she thus must deal with the facts. She must distinguish between facts, speculation and hearsay. She must provide evidence and her conclusions must be based on those facts and on that evidence. This is not requested by the House. This is required by the House of Commons. It is a requirement. I would respectfully suggest, as Mr Goudie's advice illustrates beyond doubt, that Ms Filkin's report sadly fails to comply with all and each of those required procedures in every single particular. If his advice is accurate, the Committee not only has an option not to publish the report in its present form, but it has an obligation to the House of Commons not to do so. Nevertheless, if you decide it is to be published in any form, then please let everything be published—let everything be published—including my response and Mr Goudie's advice. I am prepared to be judged in the public media. You will see from that report that there are some fine tabloid headlines in it. But I am only prepared to be judged if the public are fully informed, openly, transparently and fairly. So finally I would appeal to your Committee, if either of you are minded not to exonerate me—and I recognise your right not to—or if you are minded to publish Ms Filkin's report in whatever form, please seek legal advice, a lawyer's view, on the fairness of either action. I am as sceptical as you are of lawyers but the law provides the framework of fairness which I have been denied in this investigation. It is the recognised standard that it serves to protect those who are falsely accused, as well as the means to condemn the guilty. That is what the law is. I only ask for fairness, not only for me but for all the other people whose reputations have also been wrongly and unjustly attacked in this final report.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  278. Could we ask the witness whether he has had an opportunity to read the whole of Mr Rowley's evidence.
  (Dr Reid) I am not blaming the Committee for this.

  279. I know you are not but have you read it?
  (Dr Reid) No, I have had 15 minutes to look at it.

  280. Would you like to have the opportunity of reading it before you proceed?
  (Dr Reid) It would be useful to me to have a short adjournment. I have already read up to—I can indicate the paragraphs I have got to and I can already refer to some of these questions, Mr Campbell-Savours. There are some serious mistakes in it and there are some things which indicate, that without in any way casting aspersions on anyone's truthfulness, that Mr Rowley in particular is seriously mistaken over one or two things.


  281. Let us proceed on this basis for the time being. If something crops up we may have to come to a different conclusion. We can consider it then. First of all, trying to find out the kind of work these two were paid for by the Office Costs Allowance, the kind of work that they did: we are all busy Members of Parliament with constituency problems of one kind of another. What would you say were the details of the work carried out during the period that they were working and being paid by the Labour Party? Give us a flavour of the kind of work which they were carrying on.
  (Dr Reid) I am very glad you asked me that. I did supply this to Ms Filkin to give illustrations of the sort of work which was done by my two employees. I was asked to illustrate it and I did. I do not think Ms Filkin, for understandable reasons perhaps, given the bulk of it, has passed it on. I can have 11 copies of it made for you if you want. But I am quite happy to go over the sort of things.

  282. It was available to Members who wished to see it. That was the situation.
  (Dr Reid) I am not criticising. I said, for understandable reasons, because it is pretty bulky.

  Chairman: I understand the point that is being made there. What I am trying to find out is if you could give us a flavour.

  Mr Foster: Chairman, I think all of us here were not aware that was available to us.

  Chairman: I understand from the Clerk that it was on the original circular that was sent out.

  Mr Foster: All of us have failed to appreciate that.

  Shona McIsaac: I think you can appreciate that with the volumes of documents that we had, if it was just on a circular, as we got deeper and deeper into the documents—


  283. Give us a flavour of it.
  (Dr Reid) I should point out since obviously Members do not understand, that not only does this include the information or illustration that Ms Filkin asked for, but it also includes in this the letter from the Fees Office making plain that I was quite proper in my actions. It is in this additional one, I do not think it was supplied in your original papers. I sent that to you in my submission. I am surprised it was not given to Members because it is such an important piece.

Mr Lewis

  284. We saw that.
  (Dr Reid) It also includes, and I finish on this, a pager message on the day I informed Mr Rowley saying, "Please phone Alex Rowley." I did not see that mentioned anywhere in Ms Filkin's report but I went to considerable lengths to get the pager message to illustrate that I could not have initiated the phone call to Alex Rowley, the transcript of which you already have. I actually received a pager message to phone Alex Rowley. I supplied that as well in this document. That was not, as I understand it, passed on to Members. However, you asked me a question about the type of work that Kevin did. First of all, Kevin worked for me on and off for nine years prior to May 1998. His work during that period changed from when he was a very young man doing the administrative part for me into the two and a half years before 1998 where he was taking his second degree: his first degree was in history and politics and his second was in law. During that period he carried out a research function. He would monitor the local press for me. Do press releases. He would prepare constituency reports on what was happening. He would work for me on drafts of speeches. I do not mean the sort of speeches that Member of Parliament make opening the local hostel, although sometimes that happened, but one speech which I gave here to Ms Filkin, which took us almost two months to complete. It was on Scottish consciousness and the Scottish nation. It was a lecture I was doing. That took weeks and weeks to work on. He would provide information on constituency firms. If I was going to visit constituencies, a whole range of material, as well as doing what all our employees always do, which is that we phone them up, to turn up late at night at the airport at night to pick us up. Illustrations of all of that is provided in here. When Kevin went to work full-time for the Labour Party, it coincided with my secretary in the constituency taken very ill. I would be obliged to the stenographer, if it is possible, I do not want this next sentence to be reported, with your permission.


  285. Personal references can be excised from the report.
  (Dr Reid) Thank you very much indeed.—For those six months I needed someone to help me with constituency work. I originally took on Suzanne Hilliard with a view that she might be able to do what Kevin had been doing but, in fact, I had to make completely ad hoc procedures to try and deal with the hundreds of letters we receive every week. That is what Suzanne Hilliard helped me with. What I did was that I got my mail diverted down here to the House of Commons. I lugged my mail down to my office at the Ministry for Armed Forces or rather the Ministry of Transport. I had the mail opened. I then put it in four piles. One pile was just thrown aside; one was general circulars info; one was finance, which I could deal with and only me; and the fourth constituency cases I took to Scotland to go over with Suzanne. She then drafted the answers to the constituency mail. I brought it back here, dictated them, and the Susan Hamilton Agency typed them up. Had I been able to get copies of the 450-odd letters that the Susan Hamilton Agency have confirmed they typed for me during that five-month period of Suzanne Hilliard working for me—

  286. 450 letters in five months.
  (Dr Reid) 444, to be precise, in five months, was done during that period. That is only the letters which were answered. As you know, that indicates about four or five times as much mail coming in on constituency matters apart from everything else. Had I had them, this file to Ms Filkin would have been ten times larger. The reason why I do not have them—and you can check with the Susan Hamilton Agency—is one, that they wipe the disks after six months; and secondly, that they are under new management. I have tried and tried to get them but they have confirmed that those letters were done. Now what is being suggested is that throughout this period—a period where, as I said earlier, my wife not only had died and was buried, but I was also taken into hospital; I was asked to help out in the Scottish election campaign; I was working as Minister of the Armed Forces and then Minister for Transport—somehow, it is suggested I did all these things on my own! Somehow I did them all on my own. That is in fact what my hard working and dedicated researchers did. Yes, they worked in addition for the Labour Party. They worked in addition for the Labour Party and there is nothing improper at all about that, as the House of Commons Fees Office have outlined. Indeed, you may have Members here who have employees who work in other jobs. I certainly know the Labour Party had a chap who worked in a butcher's in the morning and came in and worked in the afternoon for the Labour Party. No-one has suggested that the Party would be stealing the butcher's money.

  287. What about the kind of work during this period where she was working for the Labour Party? Were these constituency letters replied to during that period?
  (Dr Reid) Yes, they were.

  288. These were done at her home or where?
  (Dr Reid) Suzanne was hired on an ad hoc basis. I was left without a secretary and without Kevin who had been my researcher. She was not going to travel from Glasgow through to Motherwell because she did not type for a start. She did the drafts at her home and I got them. My own rough calculation is this. You can take it as rough and ready. Consider also that these are only the ones which ended up with a letter actually being typed, 450 letters: if you allow, say, half an hour to read, analyse, decide on how to respond and draft for each letter, that is 220 hours of work on its own. That accounts for 12 weeks work of the 20 weeks period on those letters alone for Suzanne Hilliard. These are all points which have been made to Ms Filkin.

  289. You have not denied making threats to Mr Rowley.
  (Dr Reid) Mmm.[1]

  290. He took it as a threat and he gave evidence this morning on that basis.
  (Dr Reid) Yes.

  291. Why do you think he misunderstood the situation?
  (Dr Reid) I am not a psycho-analyst. I do not know why people say what they say or feel what they feel. Let me just refer because I have read that. I think it is at paragraph 151.

  292. Question 151.
  (Dr Reid) Yes. May I make some points about what Mr Rowley said there. First of all, I will describe what happened during this. Mr Rowley relates three conversations. We had three conversations but not I recall as Mr Rowley relates them. The first one took place at the time the story first broke. I got a message—I was in Meridian Court in Glasgow, which is the Scottish Office—to phone Mr Rowley. I did so and, quite frankly, I tried to calm him down. He was in a panic. He had been contacted by a journalist. I did so by telling him that there was nothing to worry about. I had made sure that everything was proper. He was in a panic because the journalist, as you see from the transcripts, had said to him, "You may be put in court and put on oath. You can't lie," and so on. As Mr Rowley says, (today, I think), up to that point Mr Rowley did not think there was anything improper in this. It was Mr Nelson, the journalist, who put this into his mind. That was the first conversation, me assuring him. It was a very brief conversation. "Don't worry, Alex, there is nothing wrong here, I have made sure of that." I left it at that. I did not see Mr Rowley for some six or seven weeks although, as he points out, when Ms Filkin indicated that she was carrying out the investigation, I naturally asked a lawyer to speak to Mr Rowley and various others to see what evidence I could muster in order to combat that. (Dr Reid) Mr Rowley approached me on the weekend of the Scottish Conference in the foyer of the conference hotel. I was sitting with my advisers, the Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party and the MP Bill Tynan and their wives. He said to me—incidentally, if I was one to threaten Mr Rowley why I should wait six weeks without bothering to contact him is beyond me. It was Mr Rowley who approached me. He said, "Can we have a quiet word?" I said, "Yes". We went around the corner and Mr Rowley said to me there were some people saying he was out to damage me, a theme he repeated in his later telephone conversation. As I recall, I said, as I did in the telephone conversation, "I do not believe that, Alex". He said, "There are people who are saying if I go in and tell the truth it will damage you". I said,"I do not have a problem with you telling the truth". I said, "However, it must be the truth, Alex, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". That is what I said to him. He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "It must be the truth, the whole truth. If you go beyond saying what you know to be true and start speculating, for whatever motive, that is not nothing but the truth, that is a lie. It is a lie, Alex. If as a result of the those lies you implicate me in a conspiracy and yourself, of course, there will be consequences and I will be damaged, and so will you. So do not lie. Stick to what you know, the truth and nothing but the truth". That was the second conversation. It was very friendly. He left. You have a statement from Lesley Quinn. I understand Mr Rowley said today I threatened him. Immediately after our meeting he met Lesley Quinn and said he had a good and friendly meeting with me, no question of a threat. Ten days later—Mr Rowley phoned various people I now understand for advice—the day before he met Ms Filkin, I received a pager message, which I supplied to Ms Filkin. I do not know if this Committee has seen it.

  Chairman: Thank you.

Mr Williams

  293. We know he contacted you.
  (Dr Reid) He contacted me. It is important because he actually says elsewhere that I instigated the call.

  294. He made it quite clear he contacted you.
  (Dr Reid) If you check Annex 147, a copy of which I have here, Mr Rowley says two things—this is a note of a conversation with Ms Filkin, "The telephone call which is taped was definitely a telephone call which Dr Reid initiated himself", he says here. I did not initiate it. I followed it up from a pager message which I supplied. He says something, more importantly, in Annex 147. He says there in paragraph two, he cannot recall exactly where and when the telephone call took place, it was initiated by Dr Reid himself, but he said, "I am pretty sure he rang me, probably at the instigation of Lesley Quinn". He then says, "It was during that conversation"—this is very explicit—the one which was taped and you have now had the transcript for, "that Dr Reid raised the possibility that he might not be endorsed as a candidate". He said, "It was during that telephone conversation". I urge members to read the transcript and see if they can find in the transcript any threat whatsoever to that effect. What Mr Rowley said to you today about some other conversation, which I certainly cannot recall taking place, where the candidate endorsement was raised as a threat, is entirely different from what he said to Ms Filkin, where he claimed it was during the telephone conversation. I do not for a minute cast aspersions on Mr Rowley's truthfulness, but I do indicate to you that he is not always a reliable communicator of what took place and when it took place.

  Chairman: Thank you.

Mr Bottomley

  295. Essentially, what is in front of us is the suggestion that there was an agreement between the Scottish Labour Party and you that the research staff who are paid through the Fees Office would be available because of that payment to the Scottish Labour Party.
  (Dr Reid) Sorry? I want to be absolutely clear.

  296. I am trying to rehearse the basic situation. The first suggestion is that you agreed with the Scottish Labour Party that, first of all, Kevin, a nd, secondly, Susan Hilliard would be available to the Scottish Labour Party during the period of running up to and during the campaign because of their payment through you by the Fees Office. The second question, as I understand it, is whether, in effect, that arrangement was carried out.
  (Dr Reid) Yes, okay.

  297. That seems to be the essence of what our investigation is about. You told us that Kevin Reid was working for you over a period of about 9 years. Were other members of your family working for you during this period at all?
  (Dr Reid) No. I want to be absolutely precise. Immediately after Cathy's death I brought my youngest son to London.

  298. That is Mark.
  (Dr Reid) That is Mark. I got him a pass. I wanted him here with me, to be quite truthful—this is all happening during this period. I did not pay him out of the Fees Office, nobody was paid. Mark came down and I paid him out of my own pocket.

  299. Mark had a pass, but he was not on the House of Commons staff?
  (Dr Reid) No, he was not.

1   Note by witness: I categorically deny making threats to Mr Rowley. Back

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