Examination of Witness (Questions 276
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
276. Thank you for coming to the Committee this
afternoon. Would you like to introduce your colleague for the
(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 toas the evidence shows that they did and, indeed,
as Ms Filkin says they did, with the exception of a few weeksthen
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 Partythe
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 knowledgeof
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 publishedlet everything be
publishedincluding 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 meand
I recognise your right not toor 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.
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 toI 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
(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
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.
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
(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
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 themand you can check
with the Susan Hamilton Agencyis 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 perioda 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 Transportsomehow, 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
(Dr Reid) Mmm.
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 messageI was in Meridian Court in Glasgow, which is the
Scottish Officeto 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 meincidentally, 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 laterMr
Rowley phoned various people I now understand for advicethe
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
Chairman: Thank you.
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 thingsthis 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 explicitthe 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.
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 truthfulthis 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