Examination of Witness (Questions 320
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
320. I think this goes to the heart of all this
and everything else really.
(Dr Reid) I have not denied, nor did I in my opening
statement, that I wanted to help the Labour Party. That was communicated
to Alex Rowley. If you want to call that an arrangement, call
that an arrangement. That is not the crucial thing. The crucial
thing isdoes Alex Rowley imply that part of those discussions
in that arrangement was that they would not have to do anything
for me? Up until today he did not, but if you jump back to paragraph
172, and incidentally that was where I stopped, I had not seen
any of the paragraphs you mentioned before, if you go to 172 Alex
says, and this is the first time he ever says this
321. What line is this?
(Dr Reid) It is Mr Rowley under question 172. He says
"I was absolutely clear that neither of the two were working
for MPs". He has never said that before. First of all, it
is wrong. Ms Filkin has accepted that it is wrong. All of this
evidence illustrates that it is wrong, Mr Campbell-Savours, this
stuff I sent. It is now obvious, whether he has changed his mind
on this or whether he is strengthening his position, he is now
saying something which is not true. You are asking me, did he
believe it to be the case that this was part of the arrangement?
One, if he says he believed that to be the case, I cannot say
that he did not believe that. Two, if he believed it, was he right?
No. No. There was no implication or communication which said to
him that the staff that I employed would not work for me. He obviously
thinks it from paragraph 172. All of the evidence, including the
Commissioner, says that is not true, they did work for me. Your
question was very important. Is it possible he is telling the
truth? If he believed what he was saying he may be telling the
truth from his point of view, but all of us know that it is not
the truth about the reality and I know it is not the truth about
the reality. Does that answer your question, Mr Campbell-Savours?
Mr Campbell-Savours: Yes, it does at
322. On the issue of whether or not these members
of staff worked for you, I think the Commissioner's position is
that there is no evidence that they did not, which is not quite
the same as there is evidence that they did.
(Dr Reid) Can I just clarify that? This is very important.
Is that Ms Filkin's view that there is no evidence that they worked
(Ms Filkin) There is no evidence that they did not
work for you.
323. It is a negative.
(Dr Reid) Can I ask through you, Chairman, do you
accept that there is evidence that they worked for me?
(Ms Filkin) You have provided evidence which I have
provided to the Committee which demonstrates the work that was
done by these researchers.
(Dr Reid) Is that yes, Ms Filkin?
(Ms Filkin) That is my telling you precisely what
I wish to convey and what I have conveyed in my report. I have
never said that these researchers did not do any work for you.
(Dr Reid) I understand that.
(Ms Filkin) I have never said that. I have made it
clear in my report, as Mr Foster says, that I have never said
that they did not do any work for you.
(Dr Reid) I understand that, Ms Filkin. It is the
first time we have had a chance to speak to each other, I think.
With respect, Chairman, I did not ask you if you said they never
did anything for me, I asked you in view of what I have submitted
to you if you accept that they did work for me. This is a very
Chairman: I think we had better proceed
with the question.
324. The question I really want to ask you is
this: if it is agreed that they did some work, I think the issue
is did they do sufficient work to justify their Office Costs Allowance
(Dr Reid) Yes, I think they did. Like all of my staff,
if I did not think they were doing it then I would not be happy
about that. Also, I do not want to go falling into this, I thought
that it was assumed that all of us were innocent until there was
sufficient evidence to show the opposite.
325. I think that must be right but what I am
trying to put to you is, because it is in the Commissioner's report,
that she takes the view, as she read, that Members of Parliament
must monitor in some way or another the sufficiency of the work
that is covered by the Office Costs Allowance. The question I
am really putting to you is are you satisfied that you did that
and having done so, if you did, that the work was carried out?
(Dr Reid) Yes, I am satisfied I did that. In the circumstances
we all find ourselves, we do not ask people to clock in and out,
especially if I am 400 miles away. I can tell you truthfully,
I trust the people who work for me. I trust Mary McKenna, she
has been with me 20 years. Some nights Mary McKenna may work all
night, sometimes she works for weeks on end. I do not know every
occasion when she is actually in the office or not. So there is
not that sort of monitoring. I do not think any MP realistically
could work with their staff like that. My understanding from Ms
Filkin's report is that she accepts, in Kevin Reid's case, that
is certainly true and in Kevin Reid's case that is true because
there is evidence for and no evidence to the contrary, and in
Suzanne Hilliard's case she accepts it is true apart from five
or six weeks. What I had understood by the argument which is being
made in paragraph 259, which is the key as I understand it to
her upholding the complaints, is that Ms Filkin thinks there was
an arrangement made, even though the arrangement was never put
into practice. If I may put it like this to youif the arrangement
made was that I would help the Labour Party, if you can call that
an arrangement, yes, but there was nothing improper in that. If
the arrangement made was that my employees would not work for
me, not only was it not made but the evidence Ms Filkin herself
accepts completely undermines that it would have been made, because
you would not make an arrangement and then immediately go and
326. I think if the Committee accepts that then
that aspect of the matter is dealt with, namely whether or not
the office cost allowances were paid to somebody who did not do
the work, but that leaves open one central issue and that is the
question of whether the improper arrangement was made using the
office cost allowance as an MP with the Labour Party. Can I put
it this way, would it be fair to say you facilitated the ability
for your son and subsequently Ms Hilliard to work for the Labour
Party by, if you like, guaranteeing them a salary in another job;
it was conditional that they would be able to work for the Labour
Party because they worked for you?
(Dr Reid) No, of course that is not true. Because,
in order to do that I would have had to have started 2½ years
earlier. That is when I guaranteed Kevin Reid his salary, in 1996,
not May 1998. I took him on in 1996. Incidentally, I took him
on years before that, as you know, but the reason his latest contract
was 1997 is purely that we had to have a different contract after
the 1997 election. So the idea I would guarantee Kevin Reid his
salary a 2½ years before the Scottish parliamentary elections
in anticipation of those elections and making a resource available
to the Labour Party, does not stand up to any scrutiny.
327. And in the case of Ms Hilliard, what would
you say to the same question?
(Dr Reid) In the case of Ms Hilliard, what I did was
to get somebody to do the work I needed to be done. I needed it
at short notice, I needed somebody to do it and Kevin had met
her as one of the students he had got in to help out with the
media monitoring and said she is a young, bright girl, she would
be able to do the job. It is as simple as that. The simple answers
in these cases are actually the truthful ones. Now, when Mr Rowley
says that I promised a resource would be made available to someone
to work on the campaign, what I indicated to Mr Rowley when the
time came was that when Kevin was going full-time I mentioned
to himI did not arrange with himI was going to take
on somebody who was already working on the campaign. As it happens,
Mr Rowley, who is supposed to be at the centre of all this, did
not know it was Suzanne Hilliard until the newspaper story came
out. So there was no arrangement, "I'll get Suzanne Hilliard"
and it was arranged like that. If you check the evidence, Mr Rowley
himself says he does not know who it was, and therefore he describes
it as an anonymous resource, for all he is supposed to be at the
centre of it. All I said to him was, "I am going to take
somebody on who is working on the campaign." Ms Hilliard
was not the centre of everyone's attention, I can assure you.
328. Mr Rowley, somewhat surprisingly, when
asked about the arrangement he said he made with you, told us
he had not addressed his mind to the possible impropriety at the
time the alleged agreement was made. But he does go on to say,
most importantly, that subsequently when the press reports came
out about Conservatives in England misusing the office cost allowance,
it was then you came backhe does not use the words "in
panic" but the impression is concernedand at that
point insisted Kevin was put on to the Labour Party staff. Can
you tell us about that implication?
(Dr Reid) Three things arise from that. You say he
had not addressed the proprieties at the beginning. That comes
as no surprise to me. It was not his job to observe the proprieties.
It was my job to observe the proprieties. It was my job to say
at the beginning, "Look, Kevin works for me, if he is going
to work for you, you have to pay him separately", and that
is precisely what I did. That is why I insisted Kevin had that
separate contract at the beginning because he was a continuing
employee of mineso that no one would be in the position
to make the unjust allegations which are now being made. The second
thing is that Mr Rowley "came to believe" it was improper.
I have only scanned the evidence here but I think, if my understanding
is correct, that Mr Rowley thinks any arrangement whereby anybody
is working for an MP and helps out a political party is in principle
improper. I think that is what he believes. If Mr Rowley does
believe that, that in principle if any of your employees work
on the general election campaign in any capacity that is improper,
which is what he appears to believe, then I am afraid by that
standard every MP, perhaps with the odd exception, is guilty of
that. Because most of us work with people who support a political
party to some extent and go out and do the work to support them.
The third thing that arises out of that is the question of the
Tory story. I have already explained that. Kevin started on three
hours a day covering press in the morning, doing only newspapers.
He then advanced to doing three hours a day covering newspapers
and broadcasts, still the morning ones. He then extended and went
into the new office to cover lunch time broadcasts. All of that
time there was a dynamic building up, he was bringing in more
volunteers to help work out. They got to the six months' point
and started saying, "We want full-time media monitoring".
I said then, "There is no way I am going to have somebody
on my books who is going to be working full-time to such an extent
he cannot work for me." That was not only on the grounds
of propriety but on the grounds of needing my work done. In the
course of this, there was a story which appeared in the press
and I used that to exhibit the dangers of exactly what I was warning
about and to bolster my case he should go full-time. It appears
from what I have read, and I have not read it all, that the only
thing Mr Rowley remembers of all of these conversations, these
snatched conversations, is this one fax. I do not deny and never
have done that I sent a fax, though when Ms Filkin first approached
me I could not remember it, but I think I have to accept I would
have done and so would any member of this Committee. If you had
been arguing, "You cannot do this, there are dangers in this"
and you are insisting he go full-time if you want him to work
those hours, and you saw a story like that, you would do exactly
the same; you would get a photocopy and say, "There you are,
that fax backs up my argument." It is as simple as that.
329. Can I clarify something in my mind, I do
not want to interrupt Michael's questioning? I took up the point
about differentiation with Mr Rowley, and if you look at 238 of
his evidence this morning
(Dr Reid) I definitely have not read this.
330. No, you will not have, I was right at the
end. Page 49, at the top, paragraph 238.
(Dr Reid) Yes.
331. "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?" I was trying to get
at the very point that you have been making.
(Dr Reid) Yes.
332. Mr Rowley's reply was "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 improper". Why
on earth should he be so adamant to damage himself with a comment
(Dr Reid) Because he clearly thinks, as 172 illustrates,
that my employees did no work for me. He thinks that. He believes
that. It is wrong, that is the whole point.
333. That is not what he is saying there.
(Dr Reid) At 172, if you check that, for the first
time he says they did not do any work. We know that is not true
but he obviously believes it. That is why he thinks it would be
improper. On the other point about "unwise" I would
make two points on that. The first is if that is true then we
need a new regulation. That is fine, if there is a new regulation
when I phone up the Fees Office, as I did before Kevin started
with the Labour Party, then they will tell me "there is a
334. No-one here has suggested that it is unwise.
It is accepted even by the Commissioner that it is perfectly proper.
(Dr Reid) I think it is fine as well. The point I
am making is if it was unwise and the House decided we need a
regulation on this then somebody like me would phone up the Fees
Office and Archie Cameron would say "no, you cannot do this,
it is unwise". I did phone the Fees Office and the Fees Office
told me there is not a problem with this.
(Dr Reid) I later wrote to them. I phoned them at
the time, Dale. I cannot tell you the exact date but I phoned
them at the time and they said it was not a problem. That was
why I wrote in May again because when Ms Filkin came with enquiries
and asked me, I wrote to the Fees Office and they said it again
in explicit terms, in the letter you have got. I did not think
there was anything unwise or improper about it, but I also took
the precaution of phoning them up, as I said before, and they
said "no, there is not a problem, provided it is a separate
job that is all right". From where I am sitting now I am
tempted to say it is very unwise because certainly it is a position
where those who, for whatever reason, however sincere they areand
I can understand why Alex is not well disposed towards me I fully
understand that, he did not get the backing from me he thought
was necessary to be General Secretary of the partyhowever
sincere his beliefs are on this, he is wrong.
Mr Foster: I have one question on a different
Chairman: There is going to be a Division
before too long.
336. It is convenient to stay on this subject.
Looking again at question 238, Mr Rowley talked about at "Any
point there is a grey line". What has exercised some Members
of the Committee has been this sort of grey area that may exist
when all of us employ people in due capacities, that there is
a grey line somewhere. Do you recognise that and have you got
anything to say about that?
(Dr Reid) First of all, I think there is a grey line
in almost everything MPs do, not just the staff issue. The grey
line is this: we are Members of Parliament, we are Labour Members
of Parliament, we are Conservative Members of Parliament, we are
Liberal Members of Parliament, we are an Independent Member of
Parliament and, yes, there is a grey area. When we make a speech,
if somebody writes that speech, has it got to be devoid of politics
if it is in any way contributed to by anyone in our office? There
are these judgments to be made. All I can say is that in making
my judgment I took the best advice possible, I phoned the Fees
Office. Secondly, when they said "yes, fine, provided this
is separate", I insisted that there be a separate contract.
I thought, and still do, and I hope you feel as well, I hope you
believe me and exonerate me, that in those grey areas I did what
was proper and what was right.
337. You recognise that in employment terms
there are areas where things may overlap a little bit that might
lead to somebody like Rowley believing that there was something
improper going on from Rowley's perspective?
(Dr Reid) I do not think there was a significant overlap
as it happens, certainly not with Suzanne Hilliard and the sorts
of things she was doing for me. In almost every research job there
is an overlap because you learn lots of information, say as a
student studying history and politics, that you could usefully
use as a researcher for an MP, but nobody accuses you of abusing
the university's monies. No doubt as you are researching and reading
papers, newspapers, for an MP you learn things that will help
you in your studies. Of course in the real world there is that
overlap. I do not actually think, and I have not read Alex's testimony
in full so I should not comment, that is what is causing Alex
to say what he is saying. I think what he is saying is "Well,
we all know people did this in the past. People were always doing
this". I think he says that at one stage in here. I do not
know how he knows what people were always doing because he only
started that May in the Labour Party Headquarters, he never worked
there before. Certainly if he brought that perspective to it then
that might be the reason he thinks it. There was no arrangement
with me with Alex and, to be fair to him, nor does he say there
was, that the people who worked for me would not do the work.
That, to me, is the crucial thing. Had I done that I would have
said to Ms Filkin early onand we could have all saved ourselves
a lot of trouble"Yes, I did, I was wrong and I was
a naughty boy, please smack my hand". I have not fought this
long because I did something wrong. I have fought it because I
genuinely tried, and I hope you find I genuinely tried, to meet
the requirements of the House while at the same time, of course,
trying to help my party. That would be the same whether I was
in Peter's party or in Martin's party as well. I said right in
the first statement to Ms Filkin, I think she will confirm, my
very final paragraph, to bring it to your attention, "I do
not want to give the impression that I did not want to help the
Labour Party", yes, I did, this is what we all do. But I
did not do that in such a way that breached the regulations of
the House, nor do I cast any aspersion on Alex Rowley's truthfulness.
338. It really is a separate issue on just one
final point and that is about the allegations of Mr Rowley that
you put undue pressure on him. Would it be fair to say that you
recognised your seniority in dealing with him because that in
itself might be seen as being pressure? Would you accept that,
the fact that you were a very senior politician in Scotland?
(Dr Reid) No, I do not accept that for a number of
reasons. First of all, it was Mr Rowley who came to me. He admits
that himself in the second conversation where he came to me at
the Labour Party Conference Centre. It is clear, both from the
pager message, that I did not initiate it, and from his conversation
with Lesley Quinn that he wanted to speak to me on the second
occasion as well. It is clear from the transcript, if you read
it, the opening words of which are "Hello, John, this is
Alex", that he actually phoned me. I do not accept that he
should have felt under any threat whatsoever. Indeed, he told
Lesley Quinn that he had a good conversation in it. The second
and important thing is this: Mr Rowley also makes allegations
that other members of the Labour Party felt under pressure as
well. I find this the most difficult section of Ms Filkin's report,
if she does not mind me saying so, this one on the conduct of
Members of Parliament. There is paragraph after paragraph of unsubstantiated
allegations by Alex Rowley, which are denied by me but which are
also unsubstantiated allegations about Lesley Quinn and about
Ann-Marie Whyte where not only are they denied by them but in
a slip Ms Filkin did not even go and ask them about them which,
quite frankly, do very great damage to my reputation. I have never
brought pressure on Ann-Marie Whyte or Lesley Quinn, either of
them. Anybody who knew Lesley Quinn, incidentally, would think
it rather odd that anybody could suggest Lesley could be put under
pressure. I did not speak to, communicate with or in any other
way signal to Ann-Marie Whyte, I did not see her from when this
investigation began to the last week or so. So those allegations
of pressures and threats are actually the section of this report
that I find even more offensive than the up-holding of the complaints.
Chairman: We will need to come back after
the division so we will adjourn for ten minutes.
The Committee suspended from 6.01 pm to 6.24
pm for a division§ in the House
Chairman: Thank you for coming back again.
339. What was Alex Rowley like as the Labour
Party General Secretary? What traits did he exhibit?
(Dr Reid) You are going into a very difficult area.
John Rafferty was brought in to run the campaign. I think that
says something. Within a few days of my becoming Scottish Secretary,
Alex approached me and we went and had a chat in the Pugin Room
in front of another MP and I will tell you what I said to Alex
there and then perhaps I do not want to go any deeper. I said
to him, as nicely as I could, that he did not have the qualities
it took to be General Secretary of the Party, that he did not
have the ability to manage staff, that he was not very good at
hiring and firing people, that it had been necessary to bring
someone else in to run the show, and comments of that nature.
I told him truthfully because I regarded him as someone who was
not only a friend but someone who I had given considerable support
to, because when he was appointed there was a great deal of opposition
to his appointment in Scotland. Alex went and resigned that night;
he went and met Jonathan Upton and Margaret McDonagh and resigned.
I have never said, and I will stand corrected if Ms Filkin can
show meand I know Ms Filkin felt my defence against Alex
was one of maliceI have never said that. I said in my submission
to Ms Filkin that I had considered the possibility that he was
motivated by malice but had rejected that, and I thought he was
merely misinformed. I said that in my response of 19th May. When
I found out he had found a pretext of taping my telephone conversations
I said merely that I might have to reflect on my view of him.
But I think that it would have been helpful if, when I was questioning
not his honesty but his reliability on certain matters, when I
had asked the question whether Ms Filkin was aware why he had
left the Labour Party, if instead of going to Alex she had actually
asked the employers. When you look for a reference for somebody,
you do not go to them, you ask others, and there were grounds
for believing that it would be better for all concerned that Alex
should leave the General Secretary's job. I do not want to go
into the details of that, whether it would help my case or not.