Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Complaint against Dr John Reid and Mr John Maxton



137.  I sought the responses of those witnesses (except for Mr McKinney) whose credibility or reliability Dr Reid and Mr Maxton, in their submissions, had sought to challenge, in particular by suggesting that they had left Labour Party or government employment in questionable circumstances. I did not write again to Mr McKinney because I had already received from him, in his original evidence, his account of the events leading to his departure from employment by the Labour Party.

138.  Mr McKinney, in his interview with me on 23 March 2000, explained that he had been taken on as the Labour Party`s Director of Communications in Scotland on 6 April 1998, on a contract running until June 1999. The reason for his early departure, at his own request, on 21 May 1998 was that the resources he had been promised in order to revamp the party`s publicity machine had not by then materialised, despite his attempts to raise the importance of the issue at a number of strategy meetings (Annex 165, Q 3).

139.  Mr Rowley, in a letter dated 22 June 2000 (Annex 141), denied that he had been sacked by the Labour Party. He explained that, on the day of the Scottish Parliament elections, the United Kingdom General Secretary of the Party, Ms Margaret McDonagh, had told him she believed that "things had not worked out for me or the Party and that she wanted me to leave the post of Scottish General Secretary." Mr Rowley added that although he had been offered another Party post, he had decided not to accept it, since, as he put it: "I felt my hands would be tied and I was no one`s puppet." He had therefore negotiated a leaving package with the Party in London and tendered his resignation to Ms McDonagh. Mr Rowley maintained that during the discussions on his future he had "continued to have the support of senior politicians, including the First Minister and the Chancellor." He rejected Mr Maxton`s suggestion that he bore a grudge because of his departure from employment by the Labour party, saying : "That is simply not the case. I am clear I was not the source of the accusations you are investigating, but I took the decision early on not to lie about this."

140.  Mr Rafferty, in a letter dated 21 June 2000 (Annex 156), responded to the allegation that he had been dismissed from his Labour Party post as follows:

    "At the request of the Labour Party I applied for, and was granted, 4 months unpaid leave of absence from my post as Director of the National Lottery Charities Board. Labour Party Headquarters at Millbank Tower negotiated with me a consultancy contract to engage me as coordinator of the General Election Campaign in Scotland. The contract period was from 12 January 1999 to 6 May 1999 (polling day).

    During the period of the contract I was asked by Mr Dewar to take the post of Chief of Staff[75], which commenced on 17 May. The Labour Party extended the consultancy contract to that date.

    I was not dismissed from the consultancy post with the Labour Party. As you will note from the above, the circumstances were quite the opposite."

(Mr Rafferty did not, of course, dispute the fact that he was subsequently dismissed from his post as Chief of Staff to the First Minister).

141.  Mr Sullivan rejected the suggestion that he had been sacked by the Party. He explained that he had been employed on a temporary contract from July 1998 to July 1999 (Annex 176). Thereafter the contract was renewed on a monthly basis until January 2000—longer than Mr Sullivan had originally anticipated.

142.  I also thought it right to give Mr Nelson, as the complainant, an opportunity to respond to the attacks made by Dr Reid and Mr Maxton on his credibility and reliability. Mr Nelson told me that so far as the allegations against Kevin Reid were concerned, these had been taken seriously by the Standards Committee of the Scottish Parliament. He told me he had won a Scottish press award for his work on that case (Annex 3). Mr Nelson said the fact that the Committee had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Ministers or MSPs did not mean that he had lacked justification for making them or for reporting the claims made by Mr Kevin Reid. Mr Nelson denied pursuing a vendetta against either Dr Reid or his son. And referring to the criticism of his professional integrity in the context of the report of the inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, he claimed that his efforts had led to a number of additional witnesses being unearthed (Annex 4). So far as he was aware the report had made no criticism of him in his conduct towards the inquiry. The comment quoted by Dr Reid related to a separate libel action brought by a senior policeman against The Observer, The Independent on Sunday and HTV in respect of an article written by Mr Nelson, articles published by other newspapers and a TV documentary about the North Wales case. Mr Nelson explained that the article had been intended to criticise the police for failing to take action and the libel case had been vigorously defended by all the defendants.

75  ie. to Mr Dewar as First Minister. Back

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