Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards
Complaint against Dr John Reid and Mr John Maxton
145. In any case in which there is a conflict
of evidence much inevitably turns on the respective credibility
of the main witnesses, including those against whom the complaint
has been made.
146. It is not for Dr Reid and Mr Maxton to disprove
the allegations. They are entitled to a presumption that, as Members
of Parliament, they would be truthful in answering questions put
to them during an inquiry which is a Parliamentary proceeding.
147. Equally, they have, in the words of the
Committee in its Fifth Report of this Session, "a duty of
accountability under the Code of Conduct and must submit themselves
to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office." The
Committee added that, as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards,
I could only perform my duty to investigate complaints thoroughly
and impartially if I was "in possession of a full and frank
explanation of the relevant circumstances." This means, for
example, providing information promptly to allow verification
by my office as necessary.
148. In assessing the credibility of all the
witnesses, I must also take into account the context within which
they have provided me with information, including their personal
circumstances and the manner in which they have given their evidence.
I have in mind in particular Mr Rowley, Mr Rafferty and, to a
lesser extent, Mr McKinney and Mr Sullivan. All four were entrusted
with positions of responsibility within the Labour Party, the
first three at very senior levels. No evidence of any kind has
been adduced which suggests that they performed their duties other
than effectively and reliably. (Although Mr McKinney`s spell as
Director of Communications was cut short by him after only a brief
period, this was not, as far as I can tell, the result of alleged
deficiencies in his performance, but was due rather to differences
of opinion over the adequacy of resources available to fight the
149. In his response to my written questions,
Mr Maxton claims that, of the four main witnesses (Mr McKinney,
Mr Rowley, Mr Sullivan and Mr Rafferty), the first three were
dismissed by the Labour Party. He further alleges that "they
apparently bear a grudge against Dr Reid as a result" and
that he (Mr Maxton) appears to be "the unlucky and unwilling
victim of that grudge". He also points to the fact that Mr
Rafferty left his post early as Special Adviser to the First Minister.
Dr Reid has also questioned the reliability of these witnesses
on similar grounds. And, asked why Mr Rowley should make untruthful
allegations against him, Dr Reid supposes that Mr Rowley had made
similar accusations on tape to Mr Nelson and that "he may
feel he cannot back out from this serious attack on [my] probity."
150. I have no reason to believe Dr Reid`s explanation
of Mr Rowley`s possible motives in giving evidence in support
of the complaint. In any case, Dr Reid`s theory begs the question
as to why, if they are not true, Mr Rowley should have made the
allegations to Mr Nelson in the first place.
151. So far as suggestions of a grudge against
Dr Reid and Mr Maxton are concerned, there are, as I have indicated,
no grounds for concluding that the circumstances in which Mr McKinney
left his post as Director of Communications were such as to colour
his evidence to me. Mr Rowley has explained in detail the reasons
for his departure, chief amongst which was the fact that he felt
he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Party`s United Kingdom
General Secretary. There appears to be no reason why Mr Rowley
should have harboured a grievance against Dr Reid because of this
and Mr Rowley has given no sign of doing so in any of his dealings
with me during this investigation. Indeed, he has claimed that
Dr Reid was one of those who supported his continued employment
"in charge of local government and trade union relations"
in the Labour Party in Scotland after it became clear that, as
Scottish General Secretary, he no longer enjoyed the confidence
of his counterpart in London. Mr Rafferty was not dismissed by
the Party, butsome months later, having left his Party
postby the First Minister in the Scottish Executive. I
have received no credible information which would lead me to the
view that Mr Rafferty bears a grudge against either Dr Reid or
Mr Maxton. Nor is it clear to me why, given the facts as I have
described them, this should be the case.
152. I am satisfied, therefore, that the allegations
by Mr Maxton and Dr Reid against these witnesses have not been
substantiated and that the evidence I have received from Mr McKinney,
Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty (as well as Mr Sullivan) was not tainted
by personal animosity on their part towards either Dr Reid or
Mr Maxton. As regards Mr Rafferty`s honesty, which was questioned
by Dr Reid in the context of his dismissal as Chief of Staff to
the First Minister, I have no reason to believe that Mr Rafferty`s
evidence to me is not reliable, especially as it is corroborated
in its main essentials by other witnesses with first hand knowledge
of the events in question.
153. I would also observe, in this context, that
these allegations were introduced by Dr Reid and Mr Maxton only
in their main responses to the complaintin other words
after they had been informed by me of the evidence in conflict
with their accounts given by the witnesses concerned.
154. Whilst they appear to have nothing to gain
from giving false or misleading evidence, Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty
both potentially have much to lose by providing me with information
which tends to support the complaints. Mr Rowley hopes to pursue
a political career by being adopted as a prospective Labour Party
Parliamentary candidate. He has no doubt considered the implications
for his future within the Party of responding openly and honestly
to my questionseven though, of course, any threat that
this political ambition might be jeopardised by his co-operation
with my inquiry would be highly improper. Mr Rafferty, for his
part, now occupies a high-profile public service role, with a
reputation which he naturally wishes to protect. If their evidence
is accepted, they were, on their own admission, party in some
degreeif only by omissionto the alleged irregularities
which form the basis of the complaint. To that extent they might
both have taken the view, when approached by me, that the safer
course would have been to keep quiet about matters which, if exposed,
might reflect badly on them. In addition, both men have expressed
throughout my inquiry considerable loyalty to their Party and
to political colleagues and former colleagues, including Dr Reid.
But both, equally obviously, have appreciated and accepted their
duty to co-operate fully with a Parliamentary inquiry, however
problematic it may be for them.
155. These conflicting loyalties were reflected
in the way in which both Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty gave their
evidence to me and in the anxiety my enquiries caused them. At
each successive interview or telephone conversation both men agonised
over what they knew to be their duty, namely to be absolutely
truthful with me. Whilst never telling a lie, neither Mr Rowley
nor Mr Rafferty gave me their full account initially. This emerged
gradually, piece by piece, when I asked for further information
156. Thus, Mr Rowley only provided me with the
SLP budget documentation after several requests, having reluctantly
confirmed in answer to my question during our first interview
that he did have some relevant papers in his possession.
157. Similarly, Mr Rafferty described the full
significance of the conference call involving Mr Winslow only
on the fourth occasion on which I questioned him in more detail.
I do not agree that Mr Rafferty "changed his story"
in the disreputable sense implied by both Dr Reid and Mr Maxton.
From my observation I believe that, although he was careful not
to lie, he was initially seeking to protect former colleagues
and that only later when it became clear to him that those
directly responsible for these matters were not being open with
my inquiries, and when I asked him further precise questionsdid
he feel he had no alternative but to give me more detailed replies.
158. Even if the budget documents are put to
one side, I am reluctant to discount the evidence of Mr Rowley
and Mr Rafferty, the two witnesses in senior posts closest to
the events in dispute. This is all the more so in the light of
the manner in which Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty gave their evidence,
which, in my view, enhances rather than detracts from its credibility.
159. Dr Reid and Mr Maxton have both claimed
that, since neither Mr Rowley nor Mr Rafferty were the direct
line managers of Mr Reid, Ms Hilliard or Mr Winslow, and they
did not occupy the same office, they were not in a position to
know about the hours the researchers worked for the Party. I am
reluctant to accept this argument as valid. As Scottish General
Secretary, Mr Rowley was the official with personal responsibility
for staffing levels during the campaign and for the budget arrangements
which financed them. Mr Rafferty was the person in day to day
charge of the campaign who was sufficiently troubled by Mr Winslow`s
remarks about possible press "mischief-making" that
he raised the matter with the First Minister (although the latter
does not recollect this conversation). Both Mr Rowley and Mr Rafferty
had a duty to ensure the effective deployment of resources on
the campaign, a task which would have required some supervision
of staff efficiency and output. As part of these overall responsibilities
both men would have needed to keep track in general terms of the
sort of hours put in by members of the campaign team and their
availability for work. Mr Rowley also had overall responsibility
for ensuring that bonuses were properly claimed. In order to do
so, it was not necessary, in my view, for them to be in the position
of first line manager nor to share the same room, as implied by
Dr Reid and Mr Maxton.
160. Both Dr Reid and Mr Maxton have sought to
challenge Mr Nelson`s reliability as the complainant by claiming,
amongst other things, that he had been criticised in the past
for making unsubstantiated allegations against individuals. Mr
Nelson has given me his response to the observations about him
by Dr Reid and Mr Maxton.
It is not for me to adjudicate between these conflicting versions
of events. In any case, the issue is irrelevant for the purposes
of my investigation. Once I was satisfied (for the reasons I have
given) that Mr Nelson
had supplied me with information, subsequently verified by others,
to justify further inquiries, his credibility was irrelevant.
It is the evidence of witnesses directly to me, giving their account
of events of which they have personal knowledge, whose reliability
and veracity I have had to judge.
The conduct of the Members concerned and of certain
witnesses during the investigation
161. I must make reference to one aspect of my
investigation which I would not normally include in my report
to the Committee but which has caused me serious, and increasing,
concern as my inquiries have proceeded. This relates to the conduct
of certain witnesses and of Dr Reid and Mr Maxton.
162. I was struck by the demeanour of many of
those whom I have interviewed in the course of my investigation.
I have already referred to the strain under which Mr Rowley and
Mr Rafferty, in particular, plainly gave their evidence. But Mr
Reid, Ms Hilliard and Mr Winslow, too, displayed an apprehensiveness
and some reluctance to be open and frank which was unusual. Their
attitudes went well beyond the nervousness one might expect of
witnesses in a Parliamentary inquiry into serious allegations.
Lengthy delays in providing me with basic and readily accessible
information, such as Ms Hilliard`s mobile and landline telephone
accounts or subscriber numbers, are further examples of the difficulties
I have encountered in pursuing my investigations. A more worrying
example of Ms Hilliard`s attitude towards the inquiry was her
denial of the receipt of a bonus for her work for the Labour Party
on the campaign, and her failure to rectify this omission during
her subsequent checking of the transcript of our interview.
163. Both Mr Rowley and Mr Sullivan told me of
their fears for their future ambitions within the Labour Party
if they were in any way seen as providing me with information
tending to support the complaint.
164. I was left with the impression that many
witnesses felt under considerable pressure as to what they should,
or should not, say to me and how far, if at all, they should co-operate
with my inquiry. This reaction could have reflected anxiety if
these witnesses felt in any way personally implicated in any misuse
of public funds, a factor which could have applied to Mr Rowley,
Mr Rafferty or the three researchers. Equally, however, the pressure
might have come from Dr Reid or from Mr Maxton, or both.
165. I have, for example, received evidence (Annex
129) from Mr Rowley that, during two conversations shortly after
my investigation began, Dr Reid made threats of a particularly
disturbing kind to Mr Rowley, the thrust of which was that if
he "gave evidence which admitted doing wrong" he "could
face criminal prosecution and risked not being adopted by the
Party as a Parliamentary candidate". In his main response
(Annexes 26 and 27), Dr Reid denied making threats and claimed
that it was Mr Rowley who brought up these issues in the context
of what other people saw as the possible consequences of Mr Rowley`s
co-operation with my investigation. According to Dr Reid, he had
merely pointed out to Mr Rowley that if he gave evidence to the
effect that Dr Reid had improperly diverted money from the OCA
to the Labour Party they would both be equally implicated and
would therefore both suffer any consequences. Mr Rowley continues
to insist (Annex 148) that it was Dr Reid who initiated the subjects
of prosecution or de-selection and that the threats were unambiguous.
166. Even accepting Dr Reid`s account of these
conversations at face value, I find what he said disturbing. Pointing
out to a witness the risk of self-incrimination is not likely
to be interpreted by him as an encouragement to be open and truthful.
167. Mr Rowley was so concerned by Dr Reid`s
attitude that he decided, albeit reluctantly, to record their
next conversation on tape (Annex 148). During these exchanges,
which took place during a telephone call on 20 March 2000, Dr
Reid maintains that both his son and Ms Hilliard did whatever
work for him was required by their contracts as Parliamentary
researchers. But at the same time, it is clear, both from his
choice of words and the tone he adopts, that Dr Reid is seeking
to agree a line with Mr Rowley which falls short of a full and
comprehensive account of the events of which they both have knowledge.
Thus, at one point Dr Reid says to Mr Rowley "You don`t have
to tell any lies. Do you know what I mean?" And later he
adds: "They cannot prove anything, Alex" and "No-one
can have any proof that Suzanne did not work for me in the morning,
Friday night, Saturday and Sunday". Towards the end of the
conversation Dr Reid strongly discourages Mr Rowley from giving
evidence to my enquiry on oath.
168. The second of the three statements quoted
above is significant since it immediately follows confirmation
by Mr Rowley of the arrangement he claims was entered into to
equalise the pay of Mr Reid and Mr Winslow in recognition of their
similar full-time commitment to the Party. The full passage reads:
".... The way it worked was that Chris Winslow was getting
more from the Party and less off John Maxton and when Kevin went
onto the higher wage we shifted the whole thing about, the budget
papers show that, we adjusted the budget so both were getting
the same amount of money [ie taking account of the Parliamentary
salary]. What I`m saying to you is I don`t want to end up in a
situation where I`m getting put up on something where someone
else is going to walk in the next day and say `No. I can show
this and I can prove that.`"
"They cannot prove anything, Alex. Because what you`ve
said they can prove is a lie. Kevin Reid worked for me. He worked
169. At another point in the conversation Dr
Reid tells Mr Rowley "You don`t have to mention the Tory
thing" (a reference to the criticism in the media of alleged
misuse of public funds by Conservative Members of Parliament which
appeared shortly before Mr Kevin Reid was switched to a full-time
contract with the Party).
170. These various remarks are concerning since
they imply an intention, in responding to my inquiries, to give
me the bare minimum of information whilst avoiding outright untruthfulness,
in the hope that other witnesses will not substantiate the allegations.
171. Dr Reid, having examined the transcript
of this conversation, has pointed (Annex 29A) to what he sees
as the consistency between the tenor of his remarks to Mr Rowley
and the terms of his answer to written question 29 in my letter
to him of 19 May (see Annexes 22 and 27).
172. I would add that Mr Rowley`s protectiveness
towards former colleagues and his continuing loyalty to the Party
made him initially unwilling to allow me to treat either his statement
alleging threats to him by Dr Reid or the transcript of his telephone
conversation with Dr Reid as evidence which I could quote in my
report. But after it became clear to him that pressure was being
applied both to him and other witnesses and that Dr Reid had impugned
his integrity as a witness,
he decided reluctantly to change his mind.
173. It is clear that Mr Rowley felt, and continues
to feel, under pressure from Dr Reid to say things to me which
he does not wish to say and which he regards as not wholly accurate
or even misleading. And so far as other witnesses are concerned
he has told me: "I have to say to you that I find it quite
astonishing that many young people such as Annmarie Whyte are
being put in the position by one of the most senior politicians
in Scotland that they are having to give dishonest information
to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I have been told
that others whom you have contacted have felt under immense pressure"
174. I view this conduct by Dr Reid as an attempt
to frustrate my investigation.
175. Mr Maxton`s attitude towards my investigation
has been characterised by numerous letters and telephone calls
to me and my office, many hostile in tone, some intemperate. In
these communications Mr Maxton has variously: criticised the procedures
I have adopted for the investigation; accused me of having given
information to the press about the background to the complaint;
challenged my right to conduct an investigation into a complaint
by a journalist; claimed that I had deliberately misled him about
the nature of the process I was engaged in in examining the complaint;
accused me of trying to construct a case against him and of insulting
him by asking certain questions; accused me of bullying Ms Hilliard
during my interview with her;
informed me that he would approach Madam Speaker with a view to
her instructing me to conclude my inquiry; and said that he intended
to sue me if that was at all possible. The relevant correspondence
and notes of telephone calls are annexed to this memorandum to
allow the Committee to form its own view of the basis, or otherwise,
for Mr Maxton`s assertions (Annexes 30 to 84B). The Committee
is aware that Mr Maxton has also made similar allegations about
me to a number of Members of Parliament.
176. Of course, any Member is entitled to make
enquiries of me seeking information or clarification about a particular
aspect of an investigation involving him or her. I would regard
it as my duty to respond as fully and helpfully as possible to
any such request. It is undoubtedly an uncomfortable experience
for a Member who is the subject of an investigation to have to
wait while my inquiries are carried out, particularly when witnesses
delay their replies to me. This can of course lead to considerable
anxiety on the Member`s part and to the occasional, and wholly
understandable, expression of anger or frustration. But I believe
that Mr Maxton`s repeated approaches have far exceeded, both in
their frequency and tone, what I would have expected of a senior
Member of Parliament. Indeed, I have not encountered such behaviour
on this scale by a Member of Parliament in any other investigation
I have carried out.
76 See paragraph
paragraphs 2 to 6. Back
Reid, in his response to the complaint against him, claimed that
Mr Rowley had been dismissed by the Labour Party. I put this
allegation to Mr Rowley for his comments (see paragraph
Hilliard was accompanied at the interview by a friend. Mr Maxton
was not present. I have received no indication of concern about
the manner in which the interview was conducted from either Ms
Hilliard or her supporter-either during or after the interview.