Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 108

Statement by Suzanne Hilliard

My full name is Suzanne Radcliffe Hilliard. My address is — — —.

I am 22 years of age.

At the moment I am in my final year studying history and politics at Strathclyde University.

I joined the Labour Club and became involved in the Labour Party when I first went to University in 1995. My involvement has mainly been in Glasgow.

I should say at the outset that I have never been an employee of the Labour Party. I have however been quite active as a volunteer particularly since the 1997 election campaign. During that time I was a media monitoring volunteer at the party headquarters. I also was active in organising students to campaign in key seats such as Eastwood, Ayr and Inverness.

During the course of 1998 to 1999 I was involved in a prolonged period of volunteering. In the Summer of 1998 I was in Romania for a couple of months as a charity volunteer. I came back at the end of August 1998 and started working again as a volunteer with the Labour Party in the media monitoring unit. This would have been at the start of September 1998. I was one of a number of students who were working there. Others were Blair McDougall, Tony McElroy, Pat Watters a councillor for North Lanarkshire, Kirsty O`Brian, and Lindsay McCoy. We were under the direction of Kevin Reid.

During that period we were learning how to do the morning brief which was produced by the Labour Party at that stage. Initially I was going in for a few mornings and I was learning how to do it. Thereafter I started working on the lunchtime brief and would come in at lunchtime and would stay until the late afternoon early evening.

In October 1998 I went back to University. At this time I then was continuing my work at the media monitoring unit but would go in at about 3.30 pm and would stay until about 7.00 or 7.30 pm.

As I have said I was not paid as an employee by the Labour Party though I did receive money for expenses. This was standard expenses paid to volunteers for subsistence and for travelling. You require to submit expenses forms. I would say that on average I was receiving £30 or £40 per week for my expenses.

I went back to University in October 1998 and carried on my studies until December. By the beginning of December, I was becoming more involved in the volunteer work with the Labour Party. I took the view that while my degree could wait, I had the opportunity to take part in campaign for the first ever Scottish Parliament elections and I wanted to commit more time to that. Consequently I decided that I would withdraw from University and that would allow me to devote more time to politics. I discussed it with my tutors at the University and I was told that I could defer my final year for one year and consequently I did that. The University granted me a voluntary suspension for one year though this was not confirmed in a letter to me until 29th January 1999. I had however stopped going to classes by the end of November and my decision had been made by that stage.

Another factor in my decision was that at the start of November, I had been offered employment by John Reid.

I was aware that Kevin Reid had been working for his father and had then gone on to a full time contract with the Labour Party. The manner in which the job offer came about was I think that Kevin spoke to me and asked me if I would be interested. I said that I would be and met with John Reid in Glasgow, I think in a pub. He explained to me that he was looking for a part time researcher. He said that he had spoken to Kevin Reid who had advised him that I might be interested and that was why he approached me. I thought about it but decided that it was too good an opportunity to give up and decided that I would take on the job.

I had a contract with John Reid. I remember signing it in mid November 1998. I do not have a copy of it but I think the Fees Office would have one. I remember that I was paid £850 gross per month and the hours were "up to 20 hours" per week.

When I started. I really took over what Kevin would have been doing which was really keeping an eye on the media particularly the local papers etc such as the Hamilton Advertiser, and to advise John Reid of what was going on in Scotland. I would also deal with putting out local press releases and visits. If he wanted me to do any other things then he would just let me know and I would do them.

I did this for a few weeks. After that period John Reid`s constituency assistant became seriously ill and required to go into Hospital at the start of December.

That obviously had an effect on John Reid`s constituency work. She had been based in his office in Hamilton and did all the constituency case work. John asked me if I could then help him with the constituency case work.

The office in Hamilton was closed and I remember that there was a sign up saying so. What I was required to do was to help John Reid deal with his constituency mail. All the mail was addressed to him at the House of Commons in London. He would bring this up to Glasgow and we would meet. He would simply pass it to me and I would then go through it sorting it out into different categories and drafting letters in manuscript for responses. I would then take the mail back to him and he would take it down to the House of Commons where the letters would be typed. He would take me for a coffee at Vroni`s or the Drum and Monkey and we would exchange the letters and correspondence there.

I did not have any office facilities myself and I did all of this work at home in my flat. I would simply tend to suggest what should be done with each letter that came in for example who to write to or what to do with it. I did not do anything on computer, nor did I have any records of anything as everything I did was in manuscript. I confirm that I did not really make any telephone calls etc on his behalf as constituency assistant. Simply I was going through his mail sorting that out and also keeping him advised about important circulars which may have arrived.

As far as the media work was concerned I was still doing that for him. Clearly there was an overlap with the work which I was doing with the Labour Party. I did not need to prepare any written documentation or briefings for John Reid. He simply used to phone me and I would let him know what the situation was. He used to phone me on my mobile phone. I rarely if ever phoned him as I would usually page him and then he would phone me back. I do not have any mobile records as I have now changed mobile phones and in any event I do not think it would help as I did not phone him.

I confirm that there was no system for recording time or anything like that. John trusted me to do the job which I was doing and I simply did what he asked me to do.

I confirm that I did not help with any surgeries and really had no contact with anybody about the constituency work, other than John Reid.

I did not really advertise the fact that I was doing this work for John Reid. When I was doing my work in Delta House, I think a few people knew what I was doing but not very many. I did not do any phone calls or anything from there about constituency work.

I tended to do the constituency work in the mornings which I had free, as I did not go into Delta House until the afternoon. I had moved out of my University accommodation in January and I moved into a flat at — — —. There were five people in the flat, four guys in their thirties and me. I did not really know them very well and did not really have any kind of relationship with any of them. They knew that I was working for an MP but did not know the extent of the work I did.

I confirm that I did what John Reid asked me to do. I confirm that I did not really do any party political work for him. There were a couple of times when I had to fax things to him for example to an RAF base. I did not however do any speech writing for him or anything like that.

As the Scottish Parliament election became closer, I have to accept that I probably was not doing as many hours as I had been doing before. I would say that in the weeks immediately before the election I was probably doing an average of about 12-15 hours of constituency work per week. What I would emphasise is though that I was doing everything that John had asked me to do. Apart from John Reid, no-one contacted me about constituency business.

During my work for the Labour Party, I was in contact with Kevin Reid but did not really see him that much. I tended to be working from mid afternoon until the evening and Kevin was working in the morning and would be away by lunchtime. Obviously by then Kevin was full time and then I saw more of him.

As far as the allegations are concerned, I do not think that there is anything in them except for malice. My position is that I was able to carry out my duties for John Reid in the morning and to carry out his constituency case work, and in the afternoons I would be doing my work at Delta House which would go into the evenings about 7.30-8.00 pm. As the period went on, I would tend to work longer hours but then so did everybody who was working at that time. We would often stay quite late for example if something the Kirsty Wark show was on then we would be doing work in connection with that, for example taking transcripts.

Received 14 February 2000

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