Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 129

Note of conversation with Mr Alex Rowley, 21 March 2000, at the Church Office of St Andrew & St George Church, Edinburgh at 8 pm


      Elizabeth Filkin
      Alex Rowley
      (Yvonne Lord — accompanying Alex Rowley as a friend)

1.EF Between what dates were you General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party?
AR May 1998-May 1999.
2.EF Did you work closely with John Rafferty the Campaign Coordinator, or his predecessor?
AR I worked closely with John Rafferty but he had no predecessor.
3.EF Who were the employers of: Mr Kevin Reid, Miss Suzanne Hilliard and Mr Chris Winslow during the period April 1998-December 1999?
AR Chris Winslow was paid part-time by the Labour Party and he worked full-time for the Labour Party. This arrangement was set up soon after I arrived. Ann-Marie Whyte the Office Manager told me Chris Winslow was available full-time. He was paid part-time by the Party and part-time by John Maxton. This agreement was made between me and Ann-Marie Whyte and the budget papers which I was party to took account of the researcher`s money. I arranged for his wage to be made up to the level of Kevin Reid`s when he was taken on full-time by the Labour Party.
Kevin Reid was taken on at about the same time on a similar basis, he was working part-time for John Reid as a researcher but he was working full-time for the Party. I would get into the office at about 7.45am, Kevin Reid would be there before me and he would work in the offices until 1.30-2.00pm. After we had moved the offices to Delta House in the August, Kevin Reid began coming in even earlier to prepare for early morning conference calls and to prepare the media brief. Kevin Reid certainly worked a full-time shift for the Party. I believe Kevin Reid worked full-time for the Party on a salary which was half funded by the Party and half funded by John Reid.
4.EF Did you ever discuss these arrangements with John Reid?
AR Yes, I discussed the arrangement, that Kevin Reid was working full-time but was being paid part-time by John Reid, with John Reid and I discussed the arrangement with Ann-Marie Whyte.
5.EF Why was Kevin Reid put onto the Party`s roll full-time?
AR Kevin Reid was put onto the Party full-time because I was asked to put him on to it full-time by John Reid. John Reid contacted me through several telephone calls because he was concerned as articles were being run in the newspapers claiming Tories were using their researchers for campaigning. John Reid said he was concerned that the arrangement with Kevin Reid might be criticised for the same reason and he wanted him put onto a full-time contract. I agreed to implement this and Ann-Marie Whyte and Jonathan Upton the Personnel Officer at Millbank would know the date as they were party to these arrangements.
6.EF Did John Reid tell you that his resource of a part-time research salary would still be available to take on another person for campaign work?
AR Yes, he made it clear that he wanted his son to be on the Party books full-time but that his researcher`s salary would be available to continue working on the campaign.
7.EF Did you know that the Fees Office rules prevented people on research salaries being used for campaigning work?
AR I did when John Reid raised it with me in relation to Kevin Reid because he made that clear to me.
8.EF What were the arrangements with Suzanne Hilliard?
AR She worked as a media monitoring officer, I cannot recall how she was being paid.
9.EF I have been informed by others that John Reid made an offer to Paul McKinney of his son Kevin Reid at a strategy meeting?
AR I can`t remember a particular strategy meeting where that took place but Paul McKinney was under enormous pressure and needed additional help.
10.EF Were you party to or aware of any discussions concerning the employment of any of these people?
AR I discussed employment with Jonathan Upton when creating the budget. I told Jonathan Upton that these staff were funded partly from Westminster research funds and I did explain to Jonathan Upton why Kevin Reid needed to be put on to a full-time salary. I told him what John Reid was concerned about.
11.EF Did Donald Dewar know about these arrangements?
AR No, he had no reason to know.
12.EF Were you aware of any other people being concerned about these other employment arrangements during the period April 1998-December 1999?
AR No one apart from John Reid, which I have already mentioned.
13.EF I am informed that certainly during the last 4 weeks of the campaign all these 3 people worked very full-time on the campaign. Is that correct—or would you say they had spare time which they could have used to fulfill their research contracts?
AR Certainly during the last weeks of the campaign none of them had any spare time at all. Chris Winslow in particular did a `very hard year`s work` during the campaign and Suzanne Hilliard complained to me that she was under extreme pressure.
14.EF Were you aware that Suzanne Hilliard was employed as an MPs researcher during any of the campaign?
AR I was aware that Suzanne Hilliard was being paid to work for the Party in media monitor. I was also aware that John Reid`s research money was being used for someone else after Kevin Reid had gone full time. I do not however recall any arrangement with Suzanne but accept that I would have agreed how she was being paid, I simply do not remember what the arrangement was.
15.EF I understand the Party had no resources for the campaign until John Rafferty arrived in January 1999 and that you were very grateful for any offers of staff from MPs. Is that accurate?
AR We had limited resources and were under pressure to find more. I was therefore grateful for offers of staff.
16.EF I understand that people were working very long hours prior to the election and there were no part-timers is this accurate?
AR Yes, for the people being paid this is accurate and you would be able to check this in terms of the hours they worked by looking at the bonuses that were paid because the bonuses were related to hours worked.
17.EF Did they have to self-certify for those bonuses?
AR I do not know.
18.EF I have been told that these arrangements were not declared and the Party`s expenditure was much higher than was shown in their return?
AR From January 14th 1999 we had an agreement with all other parties that we as a Party would only spend 1.5 million on the campaign and the legislation was passed to that effect. The election took place on May 6th and so over the period that the agreement was in force we didn`t exceed that sum of money. However, this does not take into account what was spent before that date on the campaign or on for example office accommodation before that date. But I think you could legitimately say that the 1.5 million was not exceeded in the period 14th January to May 6th.
19.EF Talk me through how you went about changing people`s contract of employment for example when you took Kevin Reid off the Parliamentary researcher`s contract and put him on to a full-time Party contract?
AR I told Kevin Reid about the concerns about the irregularity of his employment. I expect that I told Suzanne Hilliard but I can`t remember that but I would have certainly had a discussion with her because we were changing contracts. I also changed Chris Winslow`s salary at the time I put up the Labour Party contribution to bring him in line with Kevin Reid`s salary, this was to ensure fairness, and I explained this to Chris at the time.
20.EF So the Labour Party topped it up making the total of his salary in line with a full-time Party salary?
AR Yes that`s correct.
21.EF Do you have any documentary records of any kind of employment top-ups for example your Party budgets which you have referred to?
AR Yes I do.
22.EF Have you kept copies of these records?
AR Yes.
23.EF I understand from other sources that you made deals to bring about these employment agreements could you tell me what those were?
AR Well what I have already explained. John Reid made many phone calls to me about his concerns about Kevin Reid`s employment, indeed, he faxed me the concerning article which cited the same practice with the Tories. I believe he discussed it with Margaret McDonagh, this probably went on for a week or two before I carried out his instructions of transferring Kevin Reid on to a Party salary.

During the course of the interview Alex Rowley made it clear to me that he was most uncomfortable about giving me this information. He felt his loyalties were being stretched in that he was loyal to the Party and the people he knew in it but he felt he had to be truthful to me since I was acting on behalf of Parliament. However, he was most anxious that having provided me with an account that it might jeopardise his future in the Party. He said that John Reid had told him if he "gave evidence which admitted doing wrong I [he] could face criminal prosecution and risked not being adopted by the Party as a Parliamentary Candidate."

17 April 2000

Elizabeth Filkin

Checked as correct by Alex Rowley, 17 April 2000.

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Prepared 22 December 2000