Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 143

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Dr John Reid and Mr John Maxton
26 June 2000
Discussion with Mr Alex Rowley...

...I spoke to Alex Rowley on the telephone to say that I had had the information provided to me by the Labour Party concerning the budget projections and the financial reference for Kevin Reid. I said I would be writing to him about this matter for his comments. He said he was going to be in London that evening and could he come and see me. Mr Rowley came to my office and said that he understood I would be writing to him with the information that I had collected, but that he wanted me to know he was now extremely concerned about information that was being given to him about what was going on on this case. I asked him to tell me what he knew. He said that he believed considerable pressure was being put on staff and junior staff in the Scottish Labour Party to provide answers which did not tell the whole story. He felt this was very concerning if people were being put under this sort of pressure.

He had also heard from a colleague of his who is a friend of Suzanne Hilliard, saying that Suzanne Hilliard has been extremely distressed since the early part of this year because of the pressure that she has been put under to lie. I asked Alex Rowley to tell me the name of the person who had told him this but he said he did not wish to provide her name as she had given him that information in confidence because she was so concerned about Suzanne Hilliard.

I said it was very difficult to establish whether pressure had been put on people in inquiries because of course it might be people`s own guilt rather than pressure that other people had put on them, unless there was some sort of hard evidence. I said that of course some times people wrote pressurising letters and that was hard evidence. Mr Rowley said that he had already informed me that in his first discussion with me that he had had conversations with Dr Reid and had felt under pressure. He said John Reid had not said in so many words that he should lie, but he had made it clear that he should not give any information which he didn`t have to and that he should stick entirely to the matters for which he was responsible.

I reminded Mr Rowley that he had told me that he had been so concerned about the pressure that he had taped one conversation that he had had with Dr Reid in case he was improperly implicated in any way. He said yes, but he didn`t wish me to have that. I said that I really felt that it would be very helpful if I could have sight of that transcript of that document.

Mr Rowley said he was extremely worried about this inquiry as he was being ostracised by some people who wrongly thought that he had provided the information to Dean Nelson in the first place. I said I had no evidence that he had done that. He said he had not, and but that he had always been of the view that he should be accountable for his actions and he had always been of the view that he should never lie—and when he had first had the inquiries, he felt he had to answer those inquiries—straight.

He said that he knew that it was being rumoured that he was conspiring with other people to undermine Dr Reid and Mr Maxton but this was totally untrue as anyone who knew the situation knew that he did not get on with John Rafferty and would not have contact with him about anything.

He also said that it was being said that I was in a conspiracy with the journalist Dean Nelson and wished to undermine Dr Reid. He said that he knew this was rubbish but people appeared to be willing to say anything on this particular case. He said he was under the impression that considerable waves were being made in relation to this case—large numbers of MPs appeared to have been informed about it.

I said yes, I was concerned too that people were not happy to let the matter be properly investigated and for the facts to speak for themselves.

I told Mr Rowley that I would be writing to him the next day and he said he would reply as soon as he returned to Scotland at the weekend.

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