Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 148

E-mail to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Alex Rowley

To:The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
From:Alex Rowley
Date:27 July 2000 11:41

I write in response to your recent correspondence and phone calls. I apologise for the delay in responding to you, as you know I have become increasingly concerned about the way this whole matter has developed and in particular the immense pressure felt by those implicated. From the outset I have sought to answer your questions honestly and truthfully but the questions have kept coming and as a result, I am being told privately that I am being blamed for "doing in John Reid." I am sure you can understand the kind of pressure this puts one under.

You have said to me that the comment I have made to you about being told that I could face criminal prosecution if I admitted any wrong doing to you and I might not be endorsed as a Labour Candidate have been denied by John Reid. Indeed, he has said that I suggested these things were suggested by myself. This is not the case. I was so concerned after having these conversations with John Reid that I taped the next one I had with him, this is something which I have never done before. I have now passed the tape to yourself.

On the question of who contacted who. The first conversation I had with John where he told me I could face criminal prosecution took place in a hotel lobby in Edinburgh at my behest. I met John in the lobby and asked to speak to him. The second conversation took place when John phoned me at my house. The third which was taped took place after I had called Lesley Quinn to let her know that I had agreed to meet with you and she suggested I should speak to John and she paged him. I did have a few conversations with John before this. When I was contacted by Dean Nelson of the Observer, I contacted Lesley Quinn and then John Reid contacted me on my mobile and after the story broke, I spoke with Lesley Quinn again to raise my concern with her about the official response to the accusations and again was contacted by John Reid. I also agreed to be interviewed by a Solicitor representing John Reid and did so at the Firms Glasgow Offices, this was followed up by a phone conversation with the Solicitor who wanted to clarify some of the points I had made.

With reference to your questions about the letter from Annmarie Whyte, I would respond as follows; Annmarie is absolutely correct when she states that John Reid and John Maxton would not have had any input into the planning of the Scottish Election Budget. However her statement in 1a that it was hoped to take Chris Winslow on for a 33 hour working week, is simply not the case. We had already agreed that Chris would work for the Party on a full time basis and that this would be funded in part by the Party and in part by John Maxton MP. The same agreement which was later put in place with John Reid for the employment of Kevin Reid.Likewise answer f is not true with the exception of the point that neither John Reid nor John Maxton paid any money to the Party, they paid the individuals direct. 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 who you have contacted have felt under immense pressure. I find the whole situation unforgivable given that what you are investigating has almost certainly been practised by all political parties in the past, it was certainly practised in the Scottish Labour Party before I was in post. Indeed, I argued with John Reid when this story came out that we should acknowledge the difficulty of accounting for peoples time, when they are both employed by a political party and an MP through public money and that the lesson for us was that we would not do this again.

As I have told you, my conversations with John Reid resulted in me being told that if I admitted any wrongdoing, I could face criminal prosecution and that, if I was selected by a local constituency as their candidate for the next Westminster general election, I would not be endorsed by the Party. And as a result of what I considered to be threats, I taped my next conversation with John Reid, not because I want to get John Reid into trouble but because this whole affair has gone far enough, people are feeling threatened, blamed if they tell the truth. Individuals working for or associated with the Labour Party should not be treated in this way and it is time this whole sorry episode was brought to an end.

I do not know how useful the tape will be but I do hope it demonstrates how determined John was that his view of events is the one which people should be giving to you. In clarifying a few points, I would like to draw your attention to the part where John tells me that when speaking to you, "what you can say is in November you went to a full time operation...." and goes on to say "you don't have to mention the Tory thing."

The significance of this is that the only reason we put Kevin on to a full­time contract was that John was spooked by an article which appeared in a London based news paper and criticised the Tory's for using research staff for Party purposes. I think Labour MPs were keen to expose and put a stop to this. John phoned me on a number of occasions and faxed me the article, and said that because Kevin was his son, he should be moved onto a full time contract. He contacted others when I did not move fast enough to put Kevin onto a full time contract.

He did however make clear we could continue to use the resource. I make this point to him in the conversation when I say, "at the point where it was decided to take Kevin and put him full time, what we agreed was that we would continue to use the resource if you like that had been there to support Kevin working in the Party..."

If you need any further clarification please let me know. I do stress however that I hope this matter can be drawn to a conclusion as it seems to have gone on for a long time and has caused anxiety for those involved.

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