Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 8

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP

This letter together with the enclosures form my response to the complaint by Mr Dean Nelson forwarded to me by you. The complaint to which I respond is that set out in the copy e-mail dated 27 January 2000 forwarded with your letter of 27 January 2000.

The enclosed materials are provided to you to enable you to make your decision in respect of the complaint. As they contain personal data including medical matters I am providing them to you on the understanding that they will remain confidential unless I agree otherwise.

I reject the complaint made against me as untrue and invite you to hold that no prima face case exists.

The essence of the complaint is stated as being that I used the Westminster allowance to pay salaries to full-time campaigners in Labour`s Scottish Parliament election campaign. The alleged "full-time campaigners" in my case are Kevin Reid and Suzanne Hilliard. I am informed that the "evidence" provided to you by Mr Nelson is confined to the contents of his e-mail.

Kevin Reid

It is alleged that Kevin worked full-time for the Labour Party from May 1998. That is untrue. He worked for me on a part-time basis until October 1998. The basis for the allegation is the assertion derived from what Mr Nelson "believes". Mr Nelson offers no evidence that Kevin did not work for me in the period May 1998-October 1998. He cannot do so. As you will see from my statement and that of Kevin, Kevin carried out his contractual responsibilities to me until taking up a full-time position with the Labour Party in October 1998. Those responsibilities were over what was described as "20 hours/variable per week."

Suzanne Hilliard

Suzanne replaced Kevin as my researcher in November 1998 after Kevin had taken up full-time employment with the Labour Party. The complaint states she worked full-time for the Labour Party. She did not do so. She carried out her contractual responsibilities to me with the same time commitment as Kevin. Again Mr Nelson does not offer to prove that Suzanne did not work for me. Mr Nelson asserts that "many senior Labour officials and politicians can confirm the truth" of his allegations. You will detect from the statements independently obtained from Kevin and Suzanne that they explain why they do not accept the allegations. It is perhaps interesting to speculate how these many people would know what Kevin and Suzanne were in fact doing each and every day, presumably from May-October 1998 in Kevin`s case and from November 1998-May 1999 in Suzanne`s case.

You may be unaware that Mr Nelson has in the last four months acted as follows:

(i)  He attempted to entrap Kevin using hidden cameras on an accusation of influence peddling. Kevin was cleared of any impropriety by the Standards Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

(ii)  He sought to allege that Kevin`s wedding reception was subsidised at public expense. This baseless allegation was stopped (by his editor?) prior to publication in the Observer.

(iii)  He alleged Kevin had received confidential information from the Scottish Finance Minister. This was refuted by, inter alia, journalists who pointed out the alleged confidential information was in fact already in the public domain and had been the subject of a headline news item prior to the alleged leak.

In this case the only individuals who truly know what occurred are Kevin, Suzanne and I. You have statements from all three of us. These statements are given in all seriousness. They all reject the basis of Mr Nelson`s allegation in a reasoned and specific manner.

By contrast the allegation against me is an assertion by a person without direct knowledge and without access to the means for direct knowledge. To find a prima facie case against me in such circumstances would be to doubt the veracity of the three persons giving you statements on the basis of third party allegations. I urge you to hold that no prima facie basis to the complaint exists and so to report to the Select Committee. I trust I will be forwarded a copy of your decision with reasons in due course.

14 February 2000

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