Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 207

Letter to the Registrar of Members` Interests from Mr Andrew Walker, Director of Finance and Administration, House of Commons

Thank you for your letters of 11 and 16 May.

Archie Cameron and I have looked at the figures again, and considered the further information you have sent. Our view remains that, on the basis of the written information we have seen, there is no prima facie evidence of a cross-subsidy from the Office Costs Allowance (OCA).

The SLP budget projections are consistent with an entirely innocent explanation along the following lines:

  • The May 1998 budget and supporting papers suggest that the SLP were initially considering paying Reid and Winslow £1,100 each per month; but in the event (and for reasons we are not told) they decided to engage the two of them on a part-time basis only.
  • When things began to get busier later in the year, they asked Reid to work full time (which he did from October 1998, giving up his employment with Dr Reid in the process) and the budget was adjusted accordingly, both retrospectively and prospectively.
  • The following month, Alex Rowley increased Winslow`s pay so that his total earnings from all sources was broadly equivalent to Reid`s. This was done partly out of a sense of fairness, and partly because Winslow increased his SLP hours (though he still remained part time).

Much of this scenario is guesswork, and other equally innocent explanations are possible. But it shows that the facts that we have are not inconsistent with a straightforward explanation. At the other end of the spectrum, Mr Rowley is suggesting that the same facts could also bear a less rosy interpretation along the lines that the SLP were expecting to have to pay Reid and Winslow £1,100 at the outset, but very quickly found that John Maxton and Dr John Reid were prepared to subsidise their SLP work from the OCA. (Mr Rowley suggests that the initial budget of £1,100 a month included the alleged cross-subsidy; but I cannot see why it would have done so). Both Reid and Winslow would thus have been working full-time for the SLP from May 1998, but neither received full-time pay until the Autumn when (Mr Rowley alleges) "Kevin at his father`s insistence was put on a full-time contract with the Party".

We have a number of comments and questions arising from the documentation you sent. These are set out in the annex.

In summary, from the documentation I have seen, I remain of the view that there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing. Indeed, if anything I am a little more inclined to favour an innocent explanation. The key question remains: were either or both of them working full-time for the SLP, while they were still being paid form the OCA? I doubt that the budget figures are going to give us a clear answer. Even an authoritative set of accounts might not get us any further.

23 May 2000

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