Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Transcription of the tape of an interview with Mr John Rafferty held on Wednesday 1 March 2000

(Mr Andrew Sharp in attendance as a friend)

  Ms Filkin: Thank you, Mr Rafferty, for coming to see me. I am grateful to you for giving up your time. You told me in your letter that you were employed as Party campaign co-ordinator from 12 January 1999 to 6 May 1999.

  Mr Rafferty: Yes

  Ms Filkin: Did you work for the Scottish Labour Party prior to that?

  Mr Rafferty: Never: he said, joyfully.

  Ms Filkin: Were you working for the Labour Party then before that?

  Mr Rafferty: No, not at all.

  Ms Filkin: So you have not worked for the Labour Party or the Scottish Labour Party?

  Mr Rafferty: Never.

  Ms Filkin: Have you worked for the Scottish Labour Party, or the Labour Party, since 6 May 1999?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: When you took up the post of campaign co-ordinator, did you take it over from somebody else, or were you the first holder of that office?

  Mr Rafferty: I am not sure of the history. I think Matthew Taylor had been there before me, seconded from Millbank, they are set up from Millbank, to try to kind of draw things together, but had previously been a Director of Communications (at ?) Paul McKinney. I do not know when he left. There had been some volatility in the staffing establishment and a slight hiatus, I think, and then they asked me to go and run the campaign for four months.

  Ms Filkin: Who briefed you when you took up the job, what they had got, in terms of resources, what the job was about?

  Mr Rafferty: I think it was expected that it was self-evident, what the job was about. I had a number of conversations with them.

  Ms Filkin: But, presumably, they said, "Here's your office," and "here's your staff," and whatever?

  Mr Rafferty: No; nothing quite so sophisticated. I had a number of conversations with the Secretary of State, who was Donald Dewar at the time, in trying to work out what had to be done. I had one or two conversations with the General Secretary of the Party at Millbank. I met with the General Secretary of the Party in Scotland. I spoke to several people. I was trying to scope in my own head what the job was that had to be done.

  Ms Filkin: And in terms of staff resources, what conversations did anybody have with you about who you had got working for you on this campaign?

  Mr Rafferty: It was not like that. It was, "Survey the landscape, see what you have got there, in terms of the functions which needed to be fulfilled, and come back to us, saying what additional resources you need."

  Ms Filkin: You mentioned Paul McKinney; did you ever work with him?

  Mr Rafferty: Never.

  Ms Filkin: Have you ever had any contact with him?

  Mr Rafferty: I had a very bizarre conversation with him at Heathrow Airport, just before my appointment, when he said, "I think you should go and do this job," but I was not in a position to comment. I have not had any contact with Paul.

  Ms Filkin: So, none since?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: You worked with Alex Rowley I take it?

  Mr Rafferty: He was the General Secretary in Scotland at the time.

  Ms Filkin: Yes; and so you worked with him?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: And Annmarie Whyte, the office manager?

  Mr Rafferty: Indeed.

  Ms Filkin: And was Annmarie Whyte responsible, while you were there, for the staffing resources that were in that office?

  Mr Rafferty: I am not sure enough what you mean.

  Ms Filkin: So who was responsible for the people who worked on that campaign; was she responsible for them, and how did those functions work?

  Mr Rafferty: This is perhaps not straightforward.

  Ms Filkin: I know. I am just asking; none of these things are, in the campaigns, are they?

  Mr Rafferty: In the sense of a regular business organisation. There is no doubt that the Labour Party was responsible for all of the members of staff, people were employed by the Labour Party UK, contracts were issued, for example. I am assuming that everyone else—I have no knowledge of this—had the same kind of contract as I had, issued by Millbank, supervised by Millbank, and eventually terminated by Millbank.

  Ms Filkin: So, when you say issued and terminated, etc., by Millbank, who, at Millbank, was the personnel person there?

  Mr Rafferty: Jonathan Upton, who I think is the Director of Personnel, and who kind of fixed up all my staff. As the office manageress, Annmarie Whyte ran a ledger with all of the purchase invoices and orders and staff, and there have been some, I think it is fair to say, there have not been, I think she felt the system had not been as tight as it could be. So one of the things that I did was impress on people that they had had budgets issued to them and that they had to stick to the budget and the ordering system, and Annmarie Whyte co-ordinated all of that.

  Ms Filkin: Did she co-ordinate things like, "You've got a contract for 20 hours and therefore have to work 20 hours;" was there any time-keeping?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: Or anything that she had to verify, that people actually had done work for the Labour Party for the period of time that they said they would?

  Mr Rafferty: I do not know what transactions she carried out between Glasgow and London. My relationship with Annmarie was that if, for example, I required something purchased, or a job to be done, or I thought that they needed someone to do a job for two or three weeks, or a month, or whatever, I think, once or twice, if I identified the person she just went on and sorted it out.

  Ms Filkin: But she would make the arrangements for the employment of staff?

  Mr Rafferty: With Millbank; and, I would have imagined, with the authority of the Scottish General Secretary.

  Ms Filkin: Are you saying you had no responsibility for the employment or the management of Party staff; but, presumably, while you were in post you had awareness of the amount of capacity that you had amongst those staff, who you had got full-time, who you had got part-time?

  Mr Rafferty: Absolutely.

  Ms Filkin: And while you were there, and while you have knowledge of it, to what extent did the campaign rely on the contribution of part-timers as opposed to full-time campaign workers? Did everybody work full-time; were they all killing themselves?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes; but it did change over time, as the campaign accelerated. And we had kind of a month of consolidation, with no extra people, I would have thought, in January, and just bringing that together, sorting out communication systems, aims and objectives, and so forth.

  Ms Filkin: That is a month of consolidation.

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: Who had you got working with them? The people that I am particularly interested in, whether you had Kevin Reid whether you had Suzanne Hilliard, whether you had Chris Winslow working in the office full-time?

  Mr Rafferty: Chris Winslow, certainly.

  Ms Filkin: And they are still working full-time for the Party, or did he work full-time for you, did he spend all his time working for you?

  Mr Rafferty: It was very fluid. I remember Chris Winslow, on a number of occasions, I could not put a figure on it, but I remember, if I was asking him to do something, or setting a deadline, he said to me. "well. I can't do that today, I need to do that by Friday because I've got questions to do for John Maxton, and I've got this to do and that to do." And he frequently worked from home. So it was perhaps more informal than is in your mind, or unstructured. I was simply concerned that they got the job done, I actually was not concerned how it was done, or where it was done, or when it was done.

  Ms Filkin: But did you think that you had got him working for you full-time?

  Mr Rafferty: I am not sure what you mean by full-time.

  Ms Filkin: It seems to me, if you have got a part-time worker...

  Mr Rafferty: He often worked from home. Yes, I treated him, I treated all of them, I suppose, as full-time people.

  Ms Filkin: Can you give me some sort of estimate, during the period that you were in post, of the sort of hours, it may be guessing, in round numbers, that people worked on the campaign, most weeks?

  Mr Rafferty: This is very difficult. I was in the office at seven in the morning and caught the eight o'clock train every night: people came and went. I would have thought, a minimum of 20 hours, but frequently lots more than that. But, can I say to you, I would not rely on the accuracy of this.

  Ms Filkin: No; I understand that these are only estimates, and I am clear about that. But I have got to be able to establish the sort of time that people were working, to understand whether or not there is anything (happening in this Department ?). So I am very alarmed, (and among your staff ?), to check what is being said to me; and I have got a variety of stories, I have to say.

  Mr Rafferty: In many ways, I can understand that; but then there was lots of coming and going. And Chris Winslow absolutely was there when I arrived, Kevin Reid had been working before I arrived. I am not sure Suzanne Hilliard was there when I arrived, but she was certainly around.

  Ms Filkin: But was Kevin Reid there when you arrived?

  Mr Rafferty: Kevin Reid was.

  Ms Filkin: I understand that Kevin Reid worked for the Labour Party campaign from May 1998 to October 1998 full-time; is that your understanding of the position?

  Mr Rafferty: I have no knowledge of that. He was certainly there when I started in January, and saw the campaign through to 6 May, with a break, because I think he broke his arm, or a bone in his hand, or something. But Kevin was there before me every morning, had the press-cuttings done, and left around lunch-time every day.

  Ms Filkin: Were you, in any way, aware of comment, discussion, about whether or not Kevin Reid had been working full-time, running up until the previous October?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: I understand that Suzanne Hilliard worked full-time on the campaign; is that correct?

  Mr Rafferty: We did escalate the media monitoring function, which I think Kevin had been doing.

  Ms Filkin: And she had deputised for him, as I understand it?

  Mr Rafferty: There was a group of young people, that eventually they bolstered with more experienced resources from Millbank. I have to say, I thought they were volunteers.

  Ms Filkin: So you thought she was a volunteer?

  Mr Rafferty: I thought all of the media monitoring people, with the exception of Kevin Reid, were volunteers.

  Ms Filkin: During that period that you were there, you thought they were volunteers?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: Did you think she was a full-time volunteer?

  Mr Rafferty: It was quite arduous. They ran a shift system; some of them were in very, very early in the morning, doing transcripts of late-night news programmes, and so forth, the previous evening. There was a great brouhaha, at one point, quite early on, that they were not responding to the first editions of the newspapers; so they addressed that. But there were quite a number of them, three, four people, five people, and Kevin looked after that.

  Ms Filkin: Can you recall their names?

  Mr Rafferty: My only concern in all of this was, the first thing, when we got to the conference call, the morning call, that everything had been done. Craig, no, Blair, I cannot remember the second name; but they were all very young people, students, attending university, they would go off to their classes, and so forth. I am sure the Labour Party—Blair was one of them, a big, big, tall chap—I am quite sure that the Labour Party will be able to provide you with their names.

  Ms Filkin: But your view of Suzanne Hilliard during that time was that she was a volunteer and that she worked full-time on the campaign?

  Mr Rafferty: No. She was at university. She became quite ill during the campaign and was off for some time. But they were around and then they were not around, they went off to classes, they came back; Kevin co-ordinated it. Eventually, Dan came up from Millbank, and really knocked them into shape, as they got into the final month, the heat of the campaign.

  Ms Filkin: Did you believe that she was working for an MP at the time?

  Mr Rafferty: Absolutely not.

  Ms Filkin: I understand she substituted for Kevin Reid when he injured his arm; is that your recollection of what occurred?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: And did she work more hours when she was doing that, when she was substituting; did that mean she had a heavier job?

  Mr Rafferty: I suppose so. Yes. We reorganised media monitoring. Dan came up from Millbank; we reorganised the office at the end of that time, we worked out a shift system.

  Ms Filkin: Would you say she worked full-time during that period?

  Mr Rafferty: I honestly could not say how many hours they worked, but everything was well covered.

  Ms Filkin: So would your impression be that was a full-time member of staff, somebody about most of the time?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes. She worked very hard indeed.

  Ms Filkin: I am told that Mr Maxton paid Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow as researchers, but that they worked full-time for the Labour Party. Is this so?

  Mr Rafferty: I do not know.

  Ms Filkin: You have no knowledge of that at all?

  Mr Rafferty: I knew that Chris Winslow did work for John Maxton, but I have absolutely no knowledge of the basis of that. And, I have to say to you, until I think after the Observer article was published, I did not know that Suzanne Hilliard had worked for any Member of Parliament.

  Ms Filkin: So am I right in saying that you would not have any information about whether Mr Maxton knew that, if he was indeed employing somebody as a researcher but using them on the campaign, this would have been in breach of the rules?

  Mr Rafferty: No. I do not know anything about that.

  Ms Filkin: Going back to Chris Winslow, do you have any information about the terms on which Chris Winslow was employed by the Party?

  Mr Rafferty: No. I know, because he became a special adviser to the First Minister, that he was not paid very well; but I do not know the basis of that.

  Ms Filkin: When did you first know if any of these people were working full-time on the campaign, when were you first aware of it, and did you know who had been responsible for arranging that?

  Mr Rafferty: I am not sure I understand that.

  Ms Filkin: I am trying to establish when, in your memory, you would have assumed that any of those three people were working full-time on the campaign. You have said there was a period of time in which Suzanne Hilliard was working full-time on the campaign, as far as you were concerned, you did not know about the hours but you assumed that. You have said that, with relation to Chris Winslow, you knew that he was working for John Maxton some of the time, but he was working also on the campaign. You said Kevin Reid, in your period of time, was working full-time on the campaign.

  Mr Rafferty: Well, to be clear. . .

  Ms Filkin: Yes, that is what I want, to be clear.

  Mr Rafferty: I arrived at seven o'clock every morning and Kevin Reid was already there; he had the cuttings ready.

  Ms Filkin: And when did he go?

  Mr Rafferty: He left around lunch-time, every day. But then he broke his hand, and, I do not know, presumably he got some other duties, or was generally helping out, and stuff like that. Yes, he was allocated answering the telephones on the press desk when he broke his hand.

  Ms Filkin: And we have already talked about Suzanne Hilliard.

  Mr Rafferty: Chris Winslow; his desk was at the back of the room, he was there lots of the time, he was not there some of the time. I would have thought, as the campaign reached its height, at least in the last four weeks, we would all have been there, lots and lots and lots of hours.

  Ms Filkin: So can I say, and correct me, that, in your view, at least for the last four weeks of the campaign, all those people were working full-time on the campaign?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes; but I am still not sure about Kevin, and the period when he broke his hand he was answering the telephones.

  Ms Filkin: If you were aware at that time that at least Chris Winslow was being paid part-time by Mr Maxton—which you were aware of, were you not, from what you said to me?

  Mr Rafferty: Kind of, yes. Chris Winslow did not say to me, no-one said to me, "Oh, by the way, Chris Winslow is paid X thousand pounds by John Maxton to do Y;" it was much more informal than that. I knew he did work for, I did not know what. . .

  Ms Filkin: (But did you not really accept it?) ?

  Mr Rafferty: I think I kind of accepted that he was paid, but I did not know the basis of the contract, and I did not have knowledge of any of these details.

  Ms Filkin: Did it ever occur to you, during that period of time, that if that were the case and if they were then working full-time on the work, as they obviously were, in the last four weeks, you might say, that they were breaking House of Commons rules?

  Mr Rafferty: I have thought carefully about this. In terms of Chris Winslow, he has an enormous capacity for work; several times he said to me, when he was doing questions of John Maxton, he was onto the House of Commons Library for this, he was preparing a paper. It just never occurred to me that it was in any way irregular.

  Ms Filkin: Did Donald Dewar know about these arrangements?

  Mr Rafferty: Have you met Donald? The thought of Donald understanding the staffing structure, or how people were employed, and so forth; he would have no interest whatsoever in any of this. I do not mean that in a pejorative way.

  Ms Filkin: No; no, I take that. So, in your understanding of that, though, did anybody give Donald Dewar advice about these arrangements; for example, advising him that they might be against House of Commons rules?

  Mr Rafferty: Not to my knowledge, during the campaign.

  Ms Filkin: At any time?

  Mr Rafferty: I could not say what he knew and what he did not know.

  Ms Filkin: But do you know if anybody gave him advice?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: Do you know if it was discussed with anyone, in front of anyone else?

  Mr Rafferty: I would need to think. Not that I am aware of, but I am just trying to remember back through all of the conversations, and we came, working through our own Standards Committee inquiry, at the start of the Parliament. I may have had a discussion with him about the level of Chris Winslow's salary, when he was being engaged as a special adviser, because, of course, according to Civil Service rules, that was set according to previous salary, and actually I think I had, I would need to check this, that I am almost sure I had Chris lay out the basis of his salary for the previous year.

  Ms Filkin: For the previous year?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes; this would not be until well after the election when he was being engaged as a special adviser.

  Ms Filkin: So you asked him to set out what actually had been his salary arrangements for the previous year?

  Mr Rafferty: For the Personnel Director at the Scottish Office. This would be to verify the level of his salary. And I think it is true probably that the First Minister was aware of that. But, in terms of identifying conversations, and things, I could not do that.

  Ms Filkin: Have you any knowledge that when he was aware of it he thought, for example, "Goodness me, this looks as if this person, whom I thought was being employed full-time on the campaign, is actually being paid as somebody's researcher"?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: Did any of that worry anybody, to your knowledge?

  Mr Rafferty: Not to my knowledge.

  Ms Filkin: I have had it put to me that, in fact, Donald Dewar was advised about that, and that numbers of senior Party officials were very anxious about whether or not such a complaint might be levelled against them. Have you got any, were you party to or have you any knowledge of those conversations?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: would you have expected to have had knowledge of them, if they had been going on?

  Mr Rafferty: not necessarily. This was a reasonably arcane structure, where I was brought in to do the project management of the election campaign; the General Secretary was still in place, running the Labour Party and the Party structures, in liaison with Millbank, in terms of employment of staff, and so forth, Annmarie Whyte was the office manager. I was coming in to work around an existing structure, which still functions. In terms of the business of the Labour Party with the arrangements for the campaign, I would not normally have been involved in those discussions.

  Ms Filkin: Thank you very much. You have confirmed to me that, at least for four weeks, all of those people were working full-time on the campaign, including yourself full-time, and some were being paid full-time; so you have confirmed to me that. Have you got any other information, which you feel that I have not asked you about, but which does throw light on when people were employed, on which contract, and what they were doing when they were employed on those contracts?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: Have you given me the whole picture, as far as you are concerned?

  Mr Rafferty: I think so.

  Ms Filkin: Please think about it carefully, because I honestly do not want to have to trouble you again, I do not want the Committee to have to call you in, because I feel that would be a nuisance for you.

  Mr Rafferty: There was lots of discussion, after the Cabinet was appointed and they were appointing special advisers, about the level of salaries. I genuinely cannot remember. It may well be that, in a private conversation with the First Minister, I said to him, "I understand that Chris Winslow was engaged by John Maxton for some of the time." I was not fully aware of the dates. Because Chris had several times said to me he was doing work for John Maxton, but it just never occurred to me that that was in any way irregular.

  Ms Filkin: I understand that you did not think it was irregular. Can you then recall that conversation, because you say you may have had it; did you have it?

  Mr Rafferty: This is out of hundreds of conversations. I think, probably I had it.

  Ms Filkin: Have you any idea when it was?

  Mr Rafferty: This would be (June ?).

  Ms Filkin: And what did Donald Dewar say?

  Mr Rafferty: No, we did not have a...

  Ms Filkin: You just said it in passing?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: He did not respond to that?

  Mr Rafferty: No, we did not have a long conversation about it.

  Ms Filkin: So did he make any response to that, did he say, "Well, I didn't know that," or did you assume that he was aware of it?

  Mr Rafferty: No; there was nothing remarkable about it.

  Ms Filkin: You are probably aware that I have already written to a large number of witnesses.

  Mr Rafferty: I was not aware of that.

  Ms Filkin: Are you aware that I have written to anybody else?

  Mr Rafferty: I was aware that you had written to Chris Winslow.

  Ms Filkin: Yes, anybody else?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: How were you aware that I had written to Chris Winslow?

  Mr Rafferty: I had a conversation with him about it.

  Ms Filkin: When was that?

  Mr Rafferty: He bought his girlfriend a piano for Christmas, and I was delivering some music, a few Saturdays ago. I do not know.

  Ms Filkin: And what did he say; did he say that I had written to him, or what did he say about the contents?

  Mr Rafferty: He told me that he had received a copy of a letter which the Observer had sent to you, in which he said my name was mentioned. I have not seen this letter. And the only other thing I have received is the letter from you.

  Ms Filkin: Did he tell you that he had been approached by me?

  Mr Rafferty: I think he said he had received a letter from you.

  Ms Filkin: I am informed by some of the people that I have contacted that the responses to my questions are being co-ordinated by somebody; are your responses co-ordinated by anybody?

  Mr Rafferty: No.

  Ms Filkin: Have you had any approaches from anybody to co-ordinate what you have said?

  Mr Rafferty: No. My answers to your questions this morning are completely unrehearsed.

  Ms Filkin: Thank you very much.

  Mr Rafferty: Thank you.

  Ms Filkin: I think I will just ask you, finally, is there anything else that you feel that you can pass on to me, to assist me, either any information or the names of people who you think may have more information about these matters and might be able to assist me? You have given me one name, that is the Personnel Director at Millbank; are there other people who you think might be more knowledgeable?

  Mr Rafferty: I think you have probably got all the information. The General Secretary and Annmarie Whyte, Leslie Quinn from the Labour Party in Scotland, would know the arrangements prior to January 1999. I never saw any evidence of claim sheets. I do not know how the salaries were authorised. Jonathan Upton would be the chap to tell you whether there was a system there for that.

  Ms Filkin: And it is Leslie Winn?

  Mr Rafferty: Quinn.

  Ms Filkin: And anybody else, who has left, whom we could contact through those sources, that you would know of, who might be able to help. Thanks very much. Is there anything you want to ask me?

  Mr Rafferty: What happens now?

  Ms Filkin: What happens now is I slog away.

  Mr Rafferty: Will I get to hear from you again?

  Ms Filkin: No; you will (not ?) hear from me. I slog away and follow up all the leads that I have got, and so on. I then come to a view as to whether I have got the truth or not. If I think I have not got the truth then I will advise the Committee to call people before it, and the Committee will ask questions. I will write a report on whether I think it is correct or not, and I will put that to the Select Committee; the Select Committee always publishes my report, alongside their report, with their views, which might not be the same as mine, and they are entitled to have their own views if they wish. It always publishes in full my reports and the evidence I put before them, so that they are in the public domain, and then journalists and the public can look at it. When that happens, I always ensure that everybody who has given their time to assist an inquiry gets a copy of that printed report, but, of course, it is publicly (—inaudible—) out of courtesy, (—inaudible—) helped us, (and, of course, it is publicly ?) make sure gets a copy of those reports. I think that is the (basis of it ?)

  Mr Rafferty: What is the timetable for you reaching a conclusion?

  Ms Filkin: The time I need to do it.

  Mr Rafferty: The best of luck.

  Ms Filkin: So the one that is going to be debated this afternoon in the House, which is in the public domain, so I can mention it, took nine months; some of them take a week. So it just depends how quickly I feel I need to do it, how much time I have to take to satisfy myself, and I have to be prepared to go to Members of Parliament and to the people who have made the complaint. And so sometimes it takes quite a lot of time. I am more concerned with evidence than spin. But I realise that it is (—inaudible—House?). I try to do it as quickly as I can. When you have gone away, if you think of anything else that you feel I ought to know, or that strikes you, perhaps you would telephone me, or give it to me?

  Mr Rafferty: Of course.

  Ms Filkin: And, indeed, if you come across other people whom you feel might wish to speak to me, perhaps you will encourage them to put information to me?

  Mr Rafferty: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: Thank you.

  Mr Rafferty: Thank you.

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