Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Memorandum submitted by Dr John Reid MP



I have set out in the following 22 paragraphs a number of my views on Ms Filkin`s draft report. I have not been provided as yet with her final report or her conclusions. However the tenor of her views concerning my position in her investigation is very apparent. My statement should be read as being in addition to the submission I made to Ms Filkin in early July 2000. A number of the observations can only be made now that I have seen Ms Filkin`s draft report.

I am innocent of the complaint. I urge members to examine Ms Filkin`s report carefully as I am wholly unable to find within it any proof or evidence that I was engaged in the behaviours set out in the complaint in any way. Surely I am not to be judged on the basis of speculation and innuendo.

Dr John Reid MP

1.    It is said by the complainer that I used my employment of first Kevin Reid (KR) and then Suzanne Hilliard (SH) improperly to in effect subsidise the Labour Party`s effort for the Scottish elections in May 1999.

2.    I did not do so. Both KR and SH carried out their contracted work for me. In the whole report there is no finding that either KR or SH did no work for me. That is of course correct. The complaint therefore must be that they did not do their full contracted work for me. That is untrue. In the report the final point appears to be that neither KR nor SH could do their full work for me as they were too busy on Labour Party business.

3.    I am being put in the position it appears of having to show what KR and SH required to do for me and then show that they did it. Of course I did not record these details at the time, as I had no idea I would be asked about these matters. Ms Filkin does not appear to understand that she is asking me to prove KR and SH did the work rather than her investigating whether I set up the improper arrangement the complaint asserts.

4.    Firstly I would say that it was impossible for me as a Minister and Scottish MP to do my work without assistance. Ms Filkin seems to think I could simply do without assistance not just for a week or two but for a year, from May 1998 to May 1999. She does not understand the demands made on a minister with a Scottish constituency in terms of speeches, research and constituency business and correspondence.

5.    Nowhere is it explained how and why during a year and a half in which—my wife died and was buried (January 98), I was taken into hospital, underwent a hernia operation and recuperation (February and March 98), my Constituency Secretary fell ill, (February-October 98), eventually was permanently unavailable for work (Dec. 98-May 99), I was given the additional responsibility of the Scottish Elections (April May 98) and a new Cabinet portfolio (Transport, July 98)—that I should have wanted or managed to cope with constituency work by dispensing with any staff assistance. The proposition by any standards is just incredible.

6.    There was, of course, no House regulation prohibiting any of my employees taking a further job, paid or voluntary, political or non-political. I checked this with the Fees Office at the time, and had it explicitly confirmed by the Fees Office by letter on the 25th May this year. This letter, addressing this specific and important point was supplied to Ms Filkin in July. I am surprised that it appears not to have been supplied by her to Committee members to avoid any ambiguity on this point or any inference that this was an improper arrangement. I am concerned that this potentially negative impression is thus allowed to run implicitly throughout the report. A copy of the Fees Office letter is set out in Annex B of this submission.

7.    Ms Filkin appears to think I set up some conspiratorial arrangement in May 1998 regarding KR and then in October 1998 regarding SH. I did not. For this to have occurred it would have required not only that KR and SH accept this but also that the Labour Party personnel accept the arrangement. A similar conspiracy would presumably have to have been put in place by John Maxton MP. There is of course no evidence of any such conspiracy as there was none. As Mr Goudie QC points out the conspiracy would have required to involve not only me KR and SH but also, according to the report, John Maxton MP his researcher Chris Winslow, Annmarie Whyte and Alex Rowley of the Scottish Labour Party and Jonathan Upton of the UK Labour Party. This is unbalanced theorising.

8.    In support of this theory Ms Filkin introduces another equally unsubstantiated theory viz—that documents described as budget papers indicate cross-subsidy. It is also illustrative of Ms Filkin`s approach. On the one hand, the theory is denied by Annmarie Whyte, by Jonathan Upton, and by the Director of Finance of the House of Commons (despite being pressed 3 times) who regard the documents as "completely innocent" in their interpretation. It is also rejected by an independent account (See Section 3). However, Ms Filkin rejects all others in favour of Mr Rowley despite the fact that he (a) himself admits that he is not in full command of the materials and (b) warns against reading too much into the budgets. In her Summary, she thus embarks on a tortuous section of analysis, with incorrect figures (comparing figures which include National Insurance Contributions with those which exclude them), surprising omissions (she omits the obvious comparison of Kevin Reid`s combined income—OCA and Labour Party—of £14,200, supposedly for "full time" work, with the actual full-time salary of £18,200 he received when later working full time) and with unfounded assertions about "broad similarities" which cannot be sustained even on her incorrect and incomplete figures.

9.    The alleged conspiracy also has an odd twist to it. I am supposed to have become concerned that my alleged improper scheme regarding Kevin Reid would be found out. Ms Filkin seems to think that it is likely that notwithstanding my apparent concern I halted that scheme and immediately repeated the scheme with Ms Hilliard. I cannot understand why she thinks this. It is not only untrue but highly improbable.

10.  She also thinks my motive for taking this somewhat illogical action was because of my son`s involvement in a media storm in Scotland known as "Lobbygate". This cannot be true, since Kevin Reid left my employment in October 1998 and "Lobbygate" did not occur until almost one year later, in September 1999. This error by Ms Filkin is fundamental. Without this alleged motive her assessment is illogical and flawed as well as factually wrong.

11.  The complaint against me is never made clear in Ms Filkin`s reasoning. On one view it is a scheme to place KR and then SH with the Labour Party. This underlies her reference to some budgetary material for the Scottish Labour Party she has obtained. On the other hand she appears to accept that KR and SH did do work for me but presumably not enough. I cannot see her basis for running these two lines against me.

12.  Ms Filkin thinks she has shown "on the balance of probabilities" that neither KR nor SH did their contracted work for me. The fact that KR, SH and I say their duties were carried out does not seem to count for anything. Why is this?

13.  It seems that Ms Filkin prefers to rely on what is said by Mr Rowley. Mr Rowley at no time had any involvement or understanding of what KR or SH were doing for me. I find Ms Filkin`s reliance on Mr Rowley as my principal accuser incomprehensible. This is all the more so as Mr Rowley did not know, among other things, that KR had been employed by me for years before May 1998, or that I had taken advice from the Fees office, or that my constituency secretary was off work from December 1998 to mid May 1999 due to illness, or the nature of the work KR and SH did for me, or—even as late as January 2000—that SH had actually been on a part-time contract with me. I find Ms Filkin`s reliance on Mr Rowley at all times and on all matters at least perplexing, especially since at no stage in any of the material provided does he actually say that KR and SH did not work for me.

14.  The other approach Ms Filkin adopts is to question whether KR and SH could have met their contractual duties to me. As regards KR, Ms Filkin carries out a purportedly precise assessment. It is in fact based on vague generalities by Mr Rowley, Mr Rafferty (who was not present at the relevant period) and Mr Sullivan (who was not in a position to know.) She then misattribute figures to me and proceeds to observe:

"It cannot be said with certainty that Mr Reid could not have met both obligations (to me and the Labour Party)"(para 220)

But even then what she has omitted to not is that KR`s whole contractual duties to me of 20 hours could have been carried out on Friday (from 11 am), Saturday and Sunday, leaving aside his free-time to work for me every weekday afternoon. It is only by excluding this available week-end time that Ms Filkin introduces doubt (and an `extra` 4 hours a day work). As elsewhere, she prefers to rely on her "impression" rather than facts.

15.  The same position arises with SH. Ms Filkin does not appear to accept that SH could (and did) carry out her duties to me on weekday mornings and sometimes at weekends. Like KR her duty to me was 20hrs per week variable. Ms Filkin seems driven to develop suspicions rather than to determine facts even when to prove those suspicions requires an inventive manipulation of data. These issues are covered in greater depth in Section 4 of this submission.

16.  On the question of the supposed `cross-subsidy`, Ms Filkin dismisses the views of the House of Commons authorities. On the 8th May 2000 Director of Finance Andrew Walker wrote on behalf of himself and Archie Cameron of The Fees Office: "In summary, the evidence we have seen from our own records and our dealings with Dr Reid and Mr Maxton is consistent with the proper and acceptable use of Office costs allowance." (Annex 205) Further, on the 23rd May, when pressed again by Ms Filkin, he responded: "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." (Annex 207). On 28th June, pressed again on the budget papers he says "... the results are in line with what we would expect ..." and later "... the explanations offered by Annmarie Whyte are broadly consistent with the documentary evidence which we have seen. We have not detected any obviously suspicious elements." To summarise all this, as does Ms Filkin in her Report, by saying that the view of the Director of Finance was that the papers did not "in themselves" prove cross subsidy demonstrates a curious unwillingness to accept an independent view that suggests my innocence.

17.  The essential facts refute the complaint. KR and SH did carry out their contractual duties to me. No amount of vague assertion or misplaced suspicion changes that.

18.   In the absence of facts suggesting the complaint is made out Ms Filkin looks at extraneous or collateral matters throughout her report and appears to attach great importance to these. However she frequently misses the point. Mr McKinney who is held out by her as being party to the initial alleged conspiracy does not confirm what the complainer alleges against him. He does not say I proposed a scheme whereby I would pay for KR but have him in reality working for the Labour Party. Rather he expressly steps away from such an allegation—and this from a person who quite plainly expresses his uncomplimentary views of me in his taped conversations with the journalist/complainer.

19.  Having spent a substantial amount of time preparing submissions and data for Ms Filkin I am astounded to read that she accuses me of attempting to frustrate her enquiry. This proceeds on her interpretation of contact by Mr Rowley with me. It is alleged wrongly that I threatened Mr Rowley in the course of the investigation. I did not do so and I can find nothing in the report that gives any basis for such an outrageous allegation. It is true I told Mr Rowley to tell the truth to Ms Filkin. That is not a threat. I did tell him not to speculate about matters of which he was ignorant. It is interesting that when Mr Rowley surreptitiously tape recorded my conversation with him nothing said by me in that conversation could properly be construed as a threat to him or pressure on him to lie. And yet Ms Filkin appears to regard this tape recording as incriminating me. Her interpretations could not be said to be balanced or proceeding on an impartial basis. Ms Filkin includes the transcript in her Report. I urge Members to look at this fairly and consider whether any threat can be detected therein. It is also interesting that Mr Rowley`s allegations that others, viz Lesley Quinn and Annmarie Whyte have been in various ways put under pressure presumably by me or on my behalf to act dishonestly are completely rejected by the individuals involved. I have provided statements from those individuals since Ms Filkin did not proceed to check these allegations with those individuals, indicative as they may be to Mr Rowley`s stance in her investigation. (See Annex A)

20.  Mr Goudie QC describes Ms Filkin`s report as "the more than shoddy outcome of an investigation that was mishandled throughout." I agree with his view. In particular Ms Filkin`s determination to believe against all others Mr Rowley and also Mr Rafferty leave me bemused. If nothing else, any investigation of Mr Rowley`s allegations about pressures on Lesley Quinn and Annmarie Whyte would have revealed that Mr Rowley is not always reliable. Investigation of why Mr Rowley left the employment of the Labour Party might have revealed some insights into Mr Rowley`s other statements. The merest investigation into the circumstances of Mr Rafferty`s departure from employment with the late First Minister in Scotland might have raised at least a question mark over his credibility and reliability. None of this was done although I pointed Ms Filkin in this direction. I of course did not know of Mr Rowley`s allegations of pressures on others until I received her draft report. I cannot understand why Ms Filkin did not take elementary steps to test the veracity of these people whose allegations are central to her findings.

21.  Throughout her investigation I have had the impression that the balance of Ms Filkin`s inquiries have always been against me. The unwillingness on her part to reveal prior to her draft report accusations against me and materials provided by my accusers confirms this impression.

22.  In support of my innocence of the complaint against me I have included in this submission for Members consideration the advice of a leading QC on the substance and conduct of this enquiry, and an assessment by a professional accountant. I have also enclosed for the assistance of Members an analysis of the evidential basis of the complaint that formed part of my submission to Ms Filkin in July 2000. Finally, in the absence of any attempt by Ms Filkin to test the veracity of certain allegations by Mr Rowley I have annexed statements from those involved in the allegations.

23.  I fully support the role of the Committee and that of a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I am however entitled to expect that any complaint against me or any other member is investigated in a fair, professional and competent manner. Reading Mr Goudie`s Advice on Ms Filkin`s actings confirms my strong sense I have not been dealt with fairly. Above all I am extremely disappointed that where a baseless allegation has been made against me, Ms Filkin`s investigation has failed to even consider the untruth of the complaint.

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