Transcription of the tape of an interview
with Mr John Rafferty held on Friday 24 March 2000
Ms Filkin: Thank you for coming to see me again.
I am extremely sorry that I have had to ask you to come to see
me again, because you took the time to come to see me at my request.
However, as I said to you in my note, when I thought carefully
about what you had said, I was of the view that you had not told
me the whole truth. I am sure you told me the truth but you had
not told me the whole truth. I have therefore invited you back
again because I need to get precise answers. Let me say immediately
that I quite understand your loyalties and your wish not to have
to say any more. I have sympathy with that but I must ask you
to support Parliament by giving me a full answer. Is that all
Mr Rafferty: Is there a particular aspect of
our last conversation about which you feel my answers were not
Ms Filkin: Yes; it was the detail of the period
in which it became clear that at least some of the researchers
had been paid as researchers during times when it had appeared
to everybody that they were working full time for the Party. In
particular, I understand there was a conference call in which
Chris Winslow gave some information about his own employment situation.
Could you tell me about that conference call and the detail of
what actually happened? Perhaps you could give me your estimate
of when the date of that call was.
Mr Rafferty: May I just be clear? I did have
a conference call with all of the special advisers to the First
Minister but we were discussing matters which I suppose were restricted.
Ms Filkin: Yes; of course.
Mr Rafferty: I am very reluctant to disclose
any confidential information which we held on the special advisers
to the First Minister. I am not sure I have to do that.
Ms Filkin: Parliament has conferred powers on
the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges to call for any
persons and any records. You do not have to do that at this juncture,
although that Committee has undertaken always to back up my inquiries
with those powers. If I ask them, they would ask you to give me
that account and give me that information. Of course I hope that
my telling you that will give you enough support to feel that
you can tell me the part of thatof course I do not want
any other confidential information which may have been discussedI
only want the information which refers to Mr Winslow's employment
and which I believe he put into that conversation.
Mr Rafferty: In many ways it is a straightforward
matter. The Lobbygate story, as it became known, was to be published
in the Observer on the Sunday, whatever date that was.
Ms Filkin: About when was that?
Mr Rafferty: June, I think. It all happened
within a month or six weeks of the election, of the first Cabinet
and so forth. I had been given to understand that some of the
special advisers were to be mentioned in the article as having
been known to be part of Lobbygate. Given the nature of the scandal,
the size of the story we thought was about to break, I did not
tell anyone about this. The First Minister knew, Mr Connell knew,
the press people knew the first piece of news from the press.
On the Saturday before the Sunday when the first article was published
I spoke to all of the special advisers on a conference call to
tell them that this was going to be published and that they might
be mentioned in the article. We were shocked, we did not want
this, we had already agreed that we would refer the matter to
the Standards Committee and Mr Connell himself would refer the
matter to the Standards Committee. Here we were, the child had
just been born and we had our first Standards Committee. People
were very sensitive. During the conference call Chris Winslow
mentioned, I think what he said was, "I hope journalists
will not start making mischief around the fact that I was engaged/employed
by John Maxton for a time as was Kevin by his father from their
parliamentary allowances. That is it. No dates were mentioned.
I actually have no knowledge of the periods of employment, of
when they were engaged and on what terms they were engaged. That
Ms Filkin: Did you take that to imply from what
he had said that he was employed on a Westminster researcher's
salary while he was working for the Party?
Mr Rafferty: No.
Ms Filkin: Why would it have been a problem,
if he had been separating those tasks?
Mr Rafferty: I see what you mean but I think
it was not "I hope that the newspapers don't find out about
this" ergo there was something irregular. It was "I
hope journalists do not make mischief with this".
Ms Filkin: How could they have made mischief
if there was no overlap?
Mr Rafferty: I can only speculate. I think maybe
he felt that it would look bad.
Ms Filkin: Why would it have looked bad?
Mr Rafferty: I suppose because it is quite conceivable
that people worked for the party during the election campaign
and also quite legitimately did work for Members of Parliament.
Ms Filkin: Yes; quite legitimate.
Mr Rafferty: But newspapers may allege that
people within the campaign, instead of being paid for, as they
should have been, by the party, were paid out of a parliamentary
allowance to do party work, which I now understand is irregular.
Ms Filkin: What did you do with that information
which Chris Winslow had given you during that conference call?
Whom did you tell?
Mr Rafferty: My closest working relationship
was with the First Minister.
Ms Filkin: Did you brief him on it?
Mr Rafferty: I am very reluctant, almost not
prepared to talk about any matters which I discussed with the
First Minister. I do not think this is fair actually.
Ms Filkin: Why is it not fair?
Mr Rafferty: I just do not think that I would
ever want to disclose anything which I discuss with the First
Ms Filkin: Then the implication of what you
have just said to me is that you did tell the First Ministers,
otherwise you would tell me you did not.
Mr Rafferty: No, I think what I am saying is
that I am very reluctant, almost saying to you that I am not prepared
to discuss anything relating to what I told the First Minister
or did not tell the First Minister. It is very privileged and
Ms Filkin: I obviously cannot force you to tell
me the details of that conversation. All I can do is report what
you have said to the Standards and Privileges Committee and see
whether they wish you to come to speak to them so they can ask
that question, if they need to. Of course I would hope and trust
that if I put the question to the First Minister he would tell
me whether or not you briefed him and that would of course be
up to him.
Mr Rafferty: May I ask a point of information?
Can your Committee compel me to talk about my relationship with
the First Minister?
Ms Filkin: My Committee can ask anybody to appear
before it and it is entrusted with that role of asking any people
to provide information. People always do; Ministers do, Permanent
Secretaries do. They are speaking to Parliament and the assumption
is that everybody tells the truth and the whole truth to Parliament.
Where an individual decides to lie, of course they cannot stop
an individual lying but that is not the assumption on which the
whole of the parliamentary system is based.
Mr Rafferty: I am not prepared to tell lies.
Ms Filkin: No, of course not.
Mr Rafferty: I am simply asking whether there
is any respect or recognition.
Ms Filkin: No; everybody has to. All their inquiries
which involved, for example, leaks etcetera all involved Ministers
and their advisers and everybody, and everybody is expected to
tell the truth and the whole truth.
Mr Rafferty: The fact of the matter is that
whatever I knew, the First Minister knew.
Ms Filkin: Of course and that is what one would
Mr Rafferty: I reported to him that during this
conference call Chris Winslow had mentioned this matter in the
terms which I have described to you.
Ms Filkin: Thank you for telling me that. I
realise your proper sensitivity and thank you. That is most helpful
and that will be helpful to the Committee. Can you tell me what
the First Minister advised you to do with that information?
Mr Rafferty: He was not in a position to ...
We had a discussion about this. He said to me that he had never
employed anyone on his parliamentary allowance who had in any
way carried out work or business which was inappropriate. We did
not know the facts, we did not know when people were employed
or what they did and where they were doing it, so he did not know
whether anything irregular had gone on. However, in the circumstances
in which we found ourselves, in particular the difficult position
the Secretary of State was in as observer, the First Minister
felt that great mischief could be made of this issue. Given all
the publicity which was going on it would not have been helpful
if special advisers speculated and gossiped about this. So with
his agreement I went back to everyone who had been on the conference
call and said just that, that we were not in a position to know
the details of this and it would be unhelpful if there were any
speculation or gossip.
Ms Filkin: Thank you. I need to put to you that
I have had evidence from other people who tell me that those conversations
did in fact apply, that Chris Winslow had not only been paid as
a researcher during that period of time but during the time that
he was paid he had used that time for which he was paid to work
on the campaign and that that was what they understood from the
conversations you had with him. May I put that to you? Could anybody
have got that impression?
Mr Rafferty: Yes. I know exactly what you mean
but we did not have the facts.
Ms Filkin: No; of course not, no.
Mr Rafferty: In the worst scenario, if somebody
had been employed by a Member of Parliament and worked full time
and exclusively for the Labour Party then of course that would
be a very serious matter. However, I did not know and the First
Minister did not know.
Ms Filkin: You did not convey the information
to people assuming that what Chris Winslow had told you was indeed
that? Or that it might have been what he had told you. Since you
did not know the facts, were you concerned that indeed he may
have been conveying that he had used time which was paid for by
Westminster to work on the campaign?
Mr Rafferty: I would just be speculating.
Ms Filkin: Of course.
Mr Rafferty: I would just be speculating and
I do not know that that is helpful. It is as I have told it to
you. He said on the conference call, "I hope there is no
mischief-making by journalists around this". I reported to
you the last time we met that several times during the campaign
Chris Winslow said to me "I cannot do that today because
I have to do work for John Maxton". I did not know the contractual
basis; I did not inquire.
Ms Filkin: Thank you very much indeed. Is there
anything else before we go, because I do not want to waste your
time again, which you feel, however difficult, I ought to know
so that I can give a full report to the Standards and Privileges
Mr Rafferty: No, there is nothing more. Nothing.
Ms Filkin: May I thank you very much. May I
say that I am sensitive to the matters you have raised and I shall
obviously try to deal with them in as circumspect manner as I
can. Obviously my first duty is to try to get at the truth. Thank
you very much indeed.
Mr Rafferty: Thank you.
Ms Filkin: Perhaps I could return to the question
which I asked you because I really do want a very clear answer
about what happened on the conference call and what set the alarm
bells ringing in your head. They obviously did ring and that is
a proper function for you in the role you were in. The way in
which Chris Winslow spoke maybe, as well as the words he actually
used, obviously worried you. Can you tell me whether you were
concerned from how he conveyed things to you that indeed he may
have been working for the Party during hours he was paid by Mr
Mr Rafferty: It was clear that he was anxious.
He was sufficiently worried to raise this. I immediately realised
that we could have another exposure. I could not determine whether
something irregular was likely to have gone on or not, but he
was concerned enough to mention it and I was very concerned. So
I spoke to the First Minister in the way in which I have described
it to you. May I say to you that at no time did we ever determine
that anything wrong had occurred? It was kind of "Let's not
Ms Filkin: Yes, I understand that. Was anybody
within the Party given the job of determining whether or not something
had gone wrong in case those questions were asked?
Mr Rafferty: No, not to my knowledge. I reported
the matter to the First Minister. As I said to you earlier, he
felt it would not be helpful, in fact it would be extremely unhelpful,
if there were further speculation. I spoke to everyone who was
on the conference call. I think I said to them that I had reported
this to the First Minster, blah, blah, blah, it would not be helpful.
Ms Filkin: I have also had it reported to me
by other people that, certainly at certain points, I do not know
whether at that time or whether only subsequent to the inquiry
I am carrying out, suggestions have been made to those researchers
that whatever the facts were they should say they had never fudged
those two employments. In other words, that they had been informed
as to how they should answer those questions. Do you know anything
Mr Rafferty: No, I do not; I do not know anything
about that. As a matter of courtesy, when I got your first letter,
I copied my reply to you to the General Secretary. I am as clear
now as I was last time, no-one has rehearsed any of this with
Ms Filkin: Okay; thank you.