Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Transcription of the tape of an interview with Mr William Sullivan held on Monday 10 April 2000

  Ms Filkin: May we start off with the ordinary bits (a) to thank you for coming. I am most grateful to you and I am sure the Committee will be most grateful that you have spared your time to come. Perhaps you would begin by telling me what your job was in the Party during the period April 1998 to December 1999?

  Mr Sullivan: The title of the job was Scottish Development Officer. The role changed through that period. To start with the main part of the role was to sort of oversee the various selection processes and selection conferences for our candidates for Members of the Scottish Parliament. Once that was completed, I took on more of a role in the election campaign, with particular responsibility for the Glasgow constituencies. That was my basic salary.

  Ms Filkin: Were you employed throughout that period April 1998 to December 1999?

  Mr Sullivan: No, it was August 1998 to December 1999.

  Ms Filkin: Can you now take me through, if you would, as far as you are aware of it, the employment status of the following people: Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow. Tell me who was employing them and whether they were employed full time or part time by whoever was employing them.

  Mr Sullivan: I cannot tell you that definitely because I was not their line manager so I had no responsibility. I was not employed in that way where I was involved in human resource issues about who was employed under what terms or anything like that.

  Ms Filkin: What did you know as a colleague of those employment arrangements? Did you know anything about that?

  Mr Sullivan: As usual with work colleagues, we spoke with each other and you would form a sort of idea what people's employment was and other things about them as well. It is hard to say exactly when you comprehend different parts of that knowledge. I would say as far as I knew Kevin Reid worked for the Labour Party and he was there when I started.

  Ms Filkin: Throughout the period you were there you saw him as a full-time employee of the Labour Party.

  Mr Sullivan: No, I did not really think about it much at the time. Looking back and surmising, Kevin Reid, as far as I was aware, came in fairly early in the morning because his job was media monitoring, so he had to catch the first news bulletins in the morning, so he was in the office for five or six o'clock in the morning and he went away early afternoon. As far as I knew, that was his job.

  Ms Filkin: He did a full day's work for the Labour Party.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes; well, within those hours. What he did after that I could not possibly say.

  Ms Filkin: No, of course not. Did you have any knowledge that he might have been employed by anybody else at the same time?

  Mr Sullivan: No, I thought he was employed by the Labour Party.

  Ms Filkin: What about Suzanne Hilliard?

  Mr Sullivan: My recollection of Suzanne Hilliard was that Suzanne was a student when I first met her and she was a volunteer for the Labour Party. What she did was help Kevin out with media monitoring. A lot of students came in during the election campaign to help, to get experience obviously. Up to the point just before the Christmas in 1998 when it is my recollection, I sort of understood, that she had become full time working for the Party.

  Ms Filkin: Yes. After that, as far as you knew, she was working full time for the Party.

  Mr Sullivan: Until after the election campaign.

  Ms Filkin: Then what happened after that? Do you know?

  Mr Sullivan: I think she was still working for the Party but I seem to remember thinking, I am just guessing about this, that she was working for somebody else as well.

  Ms Filkin: After the election.

  Mr Sullivan: After the election.

  Ms Filkin: Up until the end of the election campaign, your understanding was that she was working full time for the Labour Party.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes, that was my understanding.

  Ms Filkin: Did you understand that to be a paid post?

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: What about Chris Winslow?

  Mr Sullivan: The same with Chris. We all worked very long hours during the Scottish election campaign for the Party. He was there as long as I was or longer.

  Ms Filkin: You have talked to me about Kevin Reid coming in very early in the morning and going in the afternoon, but you were understanding him to be working a full-time job for the Labour Party whatever he did outside.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: You said that Suzanne Hilliard worked full time for the Party as far as you knew until after the election campaign.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes; from the Christmas that would be.

  Ms Filkin: What sort of hours did she do for the Party during that period of time? It must have been a very busy time for the Party.

  Mr Sullivan: What happened in the leadup to the election was the media monitoring obviously expanded a lot more. There was a shift system, so she worked one of those shifts. There were quite a few people covering media monitoring at that time, so I just thought she did one of those shifts. I had probably seen her there at different times during the day.

  Ms Filkin: You said you thought Chris Winslow was working full time for the Party.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: In the six weeks of the campaign proper, what sort of hours were those three working for the Party? I understand from other witnesses that they were working very long hours in those six weeks. What was your knowledge of that?

  Mr Sullivan: My knowledge would be .  .  . I would not have noted it at the time.

  Ms Filkin: Of course not; no.

  Mr Sullivan: My knowledge would be when I saw them and everybody was really, really busy. I just assumed that everybody was working; we were working, sleeping, working, sleeping, like that maybe 12 or 14 hours. That is the assumption I made about what everybody else was doing but I could not say.

  Ms Filkin: There was no difference from what you saw of them from what everybody else in the office was doing, which was killing yourselves.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: Working 12 or 14 hours. Would you say that was for all of the six weeks of the campaign?

  Mr Sullivan: Yes, well, I can only speak in general terms. I cannot speak for all the staff. I would say yes, obviously individuals would have circumstances where that would go up and down. Yes, I would say that was my knowledge of the process. The whole campaign, even before the campaign, these sorts of hours were getting worked.

  Ms Filkin: These three people, how close did you work with any of them? Did you work more closely with one than others?

  Mr Sullivan: No, I did not really work that closely with any of them because what I was doing was party organisation, it was coordinating the activists doing the on the ground campaign things like that and working with the Party. Whereas my understanding was that Chris worked on policy and there really was not much of a crossover there between organisational stuff and policy stuff. That just went straight to the politicians and the media monitoring stuff as well and that was as I described it.

  Ms Filkin: So you were not, say, working in the same room as these people.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes, we were all in the same room. It is an open plan office.

  Ms Filkin: Taking the six weeks of the campaign proper, or, as you said, longer than that, when people were working extremely long hours, did you have any impression that those three, or any of those three, were working for other people at the same time?

  Mr Sullivan: In retrospect I had an understanding that the way—it was more Chris Winslow than anybody else because he spoke to me; he was talking about several linked in a way—the way his salary was made up was it was made up from contributions from different sources. I did not know what that involved. I did not think that meant the work was split at the time.

  Ms Filkin: But it was contributions to his salary.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes. In retrospect, you could analyse it, it could have meant that. But I honestly do not know. My understanding at the time was that it was that his salary was made up from different sources.

  Ms Filkin: Did he tell you which sources they were made up from?

  Mr Sullivan: It is hard to know whether what I know now has coloured what was said then.

  Ms Filkin: Yes, of course.

  Mr Sullivan: I could not be definite about that.

  Ms Filkin: Do you have any recall? You are saying he had a conversation with you. What did he say? That he was not being paid enough?

  Mr Sullivan: Yes, he was not being paid enough.

  Ms Filkin: And that it was all being made up from different sources, but it still was not enough. It was not fair. It was not as good as somebody else's.

  Mr Sullivan: I just remember thinking .  .  . No, I remember him talking about salary in general. One of the points which came up was that he was not getting very much. The second point which was coming up was that it was made up from different sources. I remember when he went. The reason I know what reinforced that he was not getting very much, was when he went to be specialist adviser there was some sort of formula which makes up your salary and you cannot go above a percentage of what you were getting paid.

  Ms Filkin: That is right.

  Mr Sullivan: It could mean that because he was a specialist adviser he was not getting paid very much because of the formula. That reinforces my view about that and about that conversation which in remembering that he was not getting paid very much, links to the memory that the salary was made up from various sources.

  Ms Filkin: Yes, I do very much. That is very clear. Can you remember any comment which he made about what those sources were? What was your impression of what the various sources were?

  Mr Sullivan: I seem to remember I am saying that it was Jamie's Dad. I do not know whether that was actually at the time or afterwards.

  Ms Filkin: Jamie is?

  Mr Sullivan: Jamie Maxton's Dad.

  Ms Filkin: In the period you have described, the period of the campaign and a bit longer when everybody was working very long hours, although you have made it clear that you would not know what people were doing outside those hours, do you think it is at all possible that people could also have been carrying on a half-time job on top of that for somebody else?

  Mr Sullivan: I do not know. That is a subjective point of view, is it not?

  Ms Filkin: Yes; of course, entirely. Do you think it is likely?

  Mr Sullivan: As well asking anybody else as asking me. Personally I could not have done it. Not at that time.

  Ms Filkin: Thank you. I realise that was a difficult question but obviously I had to ask it. You had the conversation you have mentioned with Chris Winslow. On one occasion or several occasions?

  Mr Sullivan: At that point there was a discussion about what we would do after the elections. Generally these things came up, probably more than once but that sort of general conversation we would have.

  Ms Filkin: Was he hoping to be a special adviser or were you all hoping to get one of those jobs?

  Mr Sullivan: The discussion was more about whether he was going to stay working for the Party because obviously a lot of staff would be shed. Here I am again just assuming stuff, but if we were talking about his work for the Party, it might have come up that his salary was not paid for by the Party, that sort of notion.

  Ms Filkin: That is where you got that impression.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: What about anybody else? What about Suzanne Hilliard for instance? Did you have any discussion with her about her parliamentary arrangements or what she was going to do after the election?

  Mr Sullivan: She was a student then. I cannot remember exactly. It is more about impressions and ideas that came about from conversations over stuff and that. She was a student before and I assumed she would go back and study. She had spoken about her studies. I remember her saying she had obviously withdrawn from her studies to take on that role, so I just assumed she would go back to her studies. She might have mentioned that, in fact she probably did say that when we were talking about her studies that she was going to go back after she had finished there.

  Ms Filkin: Can you recall at all over the period we have talked about, from Christmas 1998 to after the campaign, what time she would usually come into the office in the mornings?

  Mr Sullivan: From Christmas onwards?

  Ms Filkin: Yes. Can you remember in the last part of the campaign?

  Mr Sullivan: They worked shifts. My recollection of Suzanne was that she did the later shift most often. It might not always have been.

  Ms Filkin: That would be starting about .  .  .?

  Mr Sullivan: I did not know. I thought that was starting early in the afternoon, but I did not know. It was just an assumption I made, putting two and two together, about things which were happening.

  Ms Filkin: Did you ever have any conversation with her about who was paying her and how her salary was made up?

  Mr Sullivan: I remember, I think—I do not know where I got this idea from, whether it was from a conversation or not—but I had an idea that hers was a salary made up from different sources as well.

  Ms Filkin: Did she tell you who made those up?

  Mr Sullivan: I cannot really remember whether she told me or not.

  Ms Filkin: Did you have any impression when you were working alongside her that she was also doing work for anybody else?

  Mr Sullivan: No.

  Ms Filkin: What about Kevin Reid? Did you know how Kevin Reid's employment was paid for?

  Mr Sullivan: Not entirely. No, I did not. When I had those conversations with Chris, it is difficult to remember, there are ideas in my head now, but I do not know whether they come from that point or whether they have been fuelled by more recent knowledge. What I am trying to do is think back to that point and what my views were at that time.

  Ms Filkin: Obviously that is what I need and I can see the difficulty.

  Mr Sullivan: I do not know. I could surmise and probably have done.

  Ms Filkin: It was obviously Chris Winslow with whom you had the actual conversations and you had more of a clear impression I imagine of Suzanne Hilliard than you did with Kevin Reid.

  Mr Sullivan: Yes. Kevin was there; so was Chris. I just never had that conversation with Kevin.

  Ms Filkin: I am informed by other witnesses that at some point Chris Winslow got very anxious about his employment arrangements because of the articles in the press which concerned Conservative politicians using their researchers on their election campaign and that he raised that issue with colleagues and indeed with managers in the Labour Party headquarters. Did you know of that concern which he raised at that time?

  Mr Sullivan: No, I cannot remember it. I cannot even remember the issue as far as the Conservative Party was concerned.

  Ms Filkin: So you have no knowledge about him raising that as an issue with others.

  Mr Sullivan: No.

  Ms Filkin: Or raising it with politicians.

  Mr Sullivan: No.

  Ms Filkin: Did anybody else, including Chris Winslow, whose salaries appeared to be being made up from a variety of sources ever express concern about their salaries being made up from a variety of sources other than Chris feeling that he was not well enough paid? Was anybody worried about their salaries being made up from different sources?

  Mr Sullivan: No; no. I know that because I never even really thought about it at the time. I can look at this issue now and see why there were concerns about it. But at the time I did not.

  Ms Filkin: Of course; you thought that was how the salaries were made up.

  Mr Sullivan: I did not think anything of it.

  Ms Filkin: You obviously know now, but did you at the time know that Westminster researchers' salaries, people paid on Westminster researcher salaries, are not allowed to use that time for the Party campaign or party-political work of any kind? Did you know that?

  Mr Sullivan: Yes; I have always known that you cannot use public money for the Party. I know I made an assumption that that money was not Fees Office money

  Ms Filkin: Yes; somewhere else.

  Mr Sullivan: I do not know how it worked but I must have thought it was a private salary.

  Ms Filkin: Yes, I understand. That is very helpful. Since you knew that my inquiries were going on, have you had, or has anybody asked you to discuss with them what you knew about those arrangements?

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: You have.

  Mr Sullivan: By a journalist.

  Ms Filkin: The journalist who made the .  .  .

  Mr Sullivan: Yes.

  Ms Filkin: Has anybody else?

  Mr Sullivan: No and I have not told anybody because I just have not told anybody.

  Ms Filkin: Of course not. And obviously I have not told anybody that I have invited you to come here. So you have not been subject to any pressure from anybody about what you should say today or .  .  .?

  Mr Sullivan: No, nobody knows I am here.

  Ms Filkin: That is good, but I have to check and I check that with everybody. I am just checking. I am very grateful to you. You have been very open with me and I appreciate that. As you can understand, I am only trying to get at the truth of the matter. I have no claim whatsoever. You have obviously answered my questions very cheerfully, but may I ask whether I now have the whole truth as well or is there anything else you feel you could either tell me about what you knew at the time or information you could give me about other people who would know and would be able to confirm the sort of things you have said to me?

  Mr Sullivan: No. I could only say I was not people's line manager. People's line managers could probably say.

  Ms Filkin: Who do you have in mind when you talk about their line managers?

  Mr Sullivan: I have forgotten his name. A special adviser—John—

  Ms Filkin: Rafferty?

  Mr Sullivan: No. John—I cannot remember. He was head of policy. I cannot remember his name. John McLaren. M-C-L-A-R-E-N.

  Ms Filkin: Where is he a special adviser now? Do you happen to know?

  Mr Sullivan: He is one of the special advisers in the Scottish Parliament for Donald Dewar.

  Ms Filkin: Anything else you think I ought to know or which would help me to know the full picture, which you thought of when you knew you were coming today?

  Mr Sullivan: No. I have thought about it quite a bit. I have opinions and views but not based on fact.

  Ms Filkin: Facts. Thank you. I am most grateful to you. If, when you go away today you think about anything else you think I ought to know, perhaps you would give me a ring and tell me. What I will do is send you a copy of this tape as soon as it is typed; that will be this week some time. If you would go through it and if there is anything you want to suggest corrections for or expansions to, to make it absolutely clear what you know, if you would write it on it and send it back to me that would be fine.

  Mr Sullivan: Okay.

  Ms Filkin: Thank you very much indeed.

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