Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report




Statement of Lesley Quinn taken by D Sandison on 3 October 2000

I am Lesley Quinn. I am aged 36 and live at — — —. I have been employed as General Secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland since November 1999. I have worked with the Labour Party here since 1981 and I was Assistant Secretary when Alex became the General Secretary in May 1998.

Ann-Marie Whyte is our office manager with responsibility for Admin staff. She has no responsibility over the employment of non Admin staff.

When I worked with Alex the only time I ever remember discussing with him much the employment of staff was Willie Sullivan. I had difficulties with Willie`s employment. Alex told me he wanted Willie to work as a Development Officer and Willie was meant to report to me as Line Manager but spent much of his time with responsibilities from Alex, i.e. driving him to meetings, speaking to people etc. I found this difficult. As General Secretary it was up to Alex to decide on what staff was needed, i.e. Kevin or Chris. I would only be involved with staff in strategic seats and party organisation. When Kevin was here part time he was doing media monitoring. He would report to Alex and I do remember Alex saying at one stage he wanted Kevin to go full time and he was thinking of making him part of my team and I thought Kevin could do a lot for me in that area. Kevin in fact never became part of my team because the media monitoring needed more focus with the election the next year. In about October or November 1998 we got secondments from Millbank and other offices. We were hotting up towards the work for the Scottish elections. These were the Scottish Elections, European elections and local elections.

I never had any discussions with anyone about Kevin being taken on full time to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. It was never raised with me. When Kevin was media monitoring officer I knew Kevin was working for his father and I remember one specific occasion when Kevin mentioned the sort of thing he would for his father. It was when I was getting a train in to the office and it was a very hot day, it was delayed and I made some moaning comments.

I knew Kevin worked part time here and part time for his father. Clearly he was working more in the office when he changed to full time work. You would be aware of Kevin being here because of his personality.

I would also point out that I have never heard John refer to Kevin as "my boy". I was never put under any pressure by anyone in connection with the Parliamentary Commissioner`s Inquiry and I was never asked to remove any financial information.

The person who I most spoke to about this inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner was Alex Rowley. We were constantly calling each other. I tried to support him when he became involved with the Commissioner.

I did confirm to the Commissioner that we had a reference for Kevin to get a mortgage. The reason I know this is because I checked the records now. The only reference given to Kevin was the one in 1999 and there was no reference in 1998.

I have never felt under any pressure in relation to this inquiry nor have the staff. The only time I felt pressure was with Miss Filkin because I felt she did not believe me when she interviewed me.

I remember Alex was phoning me because he was very worried about meeting with the Commissioner in March 2000. He met her on Tuesday 21 March and up until then he was contacting me to talk things through and to get support and ask what he would do. I felt sorry for him. When he was here he would often leave a lot of his correspondence unanswered and he was not a very organised person and I tried to help him. He spoke to me a lot about the fact he had received a letter from Miss Filkin although he did not show it to me. He lives in — — and we never actually met but he told me he had received a letter in February from the Commissioner and he was worried about certain points of the letter to do with the contracts of Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow and how many hours they were working for us. I told him to tell the truth and said it was not his concern what people did when they left the office because he could not know what they did.

I know that Alex saw the Commissioner on Tuesday 21 March and I spoke to him on 22 March. I phoned him at his house to see how he had got on. He said he had got on fine and she was a really nice person. He mentioned that he had got a friend to go with him (I note that when I went to see the Commissioner she never invited me to bring a friend although I took Mr Murray Elder).

The Commissioner had also tried to see me on 21 March and in fact asked me to come to the meeting at 7 o`clock in the morning but I could not do this because I have a 4 year old daughter to look after. The Commissioner was up in Scotland for a couple of days.

Before Alex`s meeting with the Commissioner on 21 March he had phoned me on Monday 20 March. I think I was in Glasgow and he phoned me to say that he was anxious about the meeting with Miss Filkin. He had heard a rumour also that he was getting taken off the panel of candidates and not being selected as a candidate in Central Fife. I said I had never heard this. He was really frightened about seeing her and about being taken off the National Parliamentary panel and he also said he was worried the NEC would take him off the list of candidates. I reassured Alex and just told him to tell the truth. He said he needed to contact John Reid. I suggested that I page John because I was worried that Alex in fact would not phone John. I felt that it would be good for him to speak to John for additional support. I also knew he probably did not have John`s pager number to hand so I paged John to phone Alex at home. I understand that John then did contact Alex but this was at my request. As stated I phoned Alex on 22 March to see how he had got on.

At no stage did Alex ever suggest that John had threatened him. Alex also never mentioned anything to me about possible criminal prosecution. Alex did not actually say to me on 22 March that he had spoken to John on the phone on Monday 21 March.

After Alex spoke to Miss Filkin he stopped calling me.

Another point I remember is that Alex was very worried about taking an oath. I told him I did not want to either as I remembered the only other time I swore an oath was when my mother died intestate and I had to go to the Sheriff Court to do this.

John only phoned Alex because I asked him to do so. Alex never said John had been trying to contact him.

I remember that on about 10 or 11 March it was the Scottish Labour Party Conference at the EICC. I was coming back from the Conference to go to the Balmoral Hotel and I met Alex with him friend Catriona and Alex mentioned to me that he had had a really good discussion with John and he felt a lot better because of this. He said nothing as I have mentioned already about any possible criminal prosecution and he was clearly very happy about whatever conversation he had had with John. Catriona Renton would not have heard this because she stepped back when I was speaking to him.

There is no way that Kevin, Chris or Suzanne were working full time for the Party when getting paid partly by Labour and partly by the MPs.

I do not remember seeing any document at the time about concerns that Parliamentary staff were being used for Party research. It may have been circulated in the office but I do not remember it.

I remember Kevin used to leave the office at about 11.30 or 12 pm.

Regarding Willie Sullivan, I had the opportunity to extend his contract and decided not to do this.

Mr McKinney was with us for a very short time.

John Reid was always very supportive of Alex. Alex once told me that John was a great guy.

On 16 April 2000 Alex did not get selected for the Central Fife Constituency as a Parliamentary Candidate. John McDougall got selected instead. Henry McLeish was stepping down as Parliamentary Candidate because he was an MSP. I phoned Alex on 18 April to see if he was OK and he was fine.

I understand that Alex has budget information on this office. He should not have this information when he no longer is employed by the Party. We have confidentiality statements which we all sign when joining as Party employees and I have obtained a copy of Alex`s confidentiality statement which he signed. He should not retain any documentation when he leaves the Party and he should not divulge any information.

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