Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 14

Letter to the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


I apologise for beginning this letter on a formal note. I should, however, remind you that you should not discuss, or seek to discuss, with any other person (except your own legal advisers) the form or content of your evidence to me or that of any other person in connection with my investigation into the complaint made against you by Mr Nelson.

As you will recall, I undertook to write to you more fully once I was in a position to set out the evidence I have received which seems to be at variance with your own account, in order to give you an opportunity to respond in detail before I come to any conclusion on these matters and to ensure I have a complete response from you, informed by the material I have received from others, to put before the Standards and Privileges Committee.

I am therefore enclosing the following documents:

    (i)  A paper summarising in narrative form the evidence relating to the complaint against you. This is in two parts. The first contains the essential facts concerning the three researchers (Mr Reid, Ms Hilliard and Mr Winslow) which do not appear to be in dispute. The second sets out the relevant portions of the statements by other witnesses which, if true, tend to support the complaints.

    (ii)  Transcripts of interviews or telephone conversations conducted by me with:

      a)  Mr Alex Rowley
      b)  Mr John Rafferty (3 transcripts)
      c)  Mr Paul McKinney
      d)  Mr Willie Sullivan

    (iii)  Transcripts (provided as background information) of interviews by me with:

      a)  Mr Kevin Reid
      b)  Ms Suzanne Hilliard
      c)  Mr Chris Winslow.

    (iv)  Record and transcript of interviews conducted by Mr Nelson with Mr McKinney. As you know, Mr Nelson stated in his original complaint letter (dated 26 January 2000) that he was reliably informed that you offered your son`s services to the Party campaign, saying that you "would find a way of paying him". From my interviews with a number of Labour Party employees (or former employees) I concluded that Mr Nelson`s informant was Mr McKinney. Mr Nelson had previously agreed to provide me with tapes and transcripts only where the evidence I collected appeared to differ in a material way from the information which he had published in his original article or provided in his complaint letter. On that basis I asked Mr Nelson to provide me with the transcript of his conversation with Mr McKinney and he agreed to do so.

    (v)  Copies, supplied at my request by Mr Rowley, of budgetary projections (Document 1 (May 1998); Document 2 (October 1998); and Document 3 (January 1999)) for the Scottish Labour Party`s election campaign for the Scottish Parliament, together with related briefing notes.

    (vi)  Tables (prepared in my office) showing (A) projected monthly salary payments by the Labour Party to Mr Reid and Mr Winslow, which have been extracted from item (iv) and (B) projected monthly salaries paid by the Labour Party to Mr Reid and Mr Winslow together with the corresponding contracted monthly Parliamentary researcher`s salary from the Fees Office.

    (vii)  Letter from Mr John McLaren.

I should add that, in relation to the SLP budget documents, I am still awaiting replies on certain matters of clarification from the Labour Party. I will let you have any further information as soon as I receive it.

You will, I am sure, understand that it has been difficult for Mr Rowley, Mr Rafferty and Mr Sullivan to provide information to me which might cast doubt on your account of events. But they have accepted that their duty to give evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry outweighs other loyalties they have.

When you have had a chance to consider this material I would be grateful if you could provide answers to the attached list of questions—which arise largely from the evidence contained in the transcripts and from the budget documents. It would also be helpful if you would take this opportunity to draw to my attention any other information which you think is relevant to my investigation of the complaint against you. I refer in particular to any evidence, whether documentary or otherwise, which would support your statement that both your son and Ms Hilliard fully met their obligations to you as Parliamentary researchers. I have also written to Mr Reid and Ms Hilliard asking them to supply me with any evidence they have of the work they carried out for you during the period in question.

Although you said you wished to make a written response in the first instance. I may later wish to ask you to come to talk to me in person. This is so that my eventual Report to the Standards and Privileges Committee fully sets out the facts and your position. You may of course, see me at any time or discuss any matter over the telephone, if you would find that helpful.

I appreciate that you will need time to prepare your reply carefully. Equally, it is in the interests of all concerned that my investigation should be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible. Could I therefore ask for your response by Monday 12 June, please?

19 May 2000

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