Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP
On 14 February I sent you a statement setting out
the facts of the matter in response to the complaint from Mr Nelson
which you had forwarded to me.
I should make it clear that I have seen no evidence
nor any facts which materially question the statement which
I gave to you back in February. I have now annotated that statementexactly
as it was presented to you some five months agowith footnotes
providing evidence, references and substantiation to every significant
assertion contained within it. I invite you to compare and contrast
this with the unsubstantiated accounts which you have received
from some others.
I also invite you to consider some material background
information which might clear up some misconceptions. This is
done in order to ensure that you have, as you say you wish to
have the "fullest possible" picture.
Working Methods of Scottish Members of Parliament
It is important to recognise that MPs from constituencies
far removed from Westminster cannot operate in the same fashion
as those from constituencies near the capital. Scotland has its
own politics, national priorities, press, media and culture. Most
of us believe in having an office in our constituency, among our
electorate, not in London. By definition, we operate hundreds
of miles from home and constituency offices and staff. We are
removed from these for days at a time. When we have the good fortune
to become a Minister, we are sometimes away from them for weeks
on end. We have to innovate and fashion convenient, if sometimes
unorthodox methods of conducting our business. (On constituency
business, for instance, over the past twelve years I have had
to increasingly rely on the use of dictaphone and the posting
of tapes and related papers for typing to and from my Scottish
Staff.) The pressure of work on becoming a Minister means that
this reliance upon our staff becomes so much greater.
Full-time and Part-time
It is in this context that the undefined us of the
term "full-time" obfuscates rather than clarifies this
complaint especially where, as in the transcripts you have sent
me it is variously used on different occasions to denote a working
day ranging from 4 hours to 14 or 16 hours. In fact, during an
election campaign a "full-time" Labour Party official
is expected to work the sort of hours which Mr Rowley and Sullivan
claims they themselves were indeed workingi.e. 14-16 hours
per day, six/seven days a week. It is absolutely clear, that neither
of my employees were working anything like this.
However, there is a sense in which how one describes
the job (whether full-time or part-time) actually obfuscates rather
than clarifies the issue, particularly since it is used throughout
the statements (and in Mr Nelson`s complaint, in a vague and completely
undefined manner embracing varying hours per day. What actually
matters is the actual number of hours worked. I have dealt with
that matter in some detail in my response.
The Primary points
I have directed my attention towards the matters
of primary concern which I take to be:
(i) Is there any evidence
that Kevin Reid and/or Suzanne Hilliard were prohibited by House
rules or regulations from undertaking other activity, voluntary
or professionally, paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time while
concurrently working part-time (20 hrs a week on average) for
me? The answer to this is clearly "no", as is made clear
by the advice received then from, and confirmed in writing since
by, the Fees Office.
(ii) Is there any evidence that Kevin Reid and
Suzanne Hilliard were physically precluded from carrying out the
specified average hours of work for me, while paid by the Fees
Office, by their other activities? The answer, not only from myself,
Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard but also from an examination of the
statements of Mssrs Rafferty, Rowley and Sullivan is clearly "no".
The latter three were hardly in a position to know the facts,
in any case. But it may be that this fact is also confirmed by
other statements of which I have had no sight.
(iii) Is their any evidence that, even though
time was available to carry out work for me as specified in the
Fees Office contract, that they did not in fact carry out such
work? No such evidence is evinced from any of the statements of
Mr Rowley, Sullivan, or Rafferty. Not one of them even attempts
to assert this. Of course they were in no position to know. Conversely,
the statements of myself, Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard testify
to the fact that this work was done. This is backed by documentary
material. It is also supported by the simple fact that the contrary
view has to based on the frankly incredible proposition that throughout
most of the relevant period I would have to be assumed to have
discharged my duties as a Minister and Member of Parliament in
London while also personally undertaking all my constituency work
and correspondence single handedly. No Member of Parliament, or
anyone with any experience of the work of a Member of Parliament
could believe this.
Thus the answer to all three of these supports what
I have been saying all along.
There are three subsidiary but important points:
First, what was the nature of my remarks at the meeting
of the 26th April? As you will see I have provided evidence from
the actual minutes of the meeting that the matter was discussed
openly rather than surreptitiously, in the meeting rather than
afterwards, and in the context of drawing up of a campaign staff
budget from Labour Party HQ. All of this, in addition to the actual
statement to you of Mr McKinney himself (as opposed to Mr Nelsons`
words) supports the position outlined to you in my statement of
the 14th February 2000, given to you freely before I had seen
any of the material which you sent me.
Secondly, why did I insist that Kevin Reid be employed
solely and exclusively by the Labour Party from October onwards?
Again, both the evidence and common sense supports the explanation
which I have already given to younamely, that I was not
prepared to have Kevin paid through the fees office if he was
unable to do the work for which he was paid.
Finally, there is the matter of the alleged "threats"
to Mr Rowley. As you will see, to the best of my recollection
I have discussed this matter with Mr Rowleyin very general
termson only two occasions. On both occasions these conversations
were undertaken at the behest and on the initiative of Mr Rowley
not me, as can be testified to by both witnesses and the pager
message which I have sent to you. The content of the conversations
is outlined in these documents and cannot, other than on the most
malevolent interpretation, be considered as anything remotely
like a "threat".
The choice of "witnesses", perhaps suggested
mainly by Mr Nelson is, to say the least, peculiar. Some 70 people
operated in or out of the Labour Party HQ in the course of the
campaign. Of these, perhaps 25 of these were associated with press
or press strategy in some way. Among these, around 8 were involved
directly in media monitoring. Not one of these was interviewed
or written to so far as I am aware. Not one who actually worked
with, or close to Kevin Reid or Suzanne Hilliard, and who presumably
would have been in a position to actually directly testify as
to their hours was, to my knowledge asked their view. None of
the witnesses of whom I am aware were there (a) throughout the
relevant period and (b) involved in press strategy and (c) in
a position to reasonably know their hours of work. Some comments
and questions on Mr Rowley`s reliability as a witness and on Mr
Nelson are incorporated within my submission, but you might also
like to take into consideration that:
Mr McKinney left his employment
with the Labour Party abruptly after only six weeks under circumstances
involving personal difficulties on the 21st May 1998, four days
before Kevin Reid started work with the Labour Party. Thereafter,
he did not set foot in the Labour Party HQ in the course of the
campaign. He was, therefore, in no position to know anything whatsoever
about the work done by either Kevin Reid or Suzanne Hilliard either
for the Labour Party or for Dr Reid.
Mr Sullivan in particular
is a peculiar choice as a witness. He had nothing to do with press.
He did not join until August 1998. He sat at the opposite end
of the room. Indeed at one stage during the relevant period, on
a different floor altogether. Among those employed by the Party
in the course of the campaign he was just about the least qualified
to provide accurate information as to hours of work in media monitoring.
In December 1999 his contract with the Labour Party was not renewed
and his work for the Labour Party terminated. (Shortly afterwards,
Mr Nelson` article appeared.) Mr Sullivan was not even mentioned
in any of the witness statements or in the original complaint.
It is, therefore, interesting to speculate as to how and why Mr
Sullivan came to emerge as a "relevant" witness. He
was, of course, a colleague of Mr Rowley at Fife Council, was
then hired by the Labour Party at Mr Rowley`s insistence against
considerable opposition, was and remains one of Mr Rowley`s closest
confidants. He does have one thing in common with the other witnesseshis
employment with the Labour Party terminated under difficult circumstances.
Mr Rafferty worked for
the Labour Party from January 1999. He therefore started some
three months after Kevin Reid had started working exclusively
for the Labour Party and is not in a position to give direct or
reliable testimony as to Kevin Reid`s hours or work during the
period for which he worked for Dr Reid. While working in the Labour
Party, he was not working with or line manager for Suzanne Hilliard.
His office was not part of the open plan office. He was not therefore
physically in a position to observe relevant matters with any
degree of accuracy. He left employment with the First Minister
in circumstances which are well known in Scotland. His complete
volte-face on at least one section of his testimony raises interesting
I trust that the enclosed materials illustrate that
I have done my level best to respond to your letter of 19th May
and enclosures with the fullest possible response, and that even
at this late stage you might now conclude that the complaint is
5 July 2000