Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 27

Response of the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP to Complaint received from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards dated 27 January 2000 and Questions put to Dr Reid by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards dated 19 May 2000



Kevin Reid worked for me, paid through the fees office, from as early as 1989. (Footnote 1) Initially he was engaged on administrative tasks and remunerated accordingly and latterly, having taken a degree in Politics and History, as a researcher. (Fn.2.) Throughout this period he was contracted to work part-time and I found his performance entirely satisfactory. In September 1997 his contract was renewed on the basis of part-time work, contracted to work 20 hours (variable) per week. (Fn.3) Like my other members of staff over the years he had flexibility in the sense that there were no set daily starting or finishing times provided his output was satisfactory.

By May 1998, therefore, Kevin Reid had been in my employment for some 9 years and working under his latest contract for approximately some eight months. The implication that I took him on to work for the Labour Party`s campaign is utterly without foundation.

As is the suggestion that he did not provide me with the work and value contracted for. In May 1997 I had become a Government Minister (Minister for the Armed Forces and, latterly, Minister for Transport.) The demands of these posts were such that it was impossible to keep personally abreast of Scottish political developments in any detail. Kevin Reid`s area of work was adjusted to do just that. It remained varied according to events but generally included monitoring of the Scottish press (Fn.4), national periodicals (Fn.5), drafting of local press releases(Fn.6), assistance with non-departmental speeches (Fn.7), local press monitoring (Fn.8) and general political advice.(Fn.9 and 9A.) He combined this part-time work with studies for his second (legal) degree.

In April/May 1998 I was asked to assist with Labour`s Scottish Parliamentary campaign planning, which I did willingly. (Fn.10) In the course of that I drew up a widely circulated organisational paper for the campaign which included other things, a need for media monitoring. (Fn.11) Since Kevin already had experience in that area I indicated quite openly (Fn.12) to officials in the Labour Party that Kevin would be prepared to work on media monitoring, that his working hours could be extremely flexible and that he had time to spare. The reason that he had time to spare was simply because in May 1998 he finished his degree course, not that he would give up working for me. (Fn.13)

I also indicated that I would find the money, and I did — from the Labour Party (Fn.14) Kevin Reid started on a part-time contract for 15 hours with the Labour Party from the 25th May 1998 (Fn.15) From May until October 1998 he worked mornings (Monday-Thursday and sometimes Friday) for the Labour Party (Fn.16) and fulfilled his 20 hour commitment to me in the afternoons, evenings and week-ends. (Fn.17) There was, therefore, nothing sinister in the comment I am alleged to have made at a meeting around April 1998, though I cannot recall exact or verbatim comments at this distance in time. However, I do recall that I insisted that there be a part-time contract in place with the Labour Party precisely so that proprieties be observed. (Fn.18)

In October 1998, approximately six months prior to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the Labour Party in Scotland went on to augmented staffing and hours. (Fn.19) I insisted that if Kevin were being asked to do so he should be given a full time contract with the Labour Party. To do otherwise would have been wrong in principle and would also have exposed the Labour Party to attack as well as myself. This was agreed and, along with a number of other recruits, (Fn.20) he started a full time contract with the Labour Party on the 15th October 1998 (Fn.21) At that point I, therefore, terminated his contract from the fees office with effect from the October 1998 Salary payment, (Fn.22) allowing two weeks in lieu of holiday, a quite normal procedure. (Fn.23) He received no payments from the Fees Office thereafter. (Fn.24)

To replace him I employed another History and Politics student known to Kevin and Labour officials for her voluntary work for the Labour Party, Suzanne Hilliard. I employed her on the same contract—20 hours variable—and the same salary as Kevin Reid with the initial intention of covering the same work areas. (Fn.25) However — — —.[97] I was, therefore, left without not only a researcher but a constituency secretary/agent (Fn.26) The volume of mail received in the constituency (up to 200 pieces of correspondence a week, of which perhaps 20-30 require detailed, written casework replies) (Fn.27) was obviously more than I could possibly personally cope with along with ministerial duties and such that during this period I had to divert Suzanne Hilliard onto assisting in Constituency casework and general correspondence. (Fn.28) I then had any formal letter typing done by the Susan Hamilton Agency in the House of Commons. (Fn.29) I have asked them for details of the work done for me and they have estimated that during the first six months of 1999, the rough period of Suzanne Hilliard`s employment, they completed over 440 letters for me. (Fn.30)

Throughout the period of her part-time contract with me Suzanne Hilliard worked voluntarily in her spare time—along with many others—for the Labour Party. (Fn.31) However, she found working for me and assisting the Labour Party too onerous to combine with her studies and she gave up the latter in mid December 1998, some six weeks after joining my employment. (Fn.32)

In short, I absolutely reject the allegations made by Mr Nelson. I have stated the facts of the case in some detail to refute the allegations made in his letter. Obviously some of the information above was, and is, confidential, and not known either to Mr Nelson or to the parties mentioned in his letter. I did not reveal to the Labour Party officials to whom I spoke the nature of the parliamentary work done for me, the length of previous employment, the salaries, the academic details or the health problems of any of my employees. I did not expect anyone who worked for me to do so either. (Fn.33)

I do not for one minute deny that I wished to assist the Labour Party. Nor that those who worked for me part-time also worked part-time or voluntarily for the Labour Party in their spare time. There is nothing mysterious, secret, improper or uncommon about this. (Fn.34) But my employees were not taken on for that purpose; they were not paid for that purpose. They were paid for work for me which they did to my satisfaction. Indeed, at a time of some considerable personal difficulties I went out of my way to try to ensure that not only were the proprieties observed, but were seen to be observed.



Footnote 1: See Note from the Fees Office re. Kevin Reid`s previous periods of employment.

Fn.2: Kevin Reid graduated with an Honours Degree in History and Politics from the University of Stirling in May 1997. He then proceeded with a two year Law Degree at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Fn.3: This was, therefore over 9 months before and unassociated with the Scottish Parliamentary Campaign: Contract of Employment lodged with the Fees Office House of Commons, September 1997.

Fn.4: See extracts of National Press Summaries, May-Oct 1998.

Fn.5: See one such Periodical Summary.

Fn.6: See copies of Press Releases May-Oct 1998. Such press releases were issued regularly to the local weekly newspapers. As an indication of numbers, between 2nd July 1998 and Mid September 1998, 33 such press releases were issued.

Fn.7: One such example illustrates just how much work goes into a major speech. See drafts and final version of National Consciousness and National Identity, research, drafts and final speech.

Fn.8: See examples of Local Press Summaries, May-Oct 1998.

Fn.9: This covered inputs into a range of topics and articles, speeches, communications etc. For examples of range of topics and communications see Standard Response to General Enquiries, Background Briefing/notes for Local Speeches, List of Transport Speeches August-September 1998, and article Thinking and Driving, all prepared May-Oct 1998. The normal procedure is for me to receive the basic factual draft and then. where necessary I would add political shape or comment to the basic draft received. This procedure is similar to that employed with Civil Servants.

Fn.9a: In addition to the above tasks Kevin Reid performed a range of duties ranging from. installing office technology to acting as my driver on occasions.

Fn.10: See contemporary Scottish Press Extracts, April 1998.

Fn.11: See early action points and paper Labour and the Scottish Nationalists, 19th April 1998.

Fn.12: Mr McKinney`s recollection that this matter was discussed at the margins of the meeting is wrong. As the minutes show and my statement made clear, the matter was discussed openly in the course of the meeting. See Minutes of Meeting of 26th April, item: "Campaign Team Structure".

Fn.13: There was absolutely no prohibition in Kevin working part time for me and part time for the Labour Party. I confirmed this orally with the Fees Office at the time before proceeding and have since had it again confirmed orally and in writing by the Fees Office. See Letter from Fees Office dated 25th May 2000.

Fn.14: Monies were available from the Labour Party for such staff. The meeting of 26` April discussed the costs and the budget to be negotiated from Labour Party HQ for such staff. See "estimated cost of running unit for 1 year—£300,000." in—Minutes of Meeting of 26th April, item: Campaign Team structure, in Fn.12 above. Kevin`s initial part-time remuneration from the Labour Party was £4000—See Letter of Appointment of Kevin Reid to Part-time post. Dated 19th Jun 1998.

Fn.15: Letter of Appointment of Kevin Reid to Part-time post. Dated 19th June 1998.

Fn.16: See Kevin Reid — Hours at the Scottish Labour Party, May-Oct. 1998, paras 4.0-4.7, in the accompanying submission.

Fn.17: KR`s hours During the period May to October 1998:—

Monday to Friday first 8 weeks (May-end July) 8-11am each day.

Monday to Thursday (Aug-Oct) Kevin`s morning work for the Labour Party constituted around 4 hrs within a 6 hours period, Monday—Thursday. He left the office after monitoring the 1 pm news headlines. (Even Mr Rowley puts his time of departure at no later than 1.30-2 pm). He had a two hour break between the main news broadcasts, which Mr Rowley fails to mention. He therefore actually worked a total of around 4 hrs.

On a Friday( Aug-Oct) he worked for the Labour Party only until 11am. A fact Mr Rowley fails to mention. He had a break in between. A total of around 3 hrs actual work.

On Saturday and Sunday he did not work for the Labour Party, a fact Mr Rowley fails to mention.

These hours constitute part-time work. Kevin`s contract called it part-time. By the standard of Mr Sullivan`s stated full-time hours of 14 hours a day every day, and Mr Rowley`s contention that his day was even longer, a work rate of 4-6 hrs, four days a week and 3 hrs on a Sunday by Kevin Reid is certainly "part-time". By the standards of the hours which he later himself worked, after he had become employed full time by the Labour Party, such hours were part-time.

However, the matter of how it is described is largely immaterial to the main question. What is material is the actual hours worked, and whether the actual hours worked for the Labour Party precluded Kevin discharging his duties to me. It is quite clear from all the evidence that they did not.

There is not a shred of evidence that during the period May-Oct 1998 (when he also worked for me) Kevin was working such long hours that he was precluded from carrying out his Parliamentary duties of 20 hrs/variable. All of the evidence is to the contrary. He was free to do so from a Monday to Thursday from 2 pm onwards, on a Friday from 1 l am onwards, and all day Saturday and Sunday—a total of over 70-80 free hours in which to allocate 20 hrs to his duties.

The potential working day is over 16 hours. The potential working week is 112 hours. Even by Mr Rowley`s account, Kevin Reid`s split shift of 4 hrs spanned a maximum period of 7 hours a day Monday to Thursday. It covered a maximum of 4 hours a day on Friday, when he left at 1 lam. He did not attend Saturday or Sunday.

Thus his maximum total hours occupied including breaks and free time, even if Mr Rowley`s version is taken was 32 hours. The total minimum time he therefore had to fulfill his obligations to me was around 80 hours per week.

See also Kevin Reid—Hours at the Scottish Labour Party, May-Oct 1998, paras 4.0-4.7.

Fn.18: See confirmation from Fees Office re. the propriety of these arrangements in Fn.13 above.

Fn.19: This involved enhancing full time staff and volunteers up to a total of over 70. This included recruitment and secondment of, e.g. Hilary Perrin (tours), Bridget Sweeny (visits), lan Austin (Press), numerous students who were brought in to supplement media monitoring (Rafferty 1st March p.8, Sullivan PPs. 3,4) party staff moved from part-time to full time. status and increased numbers of part-time volunteer. Kevin Reid`s move was not in any way exceptional, but was part of a general pattern of augmentation of staff as the campaign was stepped up a gear with six months to go to the elections.

Fn.20: See above, at Fn.19. This also included a considerable number of volunteers for media monitoring who were then arranged into "shifts" of around 4 hours.

Fn.21: See Letter of full-time appointment to and employment by Labour Party dated 18th October 1998.

Fn.22: These facts can easily be verified from the Fees Office and no doubt already have been.

Fn.23: Confirmed orally in conversation with Archie Cameron of the Fees Office in January 2000. If required this can also be obtained in writing.

Fn.24: Again this will be confirmed by the Fees Office.

Fn.25: See Fees Office Contract of Employment for Suzanne Hilliard.

Fn.26: See Letter to Constituents which was supplied with HoC envelopes and handed out by doorkeeper in my office block to any callers in the first half of 1999. Medical details could if necessary be verified ... but I hope this will not be necessary due to the extremely personal and confidential nature of this illness.

Fn.27: Based on a survey of my office correspondence and mail which I have had done. More detailed analysis can be supplied if necessary.

Fn.28: See examples of Constituency Correspondence from this period. Much of the correspondence from this period has been destroyed under our "six months procedure", but luckily some letters have survived, including several which incidentally refer to my constituency secretary`s prolonged absence through illness. See, eg. Letter to Mr D Sproull dated 31st March 1998, and letter to Mrs Peters, dated 31st March 1998.

Fn.29: See Letter from Susan Hamilton Agency, dated 3rd February 2000.

Fn.30: See Letter from Susan Hamilton Agency, dated 3rd February 2000.

Fn.31: At the Labour Party, Suzanne Hilliard worked as part of a team of unpaid volunteers, working on `shifts`. (Rafferty 1st March. P. 8, Sullivan PPs. 3 and 4) She did the evening shift, at its most extended from around 5 pm until around 11 pm. She therefore also normally had at least around 80 hours in which to complete her work for me, similar to Kevin Reid. Ms Hilliard has informed you that in the 2-3 weeks immediately prior to the Election she may have doing somewhat less than 20 hours per week. This was completely compatible with the "variable" nature of her contract and would have been compensated for by those other occasions on which she worked more than 20 hours.

Fn.32: She had actually stopped attending classes by the end of November 1998, though her official leave of absence was from the end of the winter term in December. See Statement by Suzanne Hilliard. March 2000.

Fn.33: Mr Rowley`s employment with the Scottish Labour Party ended in some controversy in May 1999, within days of my appointment as Scottish Secretary. See Scottish Press References, May 1999. Prior to this Mr Rowley showed no interest in my employees work for me during his period of employment with the Scottish Labour Party. Nor did he convey any reservations regarding them hold two concurrent positions. Indeed, the fact that after his departure from the Labour Party Mr Rowley combined working for a Member of the Scottish Parliament with working concurrently with not one but two other jobs in the political sphere suggests that he still does not see any objection.

After the investigation began, Mr Rowley raised the investigation with me in very general terms on two occasions to my recollection. The first, on or around the 10th March at the Scottish Conference where witnesses recall him approaching me and asking for a word; and the second when he paged me at 4.10 pm on 20th March asking me to call him—See Pager Message dated 20th March 2000. On neither occasion did he enquire as to the nature of work which had been done for me, by whom or when.

I understand that Mr Rowley also made approaches to Ms Hilliard who refused to discuss matters with him.

Fn.34: See letter from Fees Office Dated 25th May 2000.

97  Confidential information concerning Dr Reid's secretary's illness. Back

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