Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex H

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


25 JULY 2001


Mr John Rowan telephoned in response to my letter of 23 July. He said he would like to answer the questions on the telephone as he was in Scotland. He provided answers as follows:

Question 1:  The dates when you were employed by the Scottish Labour Party

"I was employed by the Scottish Labour Party from 1996 until after the General Election in 1997. My contract was then terminated. I was then re-employed by the Scottish Labour Party from September 1998 until March 2001. I was employed as the Scottish Telephone Bank Organiser."

Question 2:  The information of which you were aware at any time, about the employment arrangements relating to Ms S Hilliard, Mr C Winslow, Mr Jamie Maxton and Mr Kevin Reid

"I dealt with Susan Hilliard and Kevin Reid very frequently. They were employed by the Labour Party on media monitoring. I spoke to them every other day in the period running up to the campaign from January 1999 to March 1999 and when the campaign proper started in March 1999 I spoke to them every day. I provided them information from the media by fax. I also dealt with Chris Winslow frequently. He worked in the research team. My understanding was that they were all employed full time by the Labour Party throughout that period. At the commencement of my appointment in September 1998, I was based in Delta House where I observed all of the above working on Labour Party duties for long hours.

I also attended the Scottish Labour Party special conference on Saturday, 19 September 1998 as a member of staff. I observed Kevin Reid working on Labour Party duties dealing with the press. Dr Reid introduced Kevin Reid to journalists saying "This is my boy." Chris Winslow attended the conference and acted as a facilitator for a workshop.

Another of my tasks was to get Party Members to TV studios. On one occasion Susan Hilliard came along to one of these events with Alex Rowley and as far as I was aware, she was working for the Scottish Labour Party.

After the Scottish Election in 1999 I had a conversation with Susan Hilliard and she told me that she was employed by John Maxton."

Question 3:  Whether you knew of any arrangement between Mr John Maxton and the Labour Party to use, for Party work, staff employed on House of Commons salaries during time paid for by the House of Commons. If so, please give the details of which you were aware and by whom you were informed of these details.

"I knew nothing formally of any such arrangement until I saw a copy of the letter from Mr Maxton to Lesley Quinn (dated 10 November 1999). The letter was circulated to all Labour Party staff working in the Edinburgh and Glasgow offices. I recognised the handwriting on the top right hand corner. This is the handwriting of Constance Mezynski who was the PA to the General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, both when this post was held by Alex Rowley and by Lesley Quinn. There was no covering letter with it and I understood it clearly as meaning that the staff were those provided by Mr Maxton whose salaries were paid by the House of Commons. I understood that the colleagues referred to in the letter were the other Scottish MPs because I knew that many Scottish MP's were wary of using their staff resources in this manner. I did not know at the time why they were wary. That has only become clear to me as I saw the newspaper reports about the Report of the inquiry concerning Dr Reid and Mr Maxton. But I knew, for example, that an MP for whom I did some constituency work prior to my appointment by the Labour Party was very aware of this and made it clear to staff employed on House of Commons salaries that they were not to do Party work during the time they were paid by the House of Commons. I believe that the staff in question referred to in the letter were Chris Winslow during the Scottish Election Campaign when he was working full time for the Labour Party and Jamie Maxton, Mr Maxton's son, who was paid through monies provided through MP's allowances for his work for the Scottish Labour Party. I formed the latter view because after the General Election in 1997 my contract was terminated with the Labour Party because there was no Labour Party money to continue it. I made enquiries as to why Jamie Maxton's contract continued and was told that he was paid by John Maxton from his MP's allowance. I believe I was told this by Lesley Quinn but my recollection of this is slightly unclear.

Question 4:  What you know of the letter sent by Mr Maxton to Ms Quinn dated 10 November 1999, including to whom was it circulated, whether there was any covering letter, and what staffing resources, as referred to in this letter, Mr Maxton had provided over the past years to the Party and on what basis (copy attached).

"I think I have answered this question in my reply on question 3."

Question 5:  You told me that, having read newspaper articles following the publication of the Committee's report on the complaints against Mr Maxton, you felt Mr Alex Rowley had been unfairly treated. Please would you set out these concerns as they relate to the complaints against Mr John Maxton?

"I got the impression from what was said in the office after your Report was published at the beginning of 2001 that Alex Rowley had been treated unfairly. I heard Lesley Quinn remark that the report had "destroyed" Alex Rowley. However, the way that Lesley Quinn spoke on that occasion made me feel that she felt very guilty. I felt that she had been party to some of the underhand moves against Alex Rowley. I was concerned that there were a number of people in the Scottish Labour Party who did not appear to be loyal to the Labour Party but who were loyal to particular individuals. I always felt that Alex Rowley was absolutely loyal to the Labour Party and a very truthful person. As he had been brought into the Labour Party with a distinguished record as the former leader of Fife Council, rather from within the Party itself, I felt he had no axe to grind and that he would tell the truth and not cover up on behalf of particular individuals if they, or he, had acted incorrectly. However, I did not feel the same about Lesley Quinn. There have been a number of instances in which, in my view, she tends to "cover up" for people. Having read reports of the inquiry in the newspapers, I came to the conclusion that Lesley Quinn and Annmarie Whyte had probably said what they were "told to say". My suspicion is that Lesley Quinn, Annmarie Whyte, Chris Winslow and Kevin Reid and Susan Hilliard would be likely to say what they had been "told to say" to protect individuals rather than to tell the truth and to ensure that the Labour Party acted properly.

At one time Lesley Quinn threatened me that if I talked to anyone about anything to do with the Labour Party, I would be out. Lesley Quinn has since denied this conversation.

I also gained the impression from work in the Scottish Labour Party that there were a group of people which included Chris Winslow, Kevin Reid, Annemarie Whyte and Lesley Quinn who were out to undermine Alex Rowley from the time of his appointment.

I also formed the view that John Maxton was someone who always did what he was told and if Lesley Quinn had told him what he should say in an inquiry, he would have done what she said.

KPMG were called in to carry out a piece of consultancy work in relation to the Scottish Labour Party at the end of July 1999. I noticed that Susan Hilliard was on the list of Labour Party staff required to give information to KPMG. She was also included as a member of Labour Party staff on a trip to Downing Street and on a boat trip outing after the Scottish Election."

After Mr Rowan had provided these answers to my questions, he asked me what the procedure now was. I explained to him that I was undertaking a preliminary enquiry to see if there were matters which required investigation. I said I was writing, at the request of the Standards and Privileges Committee, to all those who may be able to shed light on the letter from Mr Maxton to Lesley Quinn. When I had collected that information I would be making an assessment of whether an investigation was required. I will be informing the Standards and Privileges Committee of my views when they return after the Recess. If I did decide that an investigation was warranted I would write a report on my findings for the Standards and Privileges Committee. I said that the Standards and Privileges Committee had powers to call people before them to give evidence and as a witness, Mr Rowan could be called in front of them.

I asked Mr Rowan to let me know if he was coming to London at any time so that I could meet him to check any matters if necessary. Mr Rowan told me that he would let me know if he was coming to London. I told Mr Rowan that I would write a draft file note, send it to him for corrections and additions and then send him a final file note for him to sign as correct. I explained that what I was wanting from Mr Rowan was a full and accurate account. I thanked Mr Rowan for his assistance.

Signed as a correct record
[Signed by Mr John Rowan]

Date: 6th August 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 31 October 2001