Examination of Witness (Questions 143
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
143. Thank you, Mr Rowley, for coming along
to answer our questions today. Would you introduce, for the purposes
of the notetaker, your colleague?
(Mr Rowley) Yes, my colleague and friend,
Yvonne Lord, who attended the first interview with the Commissioner
and has come along today as a friend.
144. It is not our normal practice to take evidence
on oath but I must ask you to take note that we may want to recall
you and on that occasion it is possible that such evidence on
oath may be asked for. My first question then to you, Mr Rowley,
is to ask you what your responsibilities as Scottish Labour Party
General Secretary were and if you could explain your tasks in
(Mr Rowley) The role as General Secretary at that
time certainly was quite wide. There was a management role, ultimately
responsible for the management of the staff within the Scottish
Labour Party. There was a wider responsibility in terms of the
management of the party across Scotland, CLPs, Constituency Labour
Parties and local branches, etc.. There was a management party
role. There was at that time within the role a political role.
The General Secretary, for example, would often be required to
carry out interviews with the media on party matters. So there
was the management role of directly managing staff and there was
the wider management role of managing the party in Scotland. There
was then the political role of dealing with the media on party
145. How did you come to the view that some
members of the campaign staff were having their salaries for Labour
Party work paid in part through the Office Costs Allowance?
(Mr Rowley) I did not come to that view when this
matter first came up and I was first approached on this matter
by a journalist. At that point I decided that it would be difficult
for me to lie about it. That was factual, that was what actually
had happened. When I was then interviewed by the Commissioner
I simply told the truth, so I did not reach the view that had
happened. That was pretty factual, that was what did happen.
146. How did Kevin Reid's services arise? How
did you come to make use of him?
(Mr Rowley) Sorry?
147. What was the background to you making use
of Kevin Reid in your work?
(Mr Rowley) Firstly, when I was not that long into
the post, the first person who we started to make use ofif
that is the right word to usewas Chris Winslow. Basically
how that arrangement came about was the office manager of the
Labour Party in Scotland, Ann-Marie Whyte, approached me to say
that Chris Winslow had left university, did not have a post and
John Maxton would be willing to take him on and we would be able
to use him full-time provided we were able to pay a part-time
salary to make it up to a full-time salary. That was how that
first came about. Following on from that, a similar arrangement
was put into place for Kevin Reid. That was how it came about.
148. Kevin Reid had a full-time party contract
in October 1998?
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
149. What was the background to that?
(Mr Rowley) The background was that not long after
I started Chris Winslow came in and then Kevin Reid and we had
that arrangement. John Reid became concerned around about a few
weeks perhaps before Kevin was taken on full-time. John Reid phoned
and was concerned because there was an article which had appeared
in a UK national newspaper. I think it was basically an article
that was attacking the Conservative Party and Conservative MPs
for using researchers to do party work. This had alarmed John
and he spoke to me about it on a number of occasions. At that
particular time I did not move immediately to put Kevin on to
a full-time contract but he spoke to others in Millbank as well
as the Scottish Party raising his concerns. It was as a result
of those concerns that Kevin was put on to a full-time contract.
In other words, John was asking, quite forcefully, that Kevin
be put on to a full-time contract because he thought that if not
the same allegation that was being made against the Conservatives
in England could be made against ourselves in Scotland, particularly
the fact that both John and Kevin had the same name, "Reid",
and people may well put two and two together and come up with
four. So, for that reason, Kevin was given a full-time contract.
150. You did tell the Commissioner that when
you spoke to Dr Reid, this was early this year, he made threats
to you about the possibility of prosecution?
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
151. You gave the Commissioner a full and accurate
account, could you give us details of that conversation or the
background to that conversation?
(Mr Rowley) One of the conversations I had with him
was in the lobby of a hotel on, I think it was the Saturday morning
of the Scottish Labour Party Conference. It was the main conference
hotel in Edinburgh. I had gone into the hotel and John was sitting
with a couple of special advisers and his assistant from his constituency.
I asked to speak to him and he and I moved across the corridor
and sat and had a chat about this whole matter. I had been previously
interviewed by a lawyer acting on behalf of Neil Davidson, QC,
who was acting on behalf of John Reid, so I had discussions with
lawyers representing John about this whole matter. I had been
interviewed by them in Glasgow and I had gone through things with
them. I was a bit concerned about the way things were going, some
rumours. We sat down and started to talk about that. John and
I have always been quite friendly with each other. We did have
quite a good working relationship together. We sat down and talked
through the issues and it was at that point that John said to
me that if I was to admit to the Commissioner any wrongdoing and
he did not, and therefore was cleared of any wrongdoing, then
I could face criminal prosecution.
152. Could you repeat those words again?
(Mr Rowley) John explained at that time to me that
if I acknowledged to the Commissioner any wrongdoing and he was
cleared, because he did not admit to any wrong doing, then I could
face criminal prosecution. That was basically what I perceived
to be a threat. Obviously that gave me great concern and basically,
as far as I saw it, my options were either to lie or to tell the
truth and face possible criminal proceedings against me. That
was how that came about. It was in a hotel in Edinburgh.
153. Any other threats?
(Mr Rowley) After that, there was a phone conversation
between myself and John. I was at that time going for the Central
Fife constituency seat, the Central Fife constituency Labour Party
seat. As it turned out I did not get the selection but I was in
the process of going for that. John in a phone conversation said
to me that I would have to be endorsed by the Labour Party, even
though I was selected. I think I was seen perhaps as the front
runner in that particular seat so many people thought that I would
be selected. I perceived that to be a threat because the conversation
was about this particular situation that we are discussing today.
John, from that, went on to talk about the Central Fife seat and
the possibility of me not being endorsed by the Labour Party.
He reminded me that I had to be endorsed even though I was selected,
so I perceived that to be a threat again.
154. I can understand that but what I am not
clear about is your fear of the possibility of prosecution.
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
155. On what basis would that be made in your
(Mr Rowley) My evidence that I have given to the Commissioner
obviously acknowledges wrongdoing on my part. I think in the interview
with the Commissioner she asked was I aware that the actions we
were taking were in breach of the rules of Parliament, and my
answer to that was obviously I was certainly aware of that after
John Reid raised the issues around his son Kevin, and Kevin being
put on to the Labour Party books full-time. It was clear, certainly
from that point on, if the party was acting improperly then I
was in charge and I would have been acting improperly and knowing
I was doing so. So for me to admit any wrongdoing would be admitting,
obviously, that I was guilty of a breach of what the rules were
in terms of this particular House. That was my perception of that
in terms of facing criminal prosecution. John did not go into
it in that length of detail but that would certainly have been
my interpretation of why I might have risked facing criminal prosecution.
He simply told me that would be the case.
156. Looking back now, do you think your fears
(Mr Rowley) In terms of?
157. Fear of prosecution?
(Mr Rowley) No. I think, looking back, when this thing
first came up, I had a long conversation, it must have been at
least an hour, I was up in Shetland, in Lerwick, and John Reid
phoned me and we had a long, long conversation. I was unhappy
about the way he had responded to the article etc.. At that point
my view was very clear that we should acknowledge that certainly
there is a grey area where a political party is employing people
who are already employed by the Government or by Westminster.
The lesson for us should have been to say never again will we
as a party, or for that matter hopefully any political party,
use these procedures. I think that would have been perfectly acceptable
to do so. My view is that the reason that the Neill Committee
was set up to look into political parties, to look into funding
etc, was because no party was perfectly above board when it came
to a lot of issues. Indeed, the Labour Party itself had acknowledged,
for example, in terms of the Blind Trust for the Leader's Office,
for other senior Members' offices, that was something we would
not do again. Likewise, I think if the Neill Committee was looking
at all these different practices then they do exist and have existed
in many parties and this was not the first time such a practice
had been carried out. Certainly I was led to believe when I took
up the post in Scotland that it was custom and practice, and these
practices had been used before in Scotland. When this whole thing
came out, that was certainly the discussion I was having with
John Reid at that time, that we should accept that and acknowledge
that, yes, there was definitely a grey area there. The lesson
for us was that never again would we use such practices. I think
that would have been the correct thing to have done. In terms
of how serious the matter was at that particular time, I recognised
it was serious, to answer your question, but I think we should
have simply been honest and said we were putting our house in
order because as a party we have said that with other things.
158. I will come in later, Chairman, but I just
want a couple of early questions. When did you first have contact
with Mr Nelson, do you remember?
(Mr Rowley) I think about a week and a half before
the story broke in the newspaper he contacted me on a number of
occasions. As he got more and more information from different
people he was contacting me quite a bit by phone.
159. You were not the origin of the story at
(Mr Rowley) No.