Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 200 - 219)



Mr Levitt

  200. You have said to us a couple of times that, in your opinion, for somebody to be employed under the Office Costs Allowance and be employed by the Labour Party or any political party, those two employments running concurrently is wrong. I put it to you that in fact the rules do not say that it is wrong; the rules say it is only wrong if the duty to the Member of Parliament is not being discharged. Are you telling us that the three people involved—Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow—were not carrying out their duties under the Office Costs Allowance arrangement to their MPs irrespective of the arrangements with the Labour Party?
  (Mr Rowley) The first point to make in terms of the question is, what I am saying is only my opinion. I do not know what the rules actually state on this. It is my opinion—having known what people have gone through in the last number of months in this particular investigation, and knowing the practices we did operate—I think it is an area that certainly should be looked at because I think it is a grey area. Knowing what I know now, I would say that the Party centrally should not employ people who are also employed with MPs because it is difficult. That is a personal opinion I have given you. In terms of the question about the three people concerned: Suzanne Hilliard, I cannot go into much detail. She was employed by the Labour Party. She did carry out media monitor and, therefore, she was my responsibility in that sense.

  201. She was employed by the Labour Party or was working as a volunteer?
  (Mr Rowley) She was employed. She worked as a volunteer at one point with the Labour Party, but at some point she came on and did the media monitor and so was employed in some form or another by the Labour Party. When asked this question by the Commissioner I was unable to go into any details of her employment. What I do know is that I would have been involved in any of her employment and any decision that was taken to employ her, but I simply cannot remember the details of that. Suzanne Hilliard I remember, as we came up to the Election itself, complaining to me in terms of being overstretched and overworked. She was working long, long hours, but of her arrangement with John Reid I am not sure. I have said that, in terms of Suzanne, I would have been the person who employed her; but I do not know what arrangements were put in place for her. With regard to Chris Winslow and Kevin Reid—I know the arrangements that were put in place. I know that Chris Winslow in particular worked extremely hard for the Party throughout that year—way beyond the call of duty—and was there working hard long, long hours. In terms of Kevin, as I have said to you Kevin went home in the evenings and at the weekends. I cannot say how he spent his evenings or his weekends. All I know is the arrangement I came to with his father, and I know that to be the case.

  202. As far as Chris Winslow is concerned, you are not the first person who has told us that he had a huge capacity for work, and so on. He also apparently made no secret, and told the Commissioner and other people in the office, that he was spending at least some of the time at is desk in the Labour Party actually working for Mr Maxton from that desk?
  (Mr Rowley) Firstly, that is complete news to me. I was not aware of him doing any type of work whatsoever for John Maxton. MPs can say that that was going on and I cannot deny that. All I know are the arrangements in terms of what I entered into to get these people in full-time employment with us.

  203. Chris Winslow was never under contract for more than 30 hours for the Labour Party, is that right?
  (Mr Rowley) I do not know what the exact contract was. All I know was the arrangement that was reached.

  204. Do you know what the contract was with Suzanne Hilliard?
  (Mr Rowley) No. I would have been responsible for her but I do not know what the contract was.

  205. It is possible, therefore, that each of these people were discharging their duties to their MP under the Office Costs Allowance, even though they may have been doing some of it from their desk at the Labour Party and some of it in their own time?
  (Mr Rowley) No, what they did in the evening themselves I do not know. I have to acknowledge that: I do not know. I cannot say what they were doing or not doing in the evenings. What I can say is what they were doing for the Labour Party. I certainly was not aware of anybody discharging any duties for anybody else other than the Labour Party, or for MPs going up in front of television cameras, preparing briefs etc. That was the type of role they had. The media monitor simply monitored the media the whole time and was writing that up. I do not know what these people did in their spare time. I am not aware of them doing any work for any individual MP outwith the general work for the Labour Party when they were employed through the Labour Party.

  206. You did mention earlier that you have worked for an MP yourself under the Office Costs Allowance. Was that under the Office Costs Allowance?
  (Mr Rowley) No.

  207. That was as a volunteer?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes, and was also paid directly by the MP himself.

  208. So it may have been under the Office Costs Allowance?
  (Mr Rowley) No. I worked under the Office Costs Allowance for two MSPs, and still do some work for MSPs under the Office Costs Allowance that we have in Scotland.

  209. So you have a very good idea of what goes on in an MP's constituency office?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes. I was a constituency Labour Party Secretary at Dunfermline East for many years and worked in the office. When I was at university I spent my summers working in that office. Yes, I have worked in an MP's office.

  210. Would you, therefore, accept that, in the case of Dr Reid in the early part of 1999 after Kevin Reid had stopped working for him and during the period when his office secretary was off on a prolonged leave of absence through illness, that somebody must have been doing something in his office to keep the office ticking over, and that that person, as far as we understand, was Suzanne Hilliard?
  (Mr Rowley) One, I do not know. John Reid has told me since that his assistant was off ill. Yes, I would accept that somebody somewhere has to be in an office of the MP in the constituency area. Whether that person was Suzanne Hilliard or not I just could not answer.

  211. Changing the subject slightly, we have Annex 143 of Maxton/Reid 2 a note by the Commissioner relaying the contents of a telephone conversation which she had with you, in which you say you had heard from a colleague of yours, who is also a friend of Suzanne Hilliard, that she was extremely distressed "because of the pressure she has been put under to lie". This appears to be being relayed to us something like third hand, but would you like to expand on that for us? Her testimony to the Commissioner in the interview does not mention this pressure to lie. What pressure do you think she was under?
  (Mr Rowley) There was that one particular individual who was close, and there are other people I have spoken to in the Scottish Labour Party. The Scottish Labour Party is very small; it is like a village up there and people talk to each other and tend to know what is going on. That particular person was close but there were other people who told me that Suzanne had gone through an absolutely dreadful time with this whole affair. You say "third hand", it is perhaps fourth hand given that I got it from somebody else. I simply said to the Commissioner that was the case, and that was what I had been told—that these people, in particular Suzanne Hilliard, were feeling under immense pressure. I cannot prove that, but that is simply somebody telling me that.

  212. Do you think she did lie?
  (Mr Rowley) I do not know because I do not know what she said. I have not seen her evidence.

  213. Do you think she is the sort of person who might have succumbed to that sort of pressure?
  (Mr Rowley) I think, for example, the person who is office manager for the Labour Party in Scotland has not been absolutely truthful in the letters that I have read coming from her. I think that these young people who were working for the Labour Party have been put under immense pressure. I know I am telling the truth and, therefore, if people are coming down and saying something different they certainly are not being truthful. They have been put under immense pressure, there is no doubt about that.

Shona McIsacc

  214. I want to go back to the perception of threats you mentioned earlier on today. You have said you felt pressure was being put on you as regards getting selected in Central Fife?
  (Mr Rowley) Not being selected after the selection.

  215. You have been in the Labour Party a number of years, anybody who is selected is not automatically the candidate, because all selections have to be endorsed by the Executive—I presume it is the Scottish Executive?
  (Mr Rowley) The NEC.

  216. As it is in England and Wales. You would have known that?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  217. How did you perceive that to be a threat?
  (Mr Rowley) I have been a member of the Labour Party since my teens so I know the rules of the Labour Party pretty well. You are right, I did not need anyone to tell me that if I was selected I still had to be endorsed. That was the whole point—John Reid coming on to the phone and discussing this particular case with me, and then reminding me that, even though I was selected for Central Fife, I would have to be endorsed by the NEC. That is why I took it as a threat. That is why in my perception it was: this guy is threatening me; this guy is telling me I have still to be endorsed. To answer your question, the point you make is why I perceived it to be a threat.

  218. The other point you mentioned was that you could be prosecuted, yet it appears from the tapes of your conversations with Dr John Reid he emphasises several times that you cannot be done for perjury. That seems to be at odds with what you have told us previously when you were saying you could be done for something and in another conversation saying, "No, no, no, you cannot be done for perjury".
  (Mr Rowley) When I gave that tape to the Commissioner we did not know what value it would have, if any—because I accept, as I said earlier, there are no threats on that. Given that I decided to make that tape because of threats previously then I decided to hand it over. In terms of a threat, the threat was made, as I said earlier, in a hotel, I think, on a Saturday morning at the Scottish Conference where he said to me something along the lines of: if I admit any wrongdoing, and he does not and he is clear, I could face criminal prosecution. That is what he said to me.

  219. It is almost as though he was saying you were the one cooking the books?
  (Mr Rowley) I think what he was saying was, "If I say I did nothing wrong and I get cleared here and you go and admit you did something wrong then you have admitted that". I am absolutely clear he told me I could face criminal prosecution, because I spoke to friends after it. I was very, very concerned at that prospect and spoke to friends about that and decided, yes, that was a threat. For me it was still about basically telling the truth or not telling the truth.

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