Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. You are using the word "imply".
  (Mr Rowley) I am making the assumption we employed her.

  241. Yes. Who would have authorised payment? Would you not need to know somebody was being taken on the books?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  242. In that case, were you told she was being paid?
  (Mr Rowley) I really do not have a clear memory of Suzanne Hilliard. Whatever the arrangements were, I accept responsibility for them because obviously I would have been responsible, but I am not clear.

  243. As a good employer, would Labour Party Scotland give contracts of employment to its staff?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes.

  244. So would there not be a contract of employment on record?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes, if you have worked for the Labour Party.

  245. If you worked for the Labour Party, you would be on the records and there would be a contract?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes. She certainly worked for the Labour Party.

  246. You cannot say for certain whether there is or not. It is not for you to prove whether there is or is not, but you are not sure whether one exists or not?
  (Mr Rowley) No. It has never been put to me before that there was not a contract. My assumption has always been that Suzanne worked for us and was paid by us. I really am grey on this area because I really do not remember any detail of Suzanne's employment other than—

  247. You do not remember her being put up as one of the names for a bonus or anything like that? Would bonuses have come to you?
  (Mr Rowley) No, I did not deal with the bonus system, the office manager would.

  248. Another point of clarification because I missed the name, it is probably in the records somewhere but you indicated that when John Reid contacted you he said he was being advised by a QC. Can you tell me who that QC is? It was not Mr Goudie?
  (Mr Rowley) No. What happened was that Lesley Quinn contacted me and asked me if I would be prepared to speak to John Reid's lawyers about this. This is before because I did try and delay as long as possible going for an interview with the Commissioner because I was unhappy about this whole situation. I was contacted and asked would I go for an interview with this lawyer representing John Reid. I did say to Lesley, "Well, you know my story, you know what I am saying, I am telling the truth here, I am not sure how I can be helpful given what John has said", because we had obviously had discussions before then. She contacted me again and said, "He would like to see you anyway." So I went to the offices and I think it was "Reid something, solicitors in Glasgow", and I was interviewed by a solicitor, I think, called Paul Reid, who told me he was acting on behalf of Neil Davison, QC, who was acting on behalf of John Reid. Neil Davison, QC, has now I think been appointed as Attorney General in Scotland or Solicitor General in Scotland, but at that point he had not been and he was a QC. He was acting on his behalf. I then was interviewed by Paul Reid, the lawyer, in his offices, I went to his offices, did the interview, told him exactly the same as I have told you. I was then contacted—I was working in Scottish Parliament as I was working for some Scottish MSPs, political work—by phone one day by Paul Reid who said that Neil Davison wanted to be sure about certain things I had said and he took me through some questions again. It was some of the questions you were asking in terms of, "Could I be sure that I did not work in the evening" and this type of thing, and I said to him, "Look, I have been through all this, I have given you my view", and he said, "Yes, but I was asked to phone." So those were the two discussions, one was a face-to-face meeting and one was a phone conversation with Paul Reid who was the solicitor, as I say.

  249. In view of the fact that you were advised that you could conceivably be entering into a situation where there could be criminal charges, did you yourself at any stage take legal advice?
  (Mr Rowley) I spoke to my lawyer and advised him that this was happening. It was months ago now. I had already given evidence at that point and I advised him of the evidence I had given, advised him of the whole situation and said if I needed him obviously I would get in touch. So I have spoken to him but I do not think he was able to give me that much advice in terms of this issue. He would not have had any experience of Parliament. I certainly mentioned it to my colleague.

  250. Coming to the threats, clearly if you feel you are being threatened it is difficult to keep it to yourself and you intimated you did not—and I am not criticising, we would all want to discuss that with someone or other, a friend or family. Did you discuss it at all? Did you raise it at all in Millbank?
  (Mr Rowley) No. No, I have not. The last discussion I had with Millbank was on the day I left. Margaret McDonnagh phoned me—the day after the Scottish press had a lot of stuff and it had run on the television—and asked me to go for lunch. She then phoned me a few days later and said that the European elections were causing difficulties and could she cancel lunch and she would be back in touch. I think those were the last dealings I had other than filling in my application form to be on the panel of Labour members. Other than going for the seat, I have had no direct contact with Millbank.

  251. So did you seek advice within the Party or was it just amongst friends?
  (Mr Rowley) I did not seek advice, I spoke to just friends about it and told them about it and we discussed it. I have worked for the Party at very senior level and I do know how the Party works and I would not have gone to Millbank for advice on this specific issue, I would have to say.

  252. You surprise me! The final point is this matter of custom and practice. Clearly the impression we get and that you have set out is that in a way you felt what you were doing was wrong but everyone was doing it so it really did not matter all that much. Is that the essence of what you were saying when you said "custom and practice"?
  (Mr Rowley) Not really. I do not think it was so much that at the time, as I tried to answer the question from Mr Foster earlier, it was not that I was knowingly saying, "I am doing something wrong here, but to hell with it, I am going to do it because we need staff", I really did not give it a lot of thought. I was told it was something which had happened previously in Scotland and I assumed, and my view to this day is, it was something much wider than that. Had I sat down and thought, "This is clearly a breach of the rules, this is going to land us in trouble", perhaps I might have acted differently. I really did not give it that much thought.

  253. Now that your mind has become more focussed, are you able to say that you have knowledge that justifies you thinking it was custom and practice and perhaps in all parties?
  (Mr Rowley) I think that the article which appeared that sparked this thing, if you like, was people, I think Labour MPs, pointing out the Conservatives were doing this. I think it is something which probably has existed elsewhere in other parties. What I do not want to do and what I avoided doing even when I gave evidence on this, was, I did not want to start to say, "I know with that person and that person this happened previously within the Scottish Labour Party." That would be, I think, pretty vicious and damaging to the party unnecessarily if I had gone down that road. Therefore I did not want to go there, I just wanted to say, "This was something which went on". It was something I picked up and it was something I ran with without a lot of thought, and perhaps I am guilty of that more than anything else, not having given it a thought. But I do accept responsibility because I was the person who ultimately was in charge of decisions on personnel in Scotland.

  254. Finally, you do not think it is at all possible from your recollection of events, that what was being said to you was, "Look, A will be carrying on working for an MP so has half a salary, you can have them for the rest of the time, you can use them as full-time if you like, if you pay them half a salary, between them they will have a full salary", which would be different from subsidising the time with the Party? You do not think that was the arrangement which was being entered into?
  (Mr Rowley) No. I am absolutely clear on what the arrangements were. As I said earlier, I am absolutely clear that when this story was leaked in the first place that was the time that we should have acknowledged it and I do not think we would have been in this position today.

  Mr Williams: Thank you very much. Thank you, Chairman.

Mr Bottomley

  255. When the agreement was made with John Maxton and John Reid, how many people were present?
  (Mr Rowley) In terms of when it was agreed, Chris Winslow was coming from (inaudible) and spoke to John Maxton directly. It was Annmarie Whyte, the office manager, who spoke to me and so her and I would be present in terms of that arrangement. I cannot remember all the details but I remember phoning Chris at his house because I remember Annmarie chased me up and said, "Have you phoned Chris?" So I remember phoning Chris and I remember Chris coming in and I remember being very impressed by him. In terms of the John Reid situation, John Reid was very, very supportive of me when I first became General Secretary in Scotland. After strategy meetings or whatever—he and I both smoke—we would go and have a coffee or whatever and he was very supportive. I have had quite a lot of discussions with John Reid. That is again why I would not have carried out any vendetta or I would not have briefed the story, because I had no reason, I actually owed the man quite a lot because he was very supportive of me in the early days. So the discussions between him and I would have been between him and I, there would not have been other people present. Personally I relied very heavily in terms of the office on Annmarie Whyte, she managed the office, it was her who put the budgets together, she managed the budgets, we had budget heads, we had each head of service or whatever and they were running with their own budgets, and I simply oversaw the whole thing and when they overspent I got involved. So Annmarie would be the other person I would have talked to this about.

  256. Incidentally, when there was a discussion earlier about whom you thought was the source of the story for Dean Nelson, I do not think that is relevant to our inquiry. It is absolutely fascinating to read about it but I do not think we need pursue you on that at all. When the arrangements were made, Kevin Reid was already working for John Reid, was he not?
  (Mr Rowley) I do not know. I do not think so. To be honest, I do not know.

  257. Do you know whether he was working for John Reid before then?
  (Mr Rowley) No. My understanding was he had completed, or almost completed, university. I am almost certain in the early days when he first started in Keir Hardie House that Kevin had an exam or two to sit, and then graduated while he was with us. Again Kevin Reid was a very bright, able person and was greatly appreciated in the role he played.

  258. Chris Winslow, was he working for John Maxton before the arrangement, or was he brought in?
  (Mr Rowley) Not that I am aware of, but I do not know.

  259. When Kevin Reid's employment moved to full-time, was that a full-time appointment by the Scottish Labour Party or by the Labour Party in London?
  (Mr Rowley) Ultimately by the Labour Party in London. The Scottish Labour Party would take people on but the Personnel Department, the Personnel Service, was based in London and I would not have been able to take on any member of staff without first getting clearance from Personnel, London. Ultimately, although you worked for the Scottish Labour Party, it was—

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 22 December 2000