Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 260 - 275)



  260. The formal employer was—
  (Mr Rowley) Yes. It is a bit like the Scottish Labour Party, although we have devolution the Party ultimately is responsible to the NEC, something which will hopefully change.

  261. That is nothing to do with me! When Kevin Reid did become a full-time employee, Suzanne Hilliard comes into the events, what was your understanding of what her role was and her employment status?
  (Mr Rowley) I do not know, I am completely vague on it. I do not know.

  262. What you do know, if I can put it interrogatively, is that she was taking on particular tasks?
  (Mr Rowley) She worked in media monitoring. At some point during the campaign, Kevin, who was the media monitor, was playing football—five aside I think with some of the journalists, I cannot remember exactly—and broke his arm and from that point Suzanne had to take over the main running of the media monitor. I was clear. That is why I was not sure earlier when I was asked, "Did she have a contract with the Labour Party?" I was clear in my mind that she worked for us but I am not clear how that arrangement worked.

  263. You had known about the arrangement that Kevin would be made available to the Labour Party for more than the time that the Labour Party was paying?
  (Mr Rowley) Yes. I had discussed it with his father.

  264. When Suzanne came in, did you assume or know or were you told she was taking over in effect Kevin's role?
  (Mr Rowley) I cannot answer that question because I am vague on exactly how Suzanne was employed. I would simply say that if she was employed in terms of that role, then it would be my responsibility and I would have known about it. Nothing like that would have gone on without me knowing about it but I just simply cannot remember.

  265. So you did not know whether she was being paid by John Reid or the Labour Party?
  (Mr Rowley) I cannot remember.

  266. Did you ever have a conversation with John Maxton about telling the truth?
  (Mr Rowley) No. I have had no conversations with him.

  267. He did not contact you, you did not contact him?
  (Mr Rowley) No.

  268. When the issue first came up about telling the truth, was that initiated by you or by John Reid?
  (Mr Rowley) We had a number of conversations. I had spoken to John Reid on a number of occasions because at one point in discussions when Dean Nelson was phoning and putting the story together, I had made a remark to him about, "You had better be clear on these facts, you had better know them", and he had made the point to me that anybody could sue and when we were all in court the truth would come out because we would all have to tell the truth. I had spoken to John about that and I had spoken to him on a number of occasions and said I was really uncomfortable with that. When the story did come out I was in Lerwick in the Shetlands and I remember—I think I was up there for an uphellia, which is a festival they have up there—I was staying with these people and I remember sitting watching the Scottish News and this was on in the afternoon and it was John's response to it and I was alarmed by his response because I was alarmed by the fact that he was just denying the whole thing. I remember I phoned Lesley Quinn and my mobile was out of action and I gave a couple of numbers of the people I was staying with and a friend's mobile and I was out for lunch when John phoned and we had a long, long conversation because when I went back they had eaten all the lunch. During that conversation that was when I started to argue with him, that I felt that the line he was taking on this was completely wrong, that he was going to end up in serious trouble. I distinctly remember saying to him, "If we have learnt anything from the past years, it is not to lie when you get caught, and we need to talk about how we are going to handle this." As I said earlier, my view of it was very much it was a grey area and that we needed to acknowledge that, we should acknowledge it and say, "Yes, we did employ these people and we would never do it again."

  269. Of the three people involved were any of them considered to be constituency organisers or organisers for the Party in other parts of the country? Did you think of asking any of them to go and work in some different constituency as—an expression in the Labour Party—an organiser?
  (Mr Rowley) Kevin Reid or—

  270.—Suzanne Hilliard or Chris Winslow?
  (Mr Rowley) No. We employed organisers. We employed quite a number of organisers out in the constituencies but no. Kevin, because he had come in and worked as media monitor, and people from Millbank had come up and worked with him and his skill was that. Chris Winslow would have been a complete waste, and that is not to under-estimate the importance of organisers' roles but Chris's talents were clearly in terms of policy and economics. Suzanne had worked with Kevin, she had been in there, she had been a volunteer before she started working for us, so she had that experience as well. The jobs that were organisers' jobs were all advertised. Any of them had the opportunity to go for them if they so wished.

  271. So essentially what we come down to, from your point of view and the truth you can tell, is that you had made an agreement with two MPs that staff paid by their arrangements with the House of Commons would be made available to work for the Scottish Labour Party. That is the first thing you are in effect telling us. The second is that you cannot tell us what they did with their spare time. Those are the two essential elements.
  (Mr Rowley) Yes. The agreement on both was that the Party would pay the salary of some sort or another but when it came together it would make what would be seen as a full-time salary.

  272. And that in essence is the difference between budget number one and budget number two? That the first one made provision and the second one had notes they were getting other money from elsewhere?
  (Mr Rowley) Except that if you look at that, even up until the point when Kevin went full-time, even with both salaries, they were not actually getting that great a salary and that is why we had to increase one when we picked the other up.

  273. Do you recall if any other employee of the Labour Party had a note on the budget document saying that they were being paid by other people elsewhere?
  (Mr Rowley) No.

  274. It would show it if anybody else had?
  (Mr Rowley) There were people who were in that who were being paid off the general account.

  275. No, not being paid within the Labour Party organisation but were getting money for other employment, as officially three people were in this case?
  (Mr Rowley) No. The budget papers do not seem to have that.

  Chairman: Mr Campbell-Savours?

  Mr Campbell-Savours: I will leave it, Chairman, as it is 1 o'clock.

  Chairman: Anybody else? Thank you for coming and giving your evidence this morning.

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