Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 300 - 319)



  300. As to the conversation that we are told that was held with you about making, first of all, Kevin available, did a conversation like that take place? Was it a misunderstood conversation or was it a non-conversation?
  (Dr Reid) I will tell you openly and truthfully what happened. The original conversation was not with Alex Rowley. It was a strategy meeting, as Ms Filkin has reported. What happened in the course of it is that we were discussing two things. One was the budget negotiated with Labour Party headquarters. Incidentally, here I can explain one of Ms Filkin's queeries, which is why did the Labour Party have budget document number one in Scotland and not in London. That is because that was the document on which we in Scotland were going to negotiate with London; it is negotiation. We did not give them our bargaining position. It was a bargaining position we had in that first budget. That is exactly why we had everybody marked down as full-time, and we had people in it that we never got. It is what we all do in negotiations. During the course of that we were discussing how we can get resources in to do this, that and the next thing. One of the things that came up, naturally, is who is committed to the Labour Party. People who are committed to the Labour Party are sometimes working for labour organisations, MPs, all the rest of it, that came up. I gave Ms Filkin the minute showing two things; one, that that came up; and secondly, that it was in the immediate context—she did not point this out, unfortunately, in her Report—of the next item. The next item on the Agenda was funding and the budget, which we were to get from Labour Party headquarters. When I raised the question of Kevin, it was fully in that context. When I said, "We will get the money for him", it was in the context of the next item in the agenda. It is as plain as a pikestaff if you look at that agenda page. It is in there, but again you did not see it. It is in the documents I gave to Ms Filkin. What I said in the course of this conversation, when they said they were looking for somebody for media monitoring I said, "My son is going to have time to spare, I will ask him if he will come in and help". The reason he had time to spare is that that meeting happened on 28th April and Kevin was finishing his university classes within a fortnight. So instead of working at university and for me he could work for the Labour Party and me. I had to ask Kevin if he was willing to do it because it would mean him having to sacrifice going out looking for a new career, as that is logically what he would have done. Alex Rowley was never party to those discussions, Paul McKinney was at them—Paul McKinney whose evidence I am more than happy to accept, because McKinney himself will verify what I am saying. It is Mr Nelson's handwritten note of what he says McKinney said that is subtly different, where he said I would pay him. When I said that then I had a number of conversations with Alex Rowley. I want you to understand the context of them. They were not like this, they were not very formal meetings, they were mainly snatched conversations, some time in the middle of a busy Labour Party headquarters, where I would be visiting—as sometimes we do at headquarters—for two or three minutes, nipping in. I said to Alex, "Kevin will come in. He is prepared to do the work here. He can be flexible in his hours but," this is the important point, "Alex, I want him to have a separate contract. I want him to have a separate contract because I do not want any implication that he is not being paid for the work that he does for you". Of course if Kevin had a contract for three hours, like any Labour Party supporter or any Conservative or any Independent supporter he would not sign off exactly after the three hours. He could give some voluntary time, if he wished. This is the important matter, there was never anything said, communicated, winked at, nudged to Alex Rowley which said, "He will not have to do anything for me". That is the crucial point. That is the conversation we had. Alex Rowley has obviously, from what I have seen, come to the view, based apparently on his previous experience, that that must have meant they were not doing anything for us. He is wrong in that, as the evidence shows.

  301. Thank you for the answer. I am trying to separate the two things. First of all, I am trying to discover whether, and in what way, people in conversation with you might have understood that they were getting the advantage of a paid person, which would then reduce the amount of money which the Scottish Labour Party or Millbank would have to pay them. That is my first aim. What I think you have said to us is that the first conversation was not with Alex Rowley, it was with Paul—
  (Dr Reid) No, it was at a meeting at which Paul McKinney was present. It was a general statement one would make, "My son is finishing university, he will have some free time. I will talk to him and see if he can do it".

  302. The result of that was, in a formal and a practical sense, the Labour Party was paying him at the rate of £4,000 a year for 15 hours a week, which is about £5 an hour.
  (Dr Reid) That is right.

  303. That changed then in October. Before the run up to the election, he became a full-time employee and ceased to be on your paid staff; is that right?
  (Dr Reid) Well, it is slightly more complex than that.

  304. Do you want to tell us about that?
  (Dr Reid) Yes, I do. Mr Rowley talks about "full-time". Was everything static? It was not. I will explain to you in great detail how this happened and developed. Kevin Reid was contracted to work 15 hours, that was three hours every morning, to start media monitoring. There was no media monitoring before. Secondly, it was situated in the old Labour Party building, Keir Hardie House in Glasgow during May, June, July and part of August, if my memory serves me correctly. In that building Alex Rowley was in the floor above. He was not even on the same floor as Kevin. Kevin came in to start with for three hours a day. He started it, not even doing broadcasts, but going through the morning press only and he would mark out things in the morning papers. He did not have a television, he did not have a radio. He sat there with a computer typing out the main press stories. He did that during May, June and July. By the time they moved to the new building in August he had had to bring in his own television, a radio and earphones. He had established a system. He was beginning to get student volunteers to come in for a few hours every day—later on Suzanne Hilliard was one of them—and they by then had decided to move from covering just the morning press to covering the morning broadcasts, because he now had a television, and then to do the lunchtime broadcast. By about the August period he was doing three hours a day up until that and after that he did the morning broadcast and press, then he went off for a break for an hour or an hour and a half and he came back and he covered the 1 o'clock news essentially. He was at the office for a span of about six, six and a half hours, during which he did about four and a half hours work. That was the period in August and September when it was indicated to me, "We are now nine months off the election and we want to build it up further again, we want to extend media monitoring to cover the evening broadcast. Kevin is doing a brilliant job, we would like him to do it". At that point I said, "No, is he already doing sufficient for you, if you want him to do any more for you in terms of the evening broadcast as the monitoring manager", which is a genuine full-time job for the Labour Party during a campaign 12 or 13 hours a day, "he cannot stay on my books". I said this several times to Mr Rowley. Not at the beginning of those conversations, but in the course of them I sent him a fax. The fax did not initiate it, but it bolstered the arguments I was using that "You cannot have this guy working for you full-time if he is being paid by me." That is exactly how it came about. Eventually we agreed to put Kevin on full-time and I had to find somebody else for myself. Those are roughly the same facts that would have been given by Mr Rowley to Miss Filkin, but there is an entirely different interpretation and inference on those facts than the one that has been put on them.

  305. Can I ask a question? When Kevin Reid became a full-time employee of the Labour Party, Susan Hilliard, who by that time had already been a volunteer for the Labour Party, remained as an unpaid volunteer with the Labour Party working extended hours, if I can put it that way?
  (Dr Reid) Not at that time, she was not working extended hours. What Kevin did was he had a shift of volunteers. You know what political parties are like, you have to get as much voluntary work as possible. He established media monitoring from the press, then he brought in the technology to do it on radio and the media, then it was extended to cover the lunchtime broadcast. At that stage he could not cover it all and he started looking for volunteers. Many of them were students—some of them like Councillor Pat Walters and others, I can give you the names of them—they came in on shifts and they would do roughly four hours as volunteers. Susan Hilliard was doing that. She was one of a group of university students coming in and Kevin was organising it. She was doing those shifts. There is no indication at all that she was doing long hours in September, October and November of 1998.

  306. At the time she became a member of your House of Commons staff, you would argue it was fairly clear she had the time to do it, there was a need to do it and she had the time to do it?
  (Dr Reid) Yes. Within three weeks she gave up her university classes. Within three weeks of working for me she stopped going to her university classes.

  307. If we take the period of the month running up to the Scottish election, would you describe it in the same way or had things changed?
  (Dr Reid) Running up to an election things are always different, of course they are. I am not going to sit here and say they are not. Suzanne Hilliard herself in a statement to Ms Filkin said that things are different in the two to three weeks before the election. Incidentally in that same statement she also said, "He used to phone me", as I did, "I very, very rarely phoned him", so I do not quite understand why there is all this fuss about whether or not a student used a mobile phone to phone me when she said in her statement she very seldom or very rarely used it. Anyway, if I was a student with a mobile phone going into the Labour Party every day I know whose phone I would use. Quite frankly, given the circumstance I was in, I did not want people telephoning me—I do not want Mary McKenna telephoning me every day about a constituency case—she had time to do it. She thought that she would be able to do it with university and then she decided that she could not. Within about three weeks of starting with me she stopped going to university classes. She did her work, all that I required of her, and she worked for the Labour Party. In the last four weeks of the campaign—I do not know, but I have no reason to doubt a word she said—she said she was working maybe 12 or 15 hours rather than 20 hours. If that is the case, there is nothing improper in that because we have variable contracts. We have to be realistic about this, when it comes to typing or when it comes to secretarial work it is much easier to judge than people who are doing a variable contract, which is precisely why we make it variable.

  308. Can I ask two other questions? In the Scottish Labour Party budget documents the two members of staff—there are references to pay they are receiving from others—the only two, are the staff employed by you and by another Member of Parliament?
  (Dr Reid) Yes.

  309. Have you any observations to make on that?
  (Dr Reid) I have two observations, the first is, I think—and Ms Filkin will correct me if I am wrong—it is not the only footnote to those budget statements. There are other footnotes saying, "This person's salary is being negotiated, or something..." The only other conclusion or observation I would make is presumably they were added to those documents on Mr Rowley's instructions. I do not know what Mr Rowley said. I presume they were. Presumably he thought they were of some significance because he took them from the Labour Party when he left the Labour Party. Six months before this investigation he unlawfully took them from the Labour Party, for what purpose I do not know.

  310. The second question is, we understand that Susan Hilliard received a bonus. So far as we know, we do not know that any other volunteer received a bonus. Is that something which you would have an observation on?
  (Dr Reid) I do not know if anybody else did. I have not asked other people, but Ms Filkin has said that, and I have no reason to doubt that. The second thing is, the bonus was, as I understand it—again, I do not know—£406. The important point is this, I think it is a matter that should be dealt with some fairness. First of all, Susan Hilliard did not receive a salary.

  311. From the Labour Party?
  (Dr Reid) From the Labour Party. I understand a bonus to be in addition to salary. It is by definition an addition. Whatever the Labour Party accounts department may have called this, from the point of view of Susan it was not a bonus, it was an ex gratia payment she got at the end. That is perfectly understandable. So, I hope Ms Filkin does not mind me saying this, to brand her on that basis a liar in a document that is to be published I think is somewhat lacking in fairness. The second thing I would say is this, it is particularly lacking in fairness when on other occasions when people have said things that have appeared problematic, Ms Filkin has taken the trouble to write to them and ask them to clarify the remarks. One example that sticks in my mind is when Mr Sullivan gave evidence that Susan Hilliard was, in fact, being paid by John Maxton. There is a lovely letter, which you may refer to in the appendix, where Ms Filkin wrote to him because this statement was not very helpful. Presumably he had given completely wrong information. In a most leading letter she wrote saying, "You said that Mr Maxton was paying Susan Hilliard, now that we know that that is not the case would you like to reflect and change your views?" I think if Ms Filkin was to reflect on what she has written there she would, at least, in all fairness, have given Susan Hilliard the opportunity to give you the explanation which I have just done speculatively. The final point I make about the bonus is that this bonus was £406 for ten months. That is how long she worked. So, it was less than £10 a week. Since she was not obliged to be working, she was unpaid for any hours and she was given a bonus equivalent to £10 a week. It may mean she was working very hard for the Labour Party. It may not mean that, it may mean she was working harder, not longer than everybody else. If it meant she was working 25 hours per week above what was required, which is what everybody else was paid for, it meant she was working only 25 hours a week in total. I have tried to point out that Susan Hilliard from my calculations had of the order of 70 to 80 hours a week in which to complete her work for me. Kevin Reid did as well. I find it difficult to understand that section of Ms Filkin's reasoning, which says that they must have been working four hours a day for me, only because Ms Filkin apparently decided they could not have been working for me on a Saturday or Sunday, which is when researchers do. If anyone tries to read the Sunday press it takes several hours. They had all Saturday and Sunday or in Kevin's case Fridays as well, because he did not work after 11 o'clock in the morning on a Friday. I think that is a bit unfair of Ms Filkin.

  312. The questions to Dr Reid were to ask things that followed from the two issues in front of us. My questions have not been designed to answer any of his responses about other people.
  (Dr Reid) Can I just ask for clarification, did I not answer your questions?

  313. I am just trying to put on the record that it has not been my purpose or our role to try and answer things you may have said, Dr Reid, about other people, it is just to ask the questions and to get the answers about the two issues in front of us.
  (Dr Reid) I understand that. If I could just say one thing, first of all, "full-time" is used throughout this report in a meaningless sense, never defined. Secondly, even if somebody was working "full-time", if that meant six or seven hours a weekday then that would not preclude extra.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  314. Are you arguing that all concerned fulfilled their contracts to you? Yes?
  (Dr Reid) Yes.

  315. What the Fees Office paid for, you are arguing, was for time for you, and you received that time?
  (Dr Reid) Yes, insofar as you judge work that is done by people who work for us all only the time. You do not always judge it exactly, we make a judgment about how much time we think is necessary to fulfil certain tasks. I think it is fair to say that most of us judge people who work for us according to whether they meet our requirements or not.

  316. When I read the Commissioner's report, which I am sure you have already done, and particularly I looked at the brief produced by Mr Goudie as well, I got the feeling that you felt that the Commissioner had made up her mind on the question of the contractual hours worked for you when, in fact, she seems to have made up her mind, on my interpretation of the report, on the basis of the agreement and the existence of an agreement. I wonder whether you have had the opportunity of seeing what Mr Rowley said about that agreement between you and him?
  (Dr Reid) Which paragraph is that?

  317. If I could read the sections—
  (Dr Reid) If I have not seen it before I need time to look at it. Which section is it?

  318. I was going to read it to you. I was going to read Mr Rowley's evidence, question 176, page 32. At the end of that I was going to ask you to comment on what your interpretation is of that agreement which he is referring to. He says "I would be lying if I said anything other than I reached an agreement with these people: John Maxton through Ann-Marie Whyte and John Reid directly in discussions with him that both Kevin and Chris would be working for the Labour Party full-time but we would be paying half of the salary, a part-time salary of some sort or another and the other part coming from here. I know that because I was the person who was in charge of the monies of the Labour Party in Scotland." He then goes on in paragraph 178. He is asked "How do you know?" and he says "Because I was there. I was the person who was in charge of the party. I know the agreement we made with these people. We would have Chris and Kevin working full-time for the Labour Party. We would be paying them part-time and they would be paid part-time by both John and by John Maxton." Then the next reference comes—
  (Dr Reid) I am sorry, I am trying to take down your points.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: They are all essentially about the same thing. Page 36, 188. Mr Rowley, top of page 36: "I am telling the truth and I have told the truth from day one: that the arrangement I made with John Reid was that Kevin Reid would be employed by the party on a part-time basis, but would work full-time for the party and his salary would be made up by John's allowances. That was the arrangement by Westminster that I made with John; the discussion I had with John; and if I say anything that wavers from that I would be lying. That was the arrangement that was put in place." The next reference comes on page 38, question 193, where he says "... but all I know is that when asked about the arrangements that I had then made with his father, in terms of his employment, I have explained them and have been truthful in that. When asked why Kevin Reid was put on the books for the Labour Party full-time I have explained that and been honest about that." He was asked then "It would be possible...."

  Chairman: Which one are you on now?

Mr Campbell-Savours

  319. 194: "It would be possible that both you and Dr Reid are telling the truth?" He replies, "No, it could not be possible that both of us were telling the truth; because John denies the arrangement that was made."
  (Dr Reid) Can I say two things. I understand what you are saying, what was the arrangement?

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