Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 360 - 377)

TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000

RT HON DR JOHN REID, MP

  360. They are not included in the transcript. I think that you would do well to wait and comment on the wider transcript and not commit yourself necessarily to the shorter transcript which you have had access to up to now.
  (Dr Reid) Can I just ask on this, Chairman, because this is a very important question—

  361. Can I ask you a simple question which, if possible, I would like an answer yes or no to. Irrespective of whether there was any agreement in the way suggested by Alex Rowley, irrespective of whether there was or not, are you saying that everything you did, you did with the prior approval of the Fees Office?
  (Dr Reid) You mean did I phone the Fees Office at the time just to confirm that somebody could also take a contract with the Labour Party? Yes, I did.

  362. You phoned the Fees Office and what did you actually say to them, if you can recall?
  (Dr Reid) No, I cannot, I will be quite truthful with you. It was not something that I was doing for the record.

  363. But it was prior to any of these arrangements being entered into?
  (Dr Reid) Yes. I phoned on numerous occasions, as most MPs do, the Fees Office to find things out. I phoned them, for instance, at the time the model contract came out.

  364. I understand that, but is there anything about this specific series of events that you recall raising with the Fees Office?
  (Dr Reid) Only the one question of whether it was okay for someone who was working for me to work for the Labour Party. That was the only thing.

  365. Thank you.
  (Dr Reid) Can I just clarify something because Mr Campbell-Savours has said something very important there. Am I to understand—I do not know whether this is the case or not—that I am being interviewed on the basis of accusations which are known to Mr Campbell-Savours, or perhaps to other Members of the Committee, that have not been revealed to me before I am defending myself?

  366. No. All I am saying to you is that the transcript of the tape, which I understand you have seen, is not a full transcript because in the translation of the transcript, when it was transcribed, it was not possible to get all of the words.
  (Dr Reid) That is interesting because, as you know, I asked—

  367. I think it is important that you be told that.
  (Dr Reid) First of all, nobody has told me that. Secondly, and I do not want to be churlish here, I did ask to take these tapes away to examine them in my own time with my own advisers and Ms Filkin felt that was not possible, I had to do it in her office despite the fact of getting legal safeguards. If you are now telling me that the transcript I was provided with, having been refused the chance to examine that tape, is not an accurate reflection of what was on the tape, I would just want to record objection.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: I think he is entitled to know.

Chairman

  368. Let me make the position clear. We will be trying to get a better transcript of that tape. If we are successful in that it will, of course, be provided to you.
  (Dr Reid) Yes.

  Chairman: Thank you.

  Mr Campbell-Savours: And there will be more on it.

Mr Williams

  369. One quick point following on what Shona said. This is coming back to this question of the oath. In the transcript that we have, document 145, on page six, as you rightly say, about three-quarters of the way down, "What you must not do is tell anything which is not the truth" which emphasises something you said yourself.
  (Dr Reid) Can you just hold on a second so I can get the document out?

  370. Yes. It is 145, the thin document.
  (Dr Reid) Yes. I think I have it.

  371. This bit you do not need to find, it is nothing you would want to challenge. You do say a little later "What you mustn't do is tell anything that isn't the truth".
  (Dr Reid) This is page what, sorry?

  372. Page six, three-quarters of the way down. You say "What you mustn't do is tell anything that isn't the truth". There is no problem with that. Go back again to—
  (Dr Reid) I am sorry, can you hold on, I cannot find it. Yes.

  373. That confirms what you have already told us that is what you did tell him, you said that you said that to him. Going back slightly to a couple of points before, he says: "It also says in the letter I shall ask if you prefer to give evidence to me under oath" and you then say "Yeah, well, you can say no. John Rafferty said no. ... Say no I don't know the status of these meetings, where they're going. I will tell you what happened. I've no wish to take the oath, this is not a court of law." Why did you immediately tell him that? I know you have said that he was nervous about taking the oath but surely the right thing, if anything, would have been to encourage him to underline the veracity of what he was saying? Why did you not discuss the options with him?
  (Dr Reid) First of all, remember that these discussions, whether it was this call or the previous one, were at the instigation of Alex. He is seeking advice on matters that presumably he wants clarified or whatever. One of these that comes up is something that he has brought up on several occasions before which is, from the very first call he got from Dean Nelson, Dean Nelson apparently said something about being "dragged in and told under oath". The second thing is that Alex did not know all of the information and that was what I did throughout this, as I did in the first conversation some months before, I said to him, "Alex, you do not know the whole background to this, you do not know what I have done, you do not know what work these people did". The other point he kept going on about was "I must take an oath". It can be a very frightening thing, as Lesley Quinn said in one of her statements. I said to him "look, you do not have to take the oath, it does not have to be taken". He was saying to me, "I have to take the oath, I am being pushed to take the oath".

  374. He does not say that in this conversation.
  (Dr Reid) I am sorry. It also says "... in the letter I shall ask if you prefer to give evidence to me under oath". It is quite clear what he is saying to me, "she is asking me to take the oath", and I am saying, I will just read it to you, "Yeah, well, ..."

  375. She is asking if you prefer to give evidence under oath.
  (Dr Reid) I know but—

  376. If you prefer.
  (Dr Reid)—let us remember this is a telephone conversation, we are not doing necessarily a syntactical analysis during a telephone conversation. Alex says at one point, "I don't want to say anything"—because he does not have all the information, remember, he is relying on me to give him it—"I do not want to say anything that someone can walk in the next day and prove is not true." I say to him, "Alex, they cannot prove that because they did work for me. It is a lie what they are trying to prove." So I reassured him of what he is constantly worried because he does not have the information. He did not know that I had found out from the Fees Office it was perfectly proper to do what we had done. He did not know that Kevin Reid worked for me. Incidentally, he did not even know that Kevin Reid worked for me for a long time before the Scottish election campaign. Alex seems to have thought at the beginning that I had just hired him for the campaign. So he is worried about all of these things he does not know and then he suddenly says to me, "Yes, but it also says in the letter, `I shall ask if you prefer to give evidence to me under oath.'" I say to him, "But you can say no. Rafferty said no." I did not bring up the question of the oath. I did not say to him—Let me put it this way, it is not as if there was something in this where I said to Alex, "Look, Alex, we all know the reality but for the sake of the Party we must tell a lie". If you look through the rest of that you will find that on every occasion I say what I said to Alex Rowley on the first occasion, "Alex, you must tell the truth, it must be the whole truth but it must be nothing but the truth", you must not go into speculation because if you go into speculation, that is a lie.

  Mr Williams: Thank you, Chairman.

Chairman

  377. We have come to the end of a very long session for you. We appreciate you have not had the opportunity to read the transcript of this morning's evidence. It will be provided to you of course, and when you have examined it perhaps you may wish to put in a further memorandum which the Committee will be happy to receive. Meanwhile, thank you for coming along for a very long session.

  (Dr Reid) I thank you and the Committee for your courtesy. Thank you very much indeed.


 
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