Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


COMPLAINT AGAINST MR JOHN MAXTON AND DR JOHN REID

Was the OCA actually used improperly?

36. We consider the evidence in support of the Commissioner`s conclusion that the OCA was used improperly because Ms Hilliard and Mr Winslow were working such long hours for the Labour Party that they could not have done their parliamentary research work as well.

37. In respect of Ms Hilliard, the Commissioner relied on evidence from Mr Rowley, Mr Rafferty, Mr Sullivan and Ms Lesley Quinn (Mr Rowley`s successor as General Secretary). These witnesses concentrated in their evidence on the period immediately before the Scottish Parliament elections. The Commissioner summarised their evidence as follows:

    87.  Mr Rowley told me that, at least during the closing weeks of the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign, none of the three researchers "had any spare time at all", and that Ms Hilliard had complained of being "under extreme pressure" (Annex 129, Q 13). Mr Rafferty supported this description of Ms Hilliard`s workload, in that she had worked on a shift basis which was "quite arduous" (Annex 151, pp 8 and 9). This certainly, in Mr Rafferty`s view, amounted to a full-time effort as the campaign reached its height, when all the staff at Party headquarters worked "lots and lots and lots of hours" (ibid, p.11). Mr Sullivan also viewed Ms Hilliard as a full-time member of staff who was not, as far as he was aware, doing work for anyone else at the same time (Annex 172, p.3). Ms Quinn`s recollection was that Ms Hilliard arrived at the Labour Party offices at about 1.30 or 2.00 pm and stayed "until early evening". She added that "nobody could say she was here full-time as much as Chris [Winslow] or Kevin [Reid]." (Annex 179, pp. 5 and 7).

The Commissioner summarised Ms Hilliard`s evidence as follows:

    88.  In response, Ms Hilliard denied categorically that she had been available to work, or had in fact worked, full-time for the Labour Party. She had done everything asked of her by Dr Reid. That work had been carried out from home in the mornings before she went to Delta House (the Labour Party offices). It was therefore not surprising that no one there was aware of her performing other duties whilst engaged on Party business: she had not done so. There were no set times for either job and this flexibility allowed her to arrange her respective duties for the Party and Dr Reid so as to avoid any overlap (Annex 108).

    89.  Ms Hilliard maintained that this remained the case even when, as the election approached, her commitment to the Party increased to 6 or 7 hours a day. She said that although during that period the number of hours she worked for Dr Reid probably dropped to an average of about 12 to 15 per week, she was still able to do everything he asked of her.

38. In respect of Mr Winslow, the Commissioner relied on evidence from Mr Rowley, Mr Rafferty, Mr Sullivan and Mr John McLaren (another staff member at the SLP`s headquarters), which is summarised below:

    101.  Mr Rowley told me that Ms Annmarie Whyte, the Office Manager, had declared Mr Winslow to be "available full-time" for Party work (Annex 129, Q 3). Mr Rafferty certainly regarded him as such during the latter part of the campaign, even though, as he explained, Mr Winslow frequently worked from home (Annex 151, p. 11). On the scale of effort put in by Mr Winslow on behalf of the Party, Mr Rowley thought that he had done "a very hard year`s work" (Annex 129, Q 3). Mr Rafferty`s perception was that Mr Winslow had worked "very, very long hours" and that he was frequently already at his desk when Mr Rafferty arrived (Annex 151, p.7). This had amounted to a full-time commitment "for at least part of the campaign", to the point where it was difficult to see, in Mr Rafferty`s judgment, how Mr Winslow could have managed a second job for Mr Maxton in the very limited spare time available to him (Annex 154A, Q 1 and 6).

    102.  This latter view was endorsed by Mr Sullivan, who estimated the time spent by Party workers on the campaign at between 12 and 14 hours a day in the immediate run-up to the election (Annex 172, p. 5). Mr John McLaren, who occupied a senior position at Scottish Labour Party headquarters, estimated that Mr Winslow worked "at least 40 hours a week, usually more" as the campaign developed (Annex 202).

The Commissioner summarised Mr Winslow`s evidence as follows:

    105.  Mr Winslow conceded, however, that during the period of the campaign itself, there had perhaps been 3 or 4 weeks during which he had been unable to fulfil completely (in terms of hours) his contractual commitment to Mr Maxton. In those weeks his total effort for Mr Maxton might have fallen to 10 hours instead of 20—but equally, Mr Winslow maintained, there had been weeks outside the campaign period when the number of hours he had put in on his Parliamentary duties would have exceeded 20 (Annex 105, p. 9). Mr Winslow added that, by the time of the immediate run-up to the election, he had accumulated a certain amount of holiday entitlement in his contract with Mr Maxton (Annex 101).

39. Mr Rafferty and Mr Rowley confirmed their accounts in their oral evidence to us in the following terms:

    Q34 (Mr Bottomley) In terms of being able to do that—and, certainly, to take the last month or four weeks of the campaign—would you have thought it was reasonably possible for her to have worked for somebody else for more than 10 or 15 hours a week?

    (Mr Rafferty) I honestly cannot say what is possible and what is not possible. In the last month of the campaign we were there all the time. It was extremely hard work. But I had no knowledge of what people did outside.

    Q76 (Mr Bell) So the critical time is those four weeks, and you cannot help us on that.

    (Mr Rafferty) I cannot say what people did outside—we worked extremely hard.

    Q77 (Mr Bell) They were really tired at the end of the day?

    (Mr Rafferty)We were all exhausted.

    Q179 (Mr Foster ) What was full­time in your definition?

    (Mr Rowley) Full­time in terms of Chris Winslow was certainly a lot more hours than Kevin Reid. John made the point that Kevin went home in the evenings. He did not work every weekend. I would not hesitate to say about Chris Winslow, on the other hand. He was in a Policy and Research Unit, focusing very much on economics issues. He came from the university and had studied economics. He was very, very sharp and very good. Full­time on his part was certainly early morning, well into the evenings, in terms of Chris Winslow. He worked weekends. Most of the staff on the campaign were working very long hours. In terms of full­time for Kevin, as I mentioned to you and the Commissioner, Kevin would be there early morning. Once we moved for the operation into Delta House, Kevin would be there very early to prepare the morning briefs and would leave after lunchtime, after he had the lunchtime news bulletins, which would be round about 1 or 1.30.

    Q181 (Mr Foster) Going back before then, was Mr Winslow working long hours even in the early stages?

    (Mr Rowley) Yes. It was very a difficult year; very, very hard throughout that year, so he was working much harder.

40. The Commissioner attached weight to the payment of bonuses to Ms Hilliard and Ms Winslow, which indicated effort in the election campaign above and beyond the call of duty. The relevant evidence is as follows:

    73.  I asked Mr Upton for details of the bonus payments which had been made to the three researchers. He told me that a sum of £8,000 had been set aside to reward staff after the Scottish election campaign for effort "above and beyond the call of duty", the benchmark for which was the number of hours worked in excess of the contractual obligation. Entitlement to a bonus, and the amount due, was determined, by local management, according to 3 bands:

      Band 1 :  at least 5-15 hours extra per week
      Band 2 :  at least 15-25 hours extra per week
      Band 3 :  at least 25 hours extra per week.

    74.  Mr Upton stated that Mr Reid and Mr Winslow had been placed in Band 3 and had each received £406.78. He said that Ms Hilliard, although not a contracted member of the Labour Party staff, also received this sum, "to recognise her enormous effort during the campaign" (Annex 188). Mr Winslow told me he had submitted a record of his hours to obtain his bonus (Annex 105, pp 17 and 18) and I have asked both Ms Annmarie Whyte and Mr Upton for a copy. Ms Whyte said they had been sent to Labour Party headquarters and Mr Upton said he would ask his personnel manager whether the information was available. On 2 October 2000 Mr Upton wrote to me to say that the personnel manager does not have the time sheets (Annex 199C).

    52.  Ms Hilliard said in her statement to me that she "did not really advertise" the fact that from November 1998 onwards she was employed by Dr Reid (Annex 108, p. 4). She added: "When I was doing my work in Delta House [the Labour Party`s offices in Glasgow], I think a few people knew what I was doing, but not very many". In answer to a specific question from me, she denied that she had received any bonus from the Labour Party and she said she was prepared to say on oath that she had never been paid by the Labour Party during hours for which she had been paid by the Fees Office (Annex 111, p.16).

41. The Commissioner noted that no documentary evidence of Mr Winslow`s work for Mr Maxton had been provided;[31] that the documentary evidence provided of Mr Kevin Reid`s and Ms Hilliard`s work for Dr Reid was illustrative rather than comprehensive;[32] and that information which might have confirmed Ms Hilliard`s account of events had not been provided.[33] On that point the Commissioner told us:

    238.  Regrettably, I experienced lengthy and, in my view, unjustified delays in obtaining from Ms Hilliard the evidence which she agreed to let me have, in the form of telephone accounts, which might corroborate her contention that in the mornings she was in regular communication with Dr Reid using her mobile telephone from her flat. As she originally explained the position to me: "I would page him [Dr Reid] or, more generally, he would phone me if there was anything" (Annex 111, p. 10). In a subsequent note to the interview transcript, however, Ms Hilliard gave a somewhat different explanation: "Dr Reid was almost always the one who made contact with me". Even so, I would have expected Ms Hilliard`s mobile phone accounts to show some evidence of outgoing calls to Dr Reid`s pager. It is therefore surprising that Ms Hilliard`s solicitors told me on 23 September 2000 that no such calls were made from Ms Hilliard`s mobile phone during a critical period of the campaign, namely April and early May 1999. Nor has Ms Hilliard provided me with any details of calls made to Dr Reid from the payphone in her flat. For his part, Dr Reid has not provided me with his own telephone accounts for the period in question, despite several requests to him to let me have any relevant supporting documentation.

42. We have considered the evidence. It is circumstantial. The witnesses chose to concentrate on the last four weeks of the election campaign. None of the witnesses is able to state categorically that Ms Hilliard and Mr Winslow were incapable of fulfilling their parliamentary obligations at any particular time. The two researchers gave direct evidence. Both of them told the Commissioner that during the election campaign the hours they worked for their Member did fall short of their contractual hours.[34] That is not necessarily inconsistent with their flexible contracts. There is no conclusive evidence that either researcher failed to fulfil his or her contractual hours for the Member on a variable contract when seen over a longer period of time. Possible supporting evidence was not provided. Without other compelling evidence, we do not regard these admitted shortcomings as sufficient grounds for upholding the complaint.

43. Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint against either Mr Maxton or Dr Reid.



31  Appendix 1, paras. 109-10. Back

32  Appendix 1, paras. 84-6 and 92-4. Back

33  Appendix 1, paras. 95-100. Back

34  See also Qs 277 (Dr Reid) and 387 (Mr Maxton). Back


 
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