Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Complaint against Dr John Reid and Mr John Maxton



111.  The initial responses from Dr Reid and Mr Maxton to the complaints against them set out in my letters to them of 27 January 2000 (Annexes 5 and 30) were contained in letters to me dated 14 February 2000 (Annex 8) and 2 March 2000 (Annex 40), respectively. Those initial responses were incorporated into the summaries of evidence relating to the complaints earlier in this report.[71]

112.  As soon as I believed that (with minor exceptions) I had collected all the evidence I had sought or had been promised by other witnesses as part of my investigation of the complaints, I wrote again to Dr Reid and Mr Maxton. With these letters, dated 19 May 2000 (Annexes 14 and 64), I enclosed:

    —  a memorandum, in summary form, of the evidence I had so far gathered, categorised as either "disputed" or "undisputed"

    —  transcripts of interviews or records of telephone conversations conducted by me with witnesses

    —  a written note and transcript of two interviews conducted by Mr Nelson with Mr McKinney

    —  copies of the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) budget documents supplied to me by Mr Rowley

    —  tables, prepared in my office and showing, for Mr Reid and Mr Winslow, SLP salary projections and salaries paid through the Office Costs Allowance (OCA)

    —  a list of written questions, principally on matters where evidence from a witness or witnesses was at variance with the initial responses of Dr Reid or Mr Maxton.

113.  At the same time I undertook to show Dr Reid and Mr Maxton any further evidence which might come to light which was in conflict with their own.

114.  I received the full responses of Dr Reid and Mr Maxton in letters dated 5 July 2000 (Annexes 26 and 27) and 14 June 2000 (Annex 77), respectively. Mr Maxton had initially declined to let me have answers to my written questions. He informed me in a letter dated 12 June 2000 (Annex 73) that he was content for his previous letter to me dated 4 June (Annex 68) to be treated as his formal response to the complaint, even though that letter made only general comments on a number of procedural and other items. Mr Maxton only agreed to provide detailed responses to my questions after the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, with the agreement of the Committee, had written to him (Annex 74) urging him—not least in his own interests—to provide the information I had requested.

Mr Maxton`s Full Response

115.  The main points of Mr Maxton`s full response were as follows:

    (i)    he had expected Mr Winslow to do the work required of him by his contract as a Parliamentary researcher, but that "when, where and how he did it was a matter for him";

    (ii)    no witness in a position to know had challenged Mr Winslow`s claim that he had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Mr Maxton;

    (iii)    he had no knowledge of Mr Winslow`s contract with the Labour Party and had no discussions with Mr Rowley about Mr Winslow`s employment arrangements;

    (iv)    he had had no previous knowledge (ie prior to my investigation) of the conference call in June 1999 involving Mr Rafferty, Mr Winslow and the other special advisers to the Scottish Executive; and the First Minister, to whom Mr Rafferty had said he reported the matter, had no recollection of such a conversation;

    (v)    only Mr Winslow could say why he was afraid of mischief-making by the media over the employment arrangements of himself and Mr Reid, but such anxieties were justified by previous actions on the part of Mr Nelson, who had "deliberately entrapped Dr Reid`s son and then deliberately twisted remarks he had made";

    (vi)    in any case, Mr Rafferty had changed his version of the conference call over the course of my successive interviews with him during the investigation of the complaint;

    (vii)    he had no knowledge of the SLP budget documents until they had been sent to him as part of the investigation of the complaint and could not therefore comment on them;

    (viii)  by the time of the immediate run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections Mr Winslow had accumulated an entitlement of 18 days leave and, as he was due to leave Mr Maxton`s employment, Mr Maxton allowed him to take his holidays then; even so Mr Winslow, despite being on leave, continued to do some work for Mr Maxton;

    (ix)    whilst there was evidence that Mr Winslow worked hard for the Labour Party there was no evidence that he did not fulfil his commitments to Mr Maxton;

    (x)    three of the principal witnesses had been dismissed by the Labour Party and they apparently bore a grudge against Dr Reid, of which Mr Maxton was the "unlucky and unwitting victim".

116.  It emerged in subsequent correspondence with Mr Maxton that the three people he was referring to in his allegation of a grudge against Dr Reid were Mr McKinney, Mr Rowley and Mr Sullivan. Mr Maxton explained that their departure from the Labour Party had been reported in the media in terms of their having been sacked and he attached a press cutting in support of this contention. He added that Mr Rafferty had subsequently been dismissed as a special adviser to the First Minister.

117.  Although Mr Maxton had declined to comment on the SLP budget documents, disclaiming any responsibility for them, I wrote to him again pointing out that the purpose of my original question was to give him the opportunity to respond both to Mr Rowley`s claim that the figures provided evidence for a cross-subsidy between the OCA and the Labour Party, and to the two notes which specifically referred to Mr Maxton and Dr Reid.

118.  On the first point, Mr Maxton again offered no observations, arguing that it was for Mr Rowley to justify his own interpretation of the figures. On the second, Mr Maxton said that, having spoken with Labour Party officials, he believed the reference to himself in the notes was intended to record the fact that Mr Winslow had another source of income in addition to his Party salary, which was not sufficient on its own for him to live on.

119.  Mr Maxton did not, as part of his formal submission, take up my invitation to him to supply documentary or other evidence of the nature and volume of work carried out for him by Mr Winslow, or to see me to explain in detail the employment arrangements of Mr Winslow.

Dr Reid`s Full Response

120.  Dr Reid`s full response consisted of : a covering letter; a statement; answers to my written questions to him; annotations to his statement to me of 14 February 2000; a set of press cuttings; and a binder containing examples of work done for Dr Reid by Kevin Reid and Suzanne Hilliard.[72]

121.  In his covering letter, Dr Reid made a number of points by way of background, including the following:

    (i)  geographical remoteness from Westminster required Members with seats in Scotland to employ "unorthodox methods of conducting [constituency] business" and to rely heavily on personal staff to carry out their work without direct supervision; if a Member was also a Minister, as in Dr Reid`s case, this problem was even more acute;

    (ii)  the concept of "full-time", as applied to the researchers, was unhelpful because there was no agreed definition of the term and, in any case, expectations of what hours a full-time Party official should work during an election campaign were much higher; what mattered was the actual number of hours worked;

    (iii)  there was no rule of the House which precluded a Parliamentary researcher, contracted part-time to a Member, from pursuing other activities, paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time;

    (iv)  none of the witnesses claiming to have knowledge of the hours worked by Kevin Reid or Ms Hilliard were their direct line managers.

122.  Of Ms Hilliard, Dr Reid said that although her efforts for the Party increased as the elections approached they never exceeded 8 hours a day and did not encroach upon the mornings, when she did all the work for Dr Reid required by her Parliamentary contract. Although Ms Hilliard had accepted that, during the last few weeks of the campaign, she only spent about 12-15 hours on constituency work this did not imply any breach of her obligations to the House, as the variable nature of her contract meant that the stipulated 20 hours did not have to be met every week. Dr Reid added that Mr Rafferty`s evidence on this point was particularly unreliable since his recollection was vague, and, in any case, he worked in a separate room from Ms Hilliard and could not have monitored the hours she kept.

123.  Dr Reid said that none of the evidence produced in support of the complaint proved that either Ms Hilliard or Mr Reid had failed to carry out their Parliamentary obligations. He added:

    "Conversely, the statements of myself, Kevin Reid, and Suzanne Hilliard testify to the fact that this work was done. This is backed by documentary material. It is also supported by the simple fact that the contrary view has to be based on the frankly incredible proposition that throughout most of the relevant period I would have to be assumed to have discharged my duties as a Minister and Member of Parliament in London while also personally undertaking all my constituency work and correspondence single-handedly. No Member of Parliament, or anyone with any experience of the work of a Member of Parliament could believe this."

124.  On the question of the election bonus of £406 paid to Ms Hilliard, Dr Reid stated that, whilst he did not know the basis for the payment, since Ms Hilliard had no contractual obligation to the Party it was assumed by him to have been a reward "for working at least 25 hours for the Party". He added : "Of course, 25 hours working for the Party would not have precluded [Ms Hilliard] from discharging her duties to [me]."

125.  Of Kevin Reid, Dr Reid said that the complainant had failed to make out a case for concluding that the hours he worked for the party were such that Mr Reid could not have carried out his obligations as a Parliamentary researcher.

126.  Mr Reid`s own evidence was that he worked 3 hours a day for the Party until July 1998 and thereafter 4 to 4½ hours a day, before going onto a full-time contract in October 1998. The witnesses who contradicted Mr Reid`s statement were not, according to Dr Reid, in a position to have first-hand knowledge of Mr Reid`s hours and their evidence was confused and vague.

127.  Summarising the evidence on this point, Dr Reid said:

    "There is no statement that reliably controverts [Kevin Reid`s] hours worked in the relevant period. Not one witness has [Kevin Reid] leaving after 2pm during the relevant period. There is no statement that suggests that [Kevin Reid] was not in a position to carry out his weekly "20 hours variable" of duties for [me]. [Kevin Reid] did in truth carry out those duties for [me]."

128.  Moreover, according to Dr Reid, his son had explained in some detail in his own evidence the nature of the work he had done for Dr Reid in terms of press monitoring and political briefing during the relevant period (May to October 1998).

129.  Turning to the allegation that he told Mr McKinney, when offering Kevin Reid`s services to the party, that he (Dr Reid) would pay his son`s salary, Dr Reid pointed to the differences between Mr McKinney`s statement in evidence to my inquiry and the words he had used in his earlier conversations with Mr Nelson. In the former, Mr McKinney had referred merely to the suggestion by Dr Reid that Kevin Reid should work for the Party, with no mention of money. In the latter, when prompted by Mr Nelson, he had referred, albeit ambiguously, to Dr Reid`s willingness to find the necessary funds. Dr Reid added that a minute of a Labour Party weekly strategy meeting in April 1998 (a copy of which was attached to his response) showed the issue of finding additional personnel for the election campaign team being discussed under the heading "Potential to draft in people currently employed by Scottish MPs". In Dr Reid`s view, this document supported his contention that any offer he might have made to find ways of funding Kevin Reid`s campaign work was in the context of financial provision being made by the Labour Party.

130.  Dr Reid denied that the reason for moving his son onto a full-time contract with the Party in October 1998 had had anything to do with fears about possible press investigation of Mr Reid`s employment arrangements. Why, Dr Reid asked, would he agree to a change in his son`s employment status with the Party in order to protect himself against accusations of impropriety, only then to replicate the same allegedly improper arrangement with Ms Hilliard? Dr Reid conceded that he may have drawn Mr Rowley`s attention to adverse press coverage of the alleged misuse by Conservative Members of Parliament of public funds for party political purposes, but, if so, this would have been merely in order "to illustrate why a [full-time] contract for Kevin Reid was necessary to reflect the proposed change in [his] duties".

131.  Dr Reid questioned Mr Rafferty`s reliability as a witness concerning the issue of the conference call in the summer of 1999 during which Mr Winslow expressed his concern over press mischief-making. Dr Reid pointed to the variations in Mr Rafferty`s evidence on this point over the course of his interviews during the investigation of the complaint—and to the fact that only in his later evidence did Mr Rafferty express the view that Mr Winslow`s anxiety reflected a possible misuse of public funds.

132.  So far as the SLP budget documents were concerned, Dr Reid denied any involvement in their creation and said that he was not responsible for interpreting them. In his answers to the written questions put to him, however, Dr Reid maintained that it was not clear to him how the figures in the budget documents supported the allegation that they had been drawn up taking account of the House of Commons salaries of Mr Reid and Mr Maxton. He did not, however, offer any explanation for the notes referring to the salaries received by Mr Reid and Mr Winslow from Dr Reid and Mr Maxton.

133.  Dr Reid challenged the credibility or reliability of Mr McKinney, Mr Rafferty, Mr Rowley and Mr Sullivan, either by making specific allegations about their previous conduct or by inviting me to make further inquiries into the manner or content of their evidence to me. In particular, Dr Reid drew attention, as had Mr Maxton, to the circumstances in which Mr McKinney, Mr Rowley and Mr Sullivan had left the employment of the Labour Party and to the dismissal of Mr Rafferty by the First Minister, which Dr Reid claimed cast doubt on Mr Rafferty`s honesty as a witness, whether or not he bore a grudge against Dr Reid.

134.  In response to the question as to why Mr Rowley should make untruthful allegations about him, Dr Reid supposed that Mr Rowley had made similar accusations on tape to Mr Nelson and that he "may feel he cannot back out from this serious attack on [my] probity".

135.  Dr Reid also made a number of allegations against Mr Nelson which, he argued, undermined Mr Nelson`s credibility and reliability as a complainant. Chief amongst these were:

    (i)  that Mr Nelson had made accusations against Kevin Reid of breaches of the rules of conduct of the Scottish Parliament,[73] but that these accusations had been rejected by the Parliament`s Standards Committee;

    (ii)  that Mr Nelson had been involved in pursuing journalistic campaigns against Dr Reid and Kevin Reid, as detailed in Dr Reid`s statement of 14 February 2000;

    (iii)  that Mr Nelson had been criticised in the Report of the Inquiry[74] into Children`s Homes in North Wales for making allegations in a Sunday newspaper article without evidence (in support of this claim, Dr Reid attached to his submission an extract from the report which stated:

      " is reasonably clear ... that [Mr Nelson] had not been in possession of any actual evidence of child abuse by [... ] at the time when his article appeared.")

136.  Dr Reid`s full response to the complaint concluded with the following paragraph:

    "Close and proper analysis of the statements provided reveals neither any established case of wrong-doing by [me] nor any prima facie case. As the statements provided deal with only those matters where there is an apparent conflict with [my] evidence, it is supposed that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has other sources of evidence which may support [my] position. It is not known what these might be. What is clear is that the principal persons on whom the complainer has relied do not reliably support the complaint, or indeed any variation of it."

71   See paragraphs 38 to 110. Back

72  See paragraphs 84-86 and 94. Back

73  The so-called "Lobbygate" case. Back

74  Lost in Care, the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry, chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse into the abuse of children in care in the former counties of Gwynedd and Clwyd in Wales since 1974 (HC 201, Session 1999-2000). Back

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