Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 1

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Dean Nelson, Scotland Editor, The Observer

Further to our telephone conversation earlier this week, I`m writing to make a formal complaint against John Reid MP and John Maxton MP.

The essence of my complaint is that the two men misled the Fees Office and abused public money by using Westminster allowances to pay salaries to full time campaigners in Labour`s Scottish Parliament election campaign. I believe both men falsely passed off these campaigners as Westminster researchers in order to help fund Labour`s campaign.

The campaigners in question are Mr Reid`s son Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow, who is now a special advisor to Donald Dewar. Kevin Reid was given a part-time contract by the Labour Party in May 1998, but in fact worked full time. He was also paid part-time by his father as a researcher. Mr Reid had suggested his son could help the campaign following a meeting of Labour`s Scottish Strategy Group at Keir Hardie House, Glasgow in April 1998. I believe the meeting was attended by Donald Dewar, Gordon Brown, Brian Wilson, John Reid, then Scottish party General Secretary Alex Rowley and Head of Communications Paul McKinney. McKinney and Rowley had criticised the politicians present for talking a great deal, but doing little, starving the campaign of the resources they needed to tackle their opponents.

I`m reliably informed that Reid then offered to transfer his son Kevin to the campaign to help out. Kevin was not doing much, he said. He could help the campaign and Reid "would find a way of paying him." Although the offer was made to McKinney, the details of the arrangement were worked out between Alex Rowley and John Reid. Kevin Reid began work as a media monitor, with Paul McKinney as his line manager.

In October, Rowley approached Reid to discuss ending Kevin`s party-time payments from his father. There had been press reports attacking the Conservatives for similar practices. The Scottish Labour leadership felt Reid`s employment of his son in similar circumstances would look very bad if it came to light. It was agreed to end his part-time employment for his father and to move him onto a full-time contract with the party.

The part-time salary which had been paid to Kevin, was then switched to a Labour campaign volunteer, Suzanne Hilliard, who worked effectively as Kevin`s deputy in the media monitoring unit. She took charge of the unit after Kevin injured his arm shortly before last year`s election.

Although Rowley and his colleagues knew the arrangement to be against Westminster rules, they were not concerned about Hilliard receiving Reid`s money. Their main concern was the sensitivity of Reid senior employing his own son in breach of the rules.

Chris Winslow was paid by John Maxton MP, who also later paid Suzanne Hilliard despite her full time work for Labour`s campaign. As one senior party official told me, "there were no part-timers". Labour`s office manager throughout this period was Anne-Marie White, and the person who controlled the campaign budget was John Rafferty, who worked until recently as Donald Dewar`s chief of staff.

I have spoken to many senior Labour officials and politicians to confirm the truth of the arrangements described above. I`ve agreed to protect their identities, but they will give evidence in court if Reid or Maxton or if called by you. All the interviews were recorded on tape.

It is clear that the party officials named above and Donald Dewar were all aware of these arrangements at various times. It is important to establish when Donald Dewar, now First Minister of Scotland but still a Westminster MP, knew about the arrangement. It was he who signed the statutory order requiring parties to submit all election expenditure, and secured funding for the Scottish Election Commission which monitored election funding. These arrangements were not declared to the SEC or to the Secretary of State for Scotland who was responsible for monitoring election spending. The Secretary of State at the time was John Reid, clearly with a conflict of interest.

If Donald Dewar knew before reports were submitted under the statutory order and the SEC, then he has remained silent about a serious breach of Westminster rules.

I do not know whether Gordon Brown or Brian Wilson were aware of the arrangements for paying Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow from Westminster allowances, but I believe all the others named in bold were aware or became aware long before The Observer`s report was published last week. I hope you will be able to call them as witnesses to explain these arrangements to you in detail.

I am moving to a new job (Assistant Editor, Politics) at The Scotsman next week (from February 1st), but I will be contactable at the same email address and on the same telephone numbers.

I will of course help all I can in any investigation you may conduct.

26 January 2000
[Attached: Article from The Observer, 23 January 2000—headline "Reid hit by poll cash scandal".]

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 22 December 2000