Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Appendix

Enclosure to above letter from the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP

OBSERVER COMPLAINT

Kevin Reid worked for me, paid through the fees office, from as early as 1989. Initially he was engaged on administrative tasks and remunerated accordingly and latterly, having taken a degree in Politics and History, as a researcher. Throughout this period he was contracted to work part-time and I found his performance entirely satisfactory. In September 1997 his contract was renewed on the basis of part-time work, contracted to work 20 hours (variable) per week. Like my other members of staff over the years he had flexibility in the sense that there were no set daily starting or finishing time provided his output was satisfactory.

By May 1998, therefore, Kevin Reid had been in my employment for some 9 years and working under his latest contract for approximately some eight months. The implication that I took him on to work for the Labour Party`s campaign is utterly without foundation.

As is the suggestion that he did not provide me with the work and value contracted for. In May 1997 I had become a Government Minister (Minister for the Armed Forces and, latterly, Minister for Transport.) The demands of these posts were such that it was impossible to keep personally abreast of Scottish political developments in any detail. Kevin Reid`s area of work was adjusted to do just that. It remained varied according to events but generally included monitoring of the Scottish press, national periodicals, drafting of local press releases, assistance with non-departmental speeches, local press monitoring and general political advice. He combined this part-time work with studies for his second (legal) degree.

In April/May 1998 I was asked to assist with Labour`s Scottish Parliamentary campaign planning, which I did willingly. In the course of that I drew up a widely circulated organisational paper for the campaign which included other things, a need for media monitoring. Since Kevin already had experience in that area I indicated quite openly to officials in the Labour Party that Kevin would be prepared to work on media monitoring, that his working hours could be extremely flexible and that he had time to spare. The reason that he had time to spare was simply because in May 1998 he finished his degree course, not that he would give up working for me.

I also indicated that I would find the money, and I did—from the Labour Party. Kevin Reid started on a part-time contract for 15 hours with the Labour Party from the 25th May 1998. From May until October 1998 he worked mornings (Monday-Thursday and sometimes Friday) for the Labour Party and fulfilled his 20 hour commitment to me in the afternoons, evenings and week-ends. There was, therefore, nothing sinister in the comment I am alleged to have made at a meeting around April 1998, though I cannot recall exactly or verbatim comments at this distance in time. However, I do recall that I insisted that there be a part-time contract in place with the Labour Party precisely so that proprieties be observed.

In October 1998, approximately six months prior to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the Labour Party in Scotland went on to augmented staffing hours. I insisted that if Kevin were being asked to do so he should be given a full time contract with the Labour Party. To do otherwise would have been wrong in principle and would also have exposed the Labour Party to attack as well as myself. This was agreed and, along with a number of other recruits, he started a full time contract with the Labour Party on the 15th October 1998. At that point I, therefore, terminated his contract from the fees office with effect from the October 1998 Salary payment, allowing two weeks in lieu of holiday, a quite normal procedure. He received no payments from the Fees Office thereafter.

To replace him I employed another History and Politics student known to Kevin and Labour Officials for her voluntary work for the Labour Party, Suzanne Hilliard. I employed her on the same contract—20 hours variable—and the same salary as Kevin Reid with the initial intention of covering the same work areas. However, — — —.[95] The volume of mail received in the constituency (up to 200 pieces of correspondence a week, of which perhaps 20-30 require detailed, written casework replies) was obviously more than I could possibly personally cope with along with ministerial duties and such that during this period I had to divert Suzanne Hilliard onto assisting in Constituency casework and general correspondence. I then had any formal letter typing done by the Susan Hamilton Agency in the House of Commons. I have asked them for details of the work done for me and they have estimated that during the first six months of 1999, the rough period of Suzanne Hilliard`s employment, they completed over 440 letters for me.

Throughout the period of her part time contract with me Suzanne Hilliard worked voluntarily in her spare time—along with many others—for the Labour Party. However, she found working for me and assisting the Labour Party too onerous to combine with her studies and she gave up the latter in mid December 1998, some six weeks after joining my employment.

In short, I absolutely reject the allegations made by Mr Nelson. I have stated the facts of the case in some detail to refute the allegations made in his letter. Obviously some of the information above was, and is, confidential, and not known either to Mr Nelson or to the parties mentioned in his letter. I did not reveal to the Labour Party officials to whom I spoke the nature of the parliamentary work done for me, the length of previous employment, the salaries, the academic details or the health problems of any of my employees. I did not expect anyone who worked for me to do so either.

I do not for one minute deny that I wished to assist the Labour Party. Nor that those who worked for me part-time also worked part-time or voluntarily for the Labour Party in their spare time. There is nothing mysterious, secret, improper or uncommon about this. But my employees were not taken on for that purpose; they were not paid for that purpose. They were paid for work for me which they did to my satisfaction. Indeed, at a time of some considerable personal difficulties I went out of my way to try to ensure that not only were the proprieties observed, but were seen to observed.

14 February 2000

Dr John Reid




95  Confidential information concerning Dr Reid's secretary's illness. Back


 
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