Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 1

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges from the Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP

Last week during my appearance at the Committee you were good enough to invite me to present a memorandum after I had an opportunity to read the transcripts of Mr Rowley's and Mr Rafferty's interviews. I now do so.

In view of the time limitations, I have confined myself to two areas—the alleged "improper arrangements" and the alleged "threats and pressures".

I have denied any "improper arrangement". Mr Rowley is the only witness who alleges such an arrangement. And yet the transcript reveals him to be, confused, contradictory or in ignorance of almost all and any of the detail of the supposed "arrangements" which he alleges he was party to and central to. Even exposure to the actual facts of the matter fails to shake Mr Rowley's "beliefs". He cannot in all fairness be regarded as a reliable or credible witness. His evidence forms no basis for Ms Filkin's upholding of the complaint.

This obviously must have some bearing on Mr Rowley's reliability and credibility when it comes to his allegations of "threats" and "pressures". I, and others mentioned by Mr Rowley, have categorically denied these allegations. Again the transcript shows himself to be vague, tentative, and contradictory over both the nature and the circumstances of the alleged threats which he "perceived" himself to be subject to. In at least one case his allegation is not just denied but also verifiably untrue. I find it difficult to believe that these unsubstantiated allegations, made in this fashion could form any fair basis for such a damaging and defamatory section of Ms Filkin's report.

Finally, I regret that I have to bring to your attention yet another press article. You will know that throughout this enquiry that John Maxton and I have been concerned both at the appearance of press articles and at the apparent access which Mr Nelson, the journalist and complainant, has apparently had to detailed knowledge of information arising out of the enquiry. He has continually briefed journalistic colleagues. Last Thursday I was informed that Mr Nelson had again been briefing journalists in Scotland regarding Ms Filkin's report and last week's developments. On Friday my office received several calls and refused, as always to comment. Yesterday the enclosed article[1] appeared in the Scottish National Newspaper. I would merely say, once again, that both John Maxton and myself are being subjected to trial by newspaper.

13 November 2000

A.    THE QUESTION OF AN "IMPROPER ARRANGEMENT"

    (1)    I have already outlined the facts concerning my conversations with Mr Rowley. In April 1998 I told colleagues (Mr Rowley was not present) that Kevin Reid (who had been working part-time with me while completing his second University degree) would be finishing his university classes, and would therefore have free time and might be prepared to undertake the establishment of media monitoring for the Labour Party. I then spoke to Kevin who was willing to do so, combining this with his part-time work for me. I then spoke to the Fees Office who indicated there was no problem with this. I only then spoke to Mr Rowley. I had several snatched conversations with him indicating that Kevin would be willing to do this, could be extremely flexible in his working hours, and wanted to help. I indicated also that he would have to have a separate part-time contract and payment from the Labour Party. Thus, Kevin started by working the 15 contracted hours and after about 2-3 months volunteered a couple of hours extra to include the lunch time news. At that stage—prior to going on to cover the evening news broadcasts—I started to insist that if the work demands on him continue to grow that he must work exclusively for the Labour Party. I pointed to a newspaper report to reinforce my insistence. Kevin was put onto a full-time contract 7 months before the election as media monitoring was being extended to cover evening and late broadcasts.

    (2)    Though it was clear that Kevin wished to help the Party, there was no agreement that he would work a set number of extra hours above contract, or work "full-time" (whatever that may have meant) for Labour. Nor was there ever any indication, implicit or explicit, that this would be at the expense of his work for me or that Kevin would not have to do his work for me.

    (3)    The only person who feels "clear" that there was such an "improper arrangement" is Mr Rowley. Every other witness takes a different view. As the transcript shows Mr Rowley himself is in fact not clear at all on any aspect of the "arrangement" he postulates. This is not surprising. There was no such arrangement. He can only persist in his view because he is both ignorant of many of the relevant facts, and confused on most of the others. The transcript of his interview shows this to be the case beyond any reasonable doubt.

    (4)     Mr Rowley did not know, for instance, that Kevin Reid had been working for me for years previously. He is asked:

    "When the arrangements were made KR was already working for JR was he not?

    AR: I don't know. I don't think so. To be honest I don't know." (Transcript paragraph 256)

    "Do you know whether he working for JR before then?

    AR: No. My understanding was he had completed, or almost completed, university..."

    Thus on the matter of my employment of Kevin Reid, surely an aspect that would have been central to any supposed arrangement—Mr Rowley is clearly in ignorance. He believed, wrongly—and perhaps still does—that I was taking Kevin Reid on to the Fees Office payroll for the first time, purely for the Parliamentary campaign. This was clearly not the case, but if he believed at the time that this is what was being done (and still appears to believe so) it must inevitably colour his perception of our conversations.

    (5)    Mr Rowley is vague and contradictory over his definition of "full-time". He has insisted that the supposed "arrangement" was that Kevin Reid would work "full time". He never defines full-time. It is merely what he "views" as being full-time. (I have insisted throughout that, while working for me, Kevin Reid's hours did not amount to anything like the hours which would be expected of full-time Labour staff.) Mr Rowley confirms this beyond doubt, when he clearly states that Kevin's hours were not even as great as those of the part-time Chris Winslow. In doing so, Mr Rowley also makes it clear from his evidence that he has various versions of what "full-time" actually means. In response to a question by Mr Foster

    "what was full-time in your definition",

    Mr Rowley replies

    "full-time in terms of Chris Winslow was certainly a lot more hours than Kevin Reid". (Paragraph 179)

    In other words, "full-time" means anything AR wants it to mean with any person in any place at any time, even if their hours were completely different. "Full-time" for Mr Rowley varies from time to time, person to person, and even time to time with the same person throughout this evidence in this interview and that previously given.

    (6)    He did not know (and still doesn't) what hours Kevin Reid was actually working for the Labour Party during the early months, when he was effectively working no more that the contracted 15 hours. Asked about this, he says:

    "Once we moved into Delta House it was easy to assess...(hours worked)." (Paragraph 183)

    and

    "Once we moved...into Delta House, Kevin would be there very early to prepare the morning briefs and would leave... around 1.00 or 1.30." (Paragraph 179)

    However, the move into Delta House did not take place until September, whereas Kevin had started with the Labour Party on 25th May. As I have said all along, for the first few months he was in fact working his contracted 3 hours a day. It was only after this period, with the move to Delta House, that he started to cover lunchtime bulletins. It was precisely at that time that I made it plain that any further extension of his hours would require a full-time contract. This happened within 6 weeks of my demand. Mr Rowley's answers illustrate that he does not have any detailed knowledge of Kevin's hours during that May-September period when he was working the lower number of hours.

    (7)    He did not (and does not) know in any detail the nature of that Labour Party work, how it was established or built up. His fullest description is to say:

    ", the media monitor simply notices the media the whole time and was writing that up..." (Paragraph 205).

    This is, to say the least, a simplistic generalisation of how media monitoring was built up in content, systems, technology and hours during the first six months when Kevin Reid established it.

    (8)    He did not know whether Kevin was actually working for me, or what he was doing for me. He says:

    "...Kevin went home in the evenings and at the weekends. I cannot say how he spent his evenings or his weekends". (Paragraph 201)

    Later he confirms this when he says:

    "...I do not know what these people did in their spare time..." and:

    "...what they did in the evenings themselves I do not know. I have to acknowledge that..." (Paragraph 205)

    However, this completely contradicts what he said earlier, when he refused to acknowledge precisely this point. Referring to Chris Winslow and Kevin Reid he said (at paragraph 172)

    "I was absolutely clear that neither of the two were working for MPs..."

    Of course, he was wrong, on anther point on which he claimed to be "absolutely clear". The evidence has shown that. But these conflicting answers only illustrate the confused and unreliable nature of Mr Rowley's evidence.

    (7)    He also appears confused also over Kevin Reid's eventual hours for the Labour Party. It is undisputed and accepted by everyone involved that, while he was still working for me, Kevin Reid left the Labour Party by about 1.30 pm-2 pm. Mr Rowley initially confirms this:

    "Kevin...would leave after lunchtime...which would be around about 1-1.30 pm." (Paragraph 179)

    However, he later contradicts himself, saying

    "I have said to you Kevin went home in the evenings and at weekends. I cannot say how he spent his evenings or his weekends". (Emphasis added) (Paragraph 201)

    (9)    Mr Rowley is, in turn, confused, ill-informed and wrong regarding Suzanne Hilliard.

    (10)  He did not know initially that Suzanne Hilliard worked for me. He says:

    "...of her arrangement with John Reid I am not sure..." (Paragraph 201)

    (11)  He believed, wrongly, that Suzanne Hilliard was employed by the Labour Party. He says:

    "Suzanne Hilliard, I cannot go into much detail"

    but he immediately goes on to assert

    "she was employed by the Labour Party". (Paragraph 200)

    He was asked again: "...she was employed by the Labour Party or was working as a volunteer?"

    AR: "She was employed...What I do know is that I would have been involved in any of her employment and in decisions that were taken to employ her but I simply cannot remember the details of that... I would have been the person who employed her, but I do not know what arrangements were put in place for her". (Paragraph 201)

    (12)  Mr Rowley then become even more confused about the supposed arrangement for Suzanne Hilliard. He is asked by Mr Williams (at paragraph 239)

    "You said she was employed by the Party. Are you absolutely sure of that?"

    AR: "No. I am note sure...I am making an assumption" (my emphasis)

    In paragraph 240 "...you are using the word "imply"."

    AR: "I am making an assumption we employed her".

    (13)  He did not know whether Suzanne Hilliard was being paid by the Labour Party. When asked who would have authorised payment and would he not need to know someone was being taken on the books, Mr Rowley replied "yes". (Paragraph 241)

    "...in that case were you told she was being paid?"

    AR: "I really do not have a clear memory of SH. Whatever the arrangement was I accept responsibility for them because obviously I would have been responsible but I am not clear". (Paragraph 242)

    (14)  Mr Rowley did not know that my constituency Secretary was unavailable for work for a six month period: He says:

    "John Reid has told me since that his constituency secretary was off ill" (Paragraph 210)

    (15)  Mr Rowley assumed, wrongly, that Suzanne had a contract with the Labour Party. In paragraph 243: "As a good employer would the Labour Party in Scotland give contracts of employment to staff?"

    AR: "Yes".

    "Would there not be a contract of employment on record?"

    AR: "Yes, if you have worked for the Labour Party." (In paragraph 244)

    "If you worked for the Labour Party you would be on record and would be given a contract?"

    AR: "Yes. She certainly worked for the Labour Party." (Paragraph 245)

    "You cannot say for certain whether there is or not? ...you are not sure whether one exists or not?"

    AR: "No. It has never been put to me before that there was not a contract (my emphasis). My assumption has always been SH worked for us and was paid by us. I really am grey on this area because I really do not remember any details of Suzanne's employment". (Paragraph 246)

    (16)  So, Mr Rowley, the only person who claims to be "clear" that there was an improper arrangement and, presumably would have been central to it, knows no details of Kevin Reid's initial hours or work, nothing about his work for me, or that he had previously worked for me. He has an elastic definition of "full-time". He believes—wrongly—that SH was employed by the Labour Party. He thinks wrongly that she had a contract with the Labour Party. He thinks wrongly that he employed her. He does not know what "arrangement" she had with me.

    (17)  Moreover, quite apart from the details on the Labour Party side of the alleged "arrangement" the transcript show that Mr Rowley knew nothing of the external circumstances concerning the work for, and regulations of the House of Commons.

    (18)  He did not know that I had consulted the Fees Office, clarified the issue and cleared Kevin working for the Labour Party with the Fees office.

    (19)  He did not know (and still does not know) what the Fees Office regulations are and that they fully permit the situation which he finds "improper". At paragraph 172 he says:

    "My view was very clear we had broken the rules. We had undoubtedly broken the rules."

    However, Mr Levitt posed a question to him at paragraph 200

    "...in fact the rules do not say that it is wrong; it is only wrong if the duty to the MP is not being discharged...", and Mr Rowley confesses,

    "...what I am saying is only my opinion. I do not know what the rules actually state on this."

    (20)  In any case, when the Fees office rules are explained to him, he still "believes" they are wrong and he is right. The "arrangement" is improper because he, Mr Rowley believes it to be improper.

    "...I do not know what the rules actually state on this. It is my opinion—having known what people have gone through in the last number of months in this particular investigation, and knowing the practices we did operate—I think it is an area that certainly should be looked at because I think it is a grey area. Knowing what I know now, I would say that the Party centrally should not employ people who are also employed with MPs (my emphasis) because it is difficult. That is a personal opinion I have given you..."

    (21)  Mr Rowley is emphatic in his wrong "beliefs" as he has been all along. Thus, he says in Paragraph 171.

    "...you do not employ people with a political party that are also employed by individual members of the House of Commons...because there is clearly a conflict between the two. That was the argument I had with John Reid when this thing first broke." (my emphasis).

    (22)  And again he is emphatic in his wrong "beliefs" regarding the regulations at paragraph 173

    "Are you saying that the very fact that they were employed by Members of Parliament, and being paid part of their salary through the Office Costs Allowance should debar them from working for the Labour Party?

    (Mr Rowley) Certainly I believe that is the case".

    It becomes clear from this exchange that Mr Rowley's "belief" that the rules have been broken is not premised on his knowledge of the rules, or whether they have in fact been broken, but the rules which he believes should be in place have been somehow broken. It is a belief to which he clings irrespective of the actual rules, the actual circumstances, or the actual facts. It is this "belief" on which the "improper arrangement", which never existed alone hangs.

    (23)  Here it is clear that Mr Rowley is confusing two different things. On the one hand, his personal and strongly held view (to which he is entitled) as to whether, as a matter of policy, the Labour Party should allow MP's staff to assist them, and the quite separate question as to whether they legitimately could do so under the existing House of Commons rules. Unfortunately, throughout this interview (and the whole investigation) he has allowed his beliefs about the former to blind him to the facts about the latter. To Mr Rowley any "arrangement" was "improper" because he believed it to be improper—ever since, in ignorance of both the Fees Office rules and the reality of my staffs work—he was told by Mr Nelson that he had been engaged in impropriety.

    (24)  Finally, Mr Rowley, having alleged the same "improper arrangement" was established with me and (via AMW) with John Maxton, then completely contradicts himself by saying the following (in paragraph 169)

    "When I was not long into the post the first person who we started to make use of—if that is the correct word to use—was Chris Winslow. Basically how that arrangement came about was the office manager of the Labour Party in Scotland—AMW—approached me to say that Chris Winslow had left university, did not have a post and John Maxton would be willing to take him on and we would be able to use him full-time provided we were able to pay a part-time salary to make it up to a full-time salary. That was how that first came about. Following on from that, a similar arrangement was made for Kevin Reid. That was how it came about."

    Annmarie Whyte has, of course, denied any such arrangement. However, the material point in the transcript is that Mr Rowley goes on later to say, (in paragraph 169) in regard to this same "arrangement", which was "similar" in both cases

    "I genuinely believe that, for example, take John Maxton, I do not believe that John Maxton for a second thought he was really in serious breach of any rules".

    "In the early days I think John Maxton genuinely did not believe he was breaking any rules. There was certainly never any suggestion of that."

    I am more than happy to confirm Mr Rowley's view of Mr Maxton. However, it seems strange that Mr Rowley, who earlier in the transcript alleges that the very same improper arrangement with improper motives was established by John Maxton and myself, now, for reasons known to himself, extends to Mr Maxton an innocence which he seems curiously reluctant to extend to me.

Conclusion

I have denied all along any actions which breached the rules of the Fees Office, misled the Fees Office or misused Public monies. Ms Filkin's report already concedes that no such arrangements were put into effect, but suggests that that is immaterial, that Mr Rowley's accusation alone is sufficient to sustain the case that such an "improper arrangement" was made, even if never acted upon. Mr Rowley's transcript on its own illustrates beyond any reasonable doubt that Mr Rowley is neither a reliable or credible witness on this matter. The accusation of an "improper arrangement" cannot be sustained either in terms of an "arrangement" or in terms of "impropriety". No such arrangement was ever given effect to. No such arrangement was ever made. The complaint cannot be upheld on any reasonable or rational grounds.

B.    THE MATTER OF THE ALLEGED "THREATS" AND "PRESSURES"

    (1)    Mr Rowley's obvious unreliability and lack of credibility on this now unsubstantiated assertion about an "improper arrangement" must cast doubt on his reliability and lack of credibility on his allegation of "threats" and "pressures".

    (2)    I have denied in any way threatening Mr Rowley or saying to him anything which could reasonably be interpreted as a threat during our conversations.

    (3)    The context of these conversations is important. Firstly, every contact I have had with Mr Rowley to discuss these matters has been at his behest, not mine. During the 10 months of this investigation I have spoken to him only at his initiative. We have had, to my recollection, three conversations.

    (4)    The first was around the time that the newspaper story broke. Mr Rowley was in a panic. He said that the journalist Mr Nelson had been on to him. He had told him that we had acted against the rules. Nelson had threatened him with having to give evidence in court, under oath. Mr Rowley said he would have to "tell the truth". I told him not to worry, he did not have the full picture, I had made sure that everything was above board and proper. He didn't know the facts or the background, but had no need to worry.

    (5)    Mr Rowley then appears to have had several conversations with the Journalist Mr Nelson and others, and then approached me in a hotel during the Scottish Conference on the 10th March. My recollection is this. He told me he had been asked to see the Commissioner, that he would "have to tell the truth". Again I told him that I did not have a problem with that. He said that "some people" were saying that he was out to damage me. There were rumours to that effect and "some people" were saying that that if he did "tell the truth" and it damaged me, then he would not be endorsed as a candidate. I told him that I did not believe that he was out to damage me, and despite the circumstances of his departure from the Labour Party I hoped that he would not be. I told him he must tell the truth, but that it must be "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". I again told him that he knew little or nothing about the circumstances, the rules or the reality of my staff's employment, and though we didn't have time that day I would be glad to tell him the full circumstances which would re-assure him. I had done nothing wrong. He knew nothing about the rules, the facts or the reality of my employees work. He should tell the truth, but should not speculate about things he didn't know. If he did speculate in an attempt to damage me, for whatever motive, then he knew that he wouldn't be telling the truth, but telling lies. Moreover, if he went into the realm of speculating or telling lies to damage me, suggesting that we were involved in some sort of criminal activity, then he would certainly damage me as a consequence of those lies, but he would damage himself as well. The conversation was polite and courteous. Mr Rowley appeared perfectly happy at the end of it. Shortly afterwards that day he confirmed this by telling Lesley Quinn that it had been a good and friendly meeting. (See statement by Lesley Quinn)

    (6)    The third conversation took place on the telephone after Mr Rowley had phoned Lesley Quinn for advice and I received a pager call (supplied to Ms Filkin) saying simply, "please phone Alex Rowley" and giving a telephone number. (Supplied to Ms Filkin.) I was surprised to find when I phoned that there was no answer but I left my telephone number. Mr Rowley who was presumably monitoring the call with the intention of phoning me back and surreptitiously tape recording the call did so a little later. The Committee has a transcript of that call. To me, Mr Rowley appeared to be seeking my advice or information on certain points, disputing others, leading on some questions and presumably—in retrospect—trying to get me to incriminate myself in some way. At no stage did I know that I was being recorded.

    (7)    Mr Rowley told Ms Filkin the following day, 21st March, that he had been "threatened" and that he had recorded a telephone conversation with me. Ms Filkin did not inform me of this fact. On the 19th May, Ms Filkin sent me a "transcript" of her interview with Mr Rowley. However, she changed the last section from transcript to summary, thus concealing from me the fact—which she had known for 3 months—that my conversation had been tape recorded. In the accompanying questions she asked me whether I had any conversations with Mr Rowley which had included anything which might be interpreted by him as threats. Again, she concealed the fact that she was aware that I had had a conversation with him on the 20th March and that that call had been tape recorded by Mr Rowley. Ms Filkin only revealed to me both the fact that the call had been recorded and the transcript of the call to me, the day after the final date of my submission to her in July. I had thus no detailed recollection of the call until I saw the transcript.

    (8)    So far as I can see the nature of the "threats" is supposed to be two-fold.

    A.  That I mentioned his possible non-endorsement as a candidate; and

    B.  That I mentioned the possibility of police prosecution.

    The only occasions I can recollect the first subject being mentioned was during the conversation in the hotel in Edinburgh after AR had informed me that "some people" were out to say he wanted to damage me and that "some people" were saying he might not be endorsed as a candidate if he were to be "tell the truth" to Ms Filkin. In other words under the heading of "some people" it was AR who introduced the question of his endorsement. It was also in the context that "I have to tell the truth".

    I told him that truth had to be nothing but the truth and if he was to start speculating and making allegations about things about which he did not know (and the previous note shows how much he did not know and how damaging his ignorance could be) that would not be the truth that that would be a lie: and the effect of his lies would not only be they were wrong in themselves but that they would be (precisely as it turned out) wrongly suggesting that he and I were engaging in something that was wrong and it would damage us both since I was an MP and he was wanting to be an MP.

    That is the sum total of my recollection. Unfortunately Mr Rowley seems to have a different interpretation based on what he said happened on different occasions and his claims seem to be a "moveable feast".

    (9)    In his transcript, Mr Rowley confirms that he made the approach to me in the Hotel lobby. (There were of course witnesses including another MP.)

    "I had gone into the hotel and John was sitting with a couple of his advisers and his assistant from his constituency. I asked to speak to him." (Paragraph 151)

    (10)  He also confirms what I previously said about his concern about what "some people" were saying.

    "I was a bit concerned about the way things were going. Some rumours". (Paragraph 151)

    He then adds: "We sat down and talked through the issues and it was at that point that John said to me if I was to comment to the Commissioner any wrong doing and he did not and he was cleared of any wrongdoing then I could face criminal prosecution... That was basically what I perceived to be a threat." (my emphasis).

    It is interesting that Mr Rowley should now phrase this as his "perceiving" himself to be threatened, rather than actually being threatened.

    I have tried to give Mr Rowley the benefit of the doubt. I have struggled to imagine what, if anything could have been said that caused Mr Rowley to understand something in a fairly straightforward conversation as a threat. I cannot think of anything which could have been misinterpreted.

    It is inconceivable that I would have raised the prospect of "criminal" prosecution, since like any member I am fully aware that breaches of House rules are dealt with under the House procedures. It is hardly less conceivable that I would have raised criminal prosecution for libel. In any case, we are all aware the matter is covered by privilege.

    Is conceivable, though unlikely, that I could have referred to him, by speculating and in effect lying, and thus implying that we were both involved in a criminal conspiracy. However, Mr Rowley's own statement rules that out since he alleges that the threat was couched in terms of me being cleared.

    This makes it more confusing. I would hardly have spoken in terms of a one-man conspiracy, by definition an impossibility.

    (11)  I know that I didn't threaten Mr Rowley, but I am also at a loss as to what he could possibly have "perceived" as a threat. The only explanation, if malevolent accusation is discounted is that Mr Rowley has misunderstood or become confused something said to him.

    (12)  Mr Rowley himself however is never entirely clear what the "threat" was supposed to be. In paragraph 218, he puts it this way.

    "... He said to me something along the lines of: if I admit any wrongdoing, and he does not and he is clear, I could face criminal prosecution." (emphasis added).

    It appears that Mr Rowley has difficulty in recalling what the threat that so disturbed him actually was.

    (13)  Apparently, Mr Rowley also had difficulty initially in deciding whether he had been threatened or not. He says:

    "... I spoke to friends after it. I was very, very concerned at that prospect and spoke to friends about that and decided, yes, that was a threat." (Paragraph 219)

    (14)  This is reinforced by his own words at committee. They seem considerably more tentative than he has sometimes suggested. His thought process on this matter is outlined in paragraph 155 where he says:

    "that was my perception of that in terms of facing criminal prosecution. John did not go into it in that length of detail but that would certainly have been my interpretation as to why I might have risked facing criminal prosecution". (Emphasis added)

    (15)  However, Mr Rowley's recollection of the effect of these "perceived" threats does not accord with his actions or story at the time. These "threats" in the hotel, he says, left him disturbed: "obviously that gave me great concern".

    Yet shortly after that very discussion, he met with Lesley Quinn. She described the meeting:

    "I was coming back from the conference to go to the Balmoral Hotel and I met Alex and his friend Catriona and Alex mentioned to me that he had had a really good discussion with John and he felt a lot better because of this. He said nothing... about any possible criminal prosecution and he was clearly very happy about whatever conversation he had had with John." (Statement by Lesley Quinn, 3rd October 2000.)

    (16)  It appears to be only afterwards, that Mr Rowley decided that he perceived himself to be threatened. His ambiguity about whether he perceived threats to be made is outlined at paragraph 163:

    (Mr Rowley) "I discussed it with friends that he seemed to be making threats towards me..." (emphasis added).

    (17)  Moreover, he intentionally or otherwise misinterprets the context in which these perceived threats were made when he says:

    "... basically telling me that if I told the truth then certain things may or may not happen" (paragraph 163).

    I in fact I had spoken of the consequences if he did not tell the truth.

    (18)  The second threat is said to have taken place during a telephone conversation on the 20th March and concerned the matter of Mr Rowley's endorsement by the Labour Party. I do recall this matter being raised by Mr Rowley himself during the conversation in the Hotel, when he mentioned it as one of the "rumours" which he had heard from some people. I have no recollection of it being raised again in any other context.

    (18)  Mr Rowley, however, clearly told the Commissioner that the threats were made during the 20th March call, (Annex 147), the transcript of which has been supplied to Members of the Committee. I had no recollection of the details or date of that call until I saw the transcript, and thus no way of rebutting Mr Rowley's claim on the basis of evidence. The transcript, however, appears to do just that.

    (19)  However, Mr Rowley now appears to have changed his story. In paragraph 164 of his interview he denied that he had claimed that he was threatening during the 20th March phone call. He said

    "I have not suggested that. Certainly I have not suggested that to the Commissioner. When I made that tape available I never suggested there was any threat on that particular tape." (Paragraph 164)

    (20)  Mr Rowley makes other accusations of threats which cast still further doubt on the reliability and credibility of the allegations. He makes allegations, as he has done previously about "pressure" being brought on others. These unfounded, damaging and defamatory allegations feature in Ms Filkin's report. Mr Rowley is the single and sole source of these sections of the report, so his evidence is crucial.

    Asked about them by Mr Bell, he says (at paragraph 196)

    "...some of the people, particularly the younger people...certainly felt under massive pressure."

    (21)  Under scrutiny, these are revealed to be based on hearsay and gossip

    The source of this information according to Mr Rowley is:

    "What I picked up in Scotland"

    And he then adds:

    "None of them have actually said they were threatened as such."

    Later, when asked if the information on which he has based a claim of such "pressure" is not "third hand", Mr Rowley replies:

    "...it is perhaps fourth hand, given that I got it from somebody else." (Paragraph 211)

    (22)  Mr Rowley then repeats his accusation against Annmarie Whyte:

    "I think, for example the person who is office manager for the Labour Party in Scotland has not been absolutely truthful...I think that these young people who were working for the Labour Party have been put under immense pressure."

    This is clearly another unsubstantiated allegation of pressure to act dishonestly on Annmarie Whyte by unspecified persons, presumably myself or John Maxton. I deny this unfounded allegation categorically. What is more important, so does Annmarie Whyte. In her statement she says:

    "I went on Maternity leave on the 15th November 1999. I have not seen John Reid since I came back from maternity leave on 1st June this year. I remember receiving the letter on 11th February from the Commissioner. I cannot recall if I was aware then of the investigation and John Reid had never contacted me. In fact John has never contacted me at all between 11 February and now." (Statement of Annmarie Whyte, 3rd October 2000)

    (23)  However, Mr Rowley goes on to tell the Committee, in another unsubstantiated and unfounded accusation, something which is verifiably untrue. He says, in paragraph 230:

    "The first time Dean Nelson actually contacted me re this story, I contacted my predecessor, and she said to me 'tell the truth. Don't get yourself dragged down with this. You are going for a seat in Central Fife. He is going down, he is going to want to take people with him', and she told me that he had asked her only the day before to destroy some evidence..."

    It is unclear from this to whom Mr Rowley is referring to as his predecessor. As General Secretary, his predecessor was male, Jack McConell. So Mr Rowley is either totally confused again, or must be referring to his successor, Lesley Quinn. In which case, he must be alleging that I asked Lesley Quinn to destroy some evidence. (It is not clear what "evidence" I would have possibly wanted her to destroy). This is an allegation he has made before and Lesley Quinn has categorically denied these allegations by Mr Rowley: she said

    "I was never put under pressure by anyone in connection with the Parliamentary Commissioner's enquiry and I was never asked to remove any financial information." (Statement by Lesley Quinn, 3rd October 2000)

    (24)  However, there is something even more significant in Mr Rowley's statement, which reveals that it cannot possibly be true. Mr Rowley alleges that this conversation occurred when Mr Nelson first contacted him in connection with this story. This, by his own testimony, was "about a week and half before the story broke in the newspaper..." (paragraph 158). He then says that he was told that I had asked for some information to be destroyed "...the day before". He is very specific on this. He therefor places the alleged events clearly on a day some 11 days before the publication of Mr Nelson's story. But I was not alerted to Mr Nelson's story until much later. I did not find out about the story until the Friday, two days before publication. Mr Nelson had prepared his story and waited until the last moment to send me a list of questions. So I could not possibly have asked for information to be destroyed more that an week earlier. It appears that Mr Rowley's allegations are, in this case, obviously and verifiably untruthful.

    (25)  I did not threaten Mr Rowley. Nor did I exert pressure on others. Throughout the transcript Mr Rowley shows himself vague, confused and ambiguous about the nature and content of the alleged "threats". He was apparently originally tentative and unsure about the threats which he "perceived" he had received. He contradicts his own previous evidence on the telephone transcript and that of Lesley Quinn on the nature of the hotel meeting. His allegations of "pressure" on others is revealed as being based on no more than "fourth hand" information which he "picked up". His allegations are categorically denied not only by myself, but also by those who he alleges were victims of the threats and pressure. And his allegation of pressure to act dishonestly by destroying a document is not only denied by Lesley Quinn, it quite simply could not have happened. Mr Rowley is either once again confused or untruthful.

    This is the sole basis for the unsubstantiated allegation which forms what is perhaps the most damaging section and comments in Ms Filkin's report.

13 November 2000


1  Article from Scotland on Sunday, 12 November 2000, not printed. Back


 
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