File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner
Mr John Rowan telephoned in response to my letter
of 23 July. He said he would like to answer the questions on the
telephone as he was in Scotland. He provided answers as follows:
Question 1: The dates when you were employed
by the Scottish Labour Party
"I was employed by the Scottish Labour Party
from 1996 until after the General Election in 1997. My contract
was then terminated. I was then re-employed by the Scottish Labour
Party from September 1998 until March 2001. I was employed as
the Scottish Telephone Bank Organiser."
Question 2: The information of which you were
aware at any time, about the employment arrangements relating
to Ms S Hilliard, Mr C Winslow, Mr Jamie Maxton and Mr Kevin Reid
"I dealt with Susan Hilliard and Kevin Reid
very frequently. They were employed by the Labour Party on media
monitoring. I spoke to them every other day in the period running
up to the campaign from January 1999 to March 1999 and when the
campaign proper started in March 1999 I spoke to them every day.
I provided them information from the media by fax. I also dealt
with Chris Winslow frequently. He worked in the research team.
My understanding was that they were all employed full time by
the Labour Party throughout that period. At the commencement of
my appointment in September 1998, I was based in Delta House where
I observed all of the above working on Labour Party duties for
I also attended the Scottish Labour Party special
conference on Saturday, 19 September 1998 as a member of staff.
I observed Kevin Reid working on Labour Party duties dealing with
the press. Dr Reid introduced Kevin Reid to journalists saying
"This is my boy." Chris Winslow attended the conference
and acted as a facilitator for a workshop.
Another of my tasks was to get Party Members to
TV studios. On one occasion Susan Hilliard came along to one of
these events with Alex Rowley and as far as I was aware, she was
working for the Scottish Labour Party.
After the Scottish Election in 1999 I had a conversation
with Susan Hilliard and she told me that she was employed by John
Question 3: Whether you knew of any arrangement
between Mr John Maxton and the Labour Party to use, for Party
work, staff employed on House of Commons salaries during time
paid for by the House of Commons. If so, please give the details
of which you were aware and by whom you were informed of these
"I knew nothing formally of any such arrangement
until I saw a copy of the letter from Mr Maxton to Lesley Quinn
(dated 10 November 1999). The letter was circulated to all Labour
Party staff working in the Edinburgh and Glasgow offices. I recognised
the handwriting on the top right hand corner. This is the handwriting
of Constance Mezynski who was the PA to the General Secretary
of the Scottish Labour Party, both when this post was held by
Alex Rowley and by Lesley Quinn. There was no covering letter
with it and I understood it clearly as meaning that the staff
were those provided by Mr Maxton whose salaries were paid by the
House of Commons. I understood that the colleagues referred to
in the letter were the other Scottish MPs because I knew that
many Scottish MP's were wary of using their staff resources in
this manner. I did not know at the time why they were wary. That
has only become clear to me as I saw the newspaper reports about
the Report of the inquiry concerning Dr Reid and Mr Maxton. But
I knew, for example, that an MP for whom I did some constituency
work prior to my appointment by the Labour Party was very aware
of this and made it clear to staff employed on House of Commons
salaries that they were not to do Party work during the time they
were paid by the House of Commons. I believe that the staff in
question referred to in the letter were Chris Winslow during the
Scottish Election Campaign when he was working full time for the
Labour Party and Jamie Maxton, Mr Maxton's son, who was paid through
monies provided through MP's allowances for his work for the Scottish
Labour Party. I formed the latter view because after the General
Election in 1997 my contract was terminated with the Labour Party
because there was no Labour Party money to continue it. I made
enquiries as to why Jamie Maxton's contract continued and was
told that he was paid by John Maxton from his MP's allowance.
I believe I was told this by Lesley Quinn but my recollection
of this is slightly unclear.
Question 4: What you know of the letter sent
by Mr Maxton to Ms Quinn dated 10 November 1999, including to
whom was it circulated, whether there was any covering letter,
and what staffing resources, as referred to in this letter, Mr
Maxton had provided over the past years to the Party and on what
basis (copy attached).
"I think I have answered this question in
my reply on question 3."
Question 5: You told me that, having read newspaper
articles following the publication of the Committee's report on
the complaints against Mr Maxton, you felt Mr Alex Rowley had
been unfairly treated. Please would you set out these concerns
as they relate to the complaints against Mr John Maxton?
"I got the impression from what was said
in the office after your Report was published at the beginning
of 2001 that Alex Rowley had been treated unfairly. I heard Lesley
Quinn remark that the report had "destroyed" Alex Rowley.
However, the way that Lesley Quinn spoke on that occasion made
me feel that she felt very guilty. I felt that she had been party
to some of the underhand moves against Alex Rowley. I was concerned
that there were a number of people in the Scottish Labour Party
who did not appear to be loyal to the Labour Party but who were
loyal to particular individuals. I always felt that Alex Rowley
was absolutely loyal to the Labour Party and a very truthful person.
As he had been brought into the Labour Party with a distinguished
record as the former leader of Fife Council, rather from within
the Party itself, I felt he had no axe to grind and that he would
tell the truth and not cover up on behalf of particular individuals
if they, or he, had acted incorrectly. However, I did not feel
the same about Lesley Quinn. There have been a number of instances
in which, in my view, she tends to "cover up" for people.
Having read reports of the inquiry in the newspapers, I came to
the conclusion that Lesley Quinn and Annmarie Whyte had probably
said what they were "told to say". My suspicion is that
Lesley Quinn, Annmarie Whyte, Chris Winslow and Kevin Reid and
Susan Hilliard would be likely to say what they had been "told
to say" to protect individuals rather than to tell the truth
and to ensure that the Labour Party acted properly.
At one time Lesley Quinn threatened me that if
I talked to anyone about anything to do with the Labour Party,
I would be out. Lesley Quinn has since denied this conversation.
I also gained the impression from work in the
Scottish Labour Party that there were a group of people which
included Chris Winslow, Kevin Reid, Annemarie Whyte and Lesley
Quinn who were out to undermine Alex Rowley from the time of his
I also formed the view that John Maxton was someone
who always did what he was told and if Lesley Quinn had told him
what he should say in an inquiry, he would have done what she
KPMG were called in to carry out a piece of consultancy
work in relation to the Scottish Labour Party at the end of July
1999. I noticed that Susan Hilliard was on the list of Labour
Party staff required to give information to KPMG. She was also
included as a member of Labour Party staff on a trip to Downing
Street and on a boat trip outing after the Scottish Election."
After Mr Rowan had provided these answers to my questions,
he asked me what the procedure now was. I explained to him that
I was undertaking a preliminary enquiry to see if there were matters
which required investigation. I said I was writing, at the request
of the Standards and Privileges Committee, to all those who may
be able to shed light on the letter from Mr Maxton to Lesley Quinn.
When I had collected that information I would be making an assessment
of whether an investigation was required. I will be informing
the Standards and Privileges Committee of my views when they return
after the Recess. If I did decide that an investigation was warranted
I would write a report on my findings for the Standards and Privileges
Committee. I said that the Standards and Privileges Committee
had powers to call people before them to give evidence and as
a witness, Mr Rowan could be called in front of them.
I asked Mr Rowan to let me know if he was coming
to London at any time so that I could meet him to check any matters
if necessary. Mr Rowan told me that he would let me know if he
was coming to London. I told Mr Rowan that I would write a draft
file note, send it to him for corrections and additions and then
send him a final file note for him to sign as correct. I explained
that what I was wanting from Mr Rowan was a full and accurate
account. I thanked Mr Rowan for his assistance.
|Signed as a correct record
|[Signed by Mr John Rowan]|
|MR JOHN ROWAN|
|Date: 6th August 2001|