Examination of Witness (Questions 160
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
160. You were not?
(Mr Rowley) Definitely not.
161. Whose idea was it to tape Mr Reid?
(Mr Rowley) For me to tape Mr Reid?
(Mr Rowley) It was my idea.
163. Did you discuss it with anybody else?
(Mr Rowley) I discussed it with friends that I was
very concerned that he seemed to be making threats towards me
and I felt that I was in a very difficult position. On the one
hand if I told the truth then these threats were coming towards
me. It was not threats by somebody in the community, this was
someone who was the Secretary of State for Scotland, a Member
of the British Cabinet, basically telling me that if I told the
truth then certain things may or may not happen. I took that very
seriously as a threat. On the basis of that I decided that for
my own safety I was going to try and get it on tape that he had
164. To be fair to Mr Reid, I am sure you will
understand we seek to be about fairness, I am sure he will argue
when he comes before the Committee that if we look at the transcript
of what was said, he never in any way during the course of that
conversation appears to be threatening you in any way?
(Mr Rowley) 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
165. You did not feel you wanted to induce the
threat you alleged to have taken place during the conversation?
You have said you did tape it because of the problem of what you
allege to be previous threats.
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
166. You did not feel in any way you wanted
(Mr Rowley) No. I would not have tried to play with
words to get John to threaten me again. I think that would have
been pretty clear that that was what I had done. From my point
of view it was simply to try and tape the conversation to try
and wait and see if he came out with these threats again. Certainly
I felt, as I say, it was a very extreme course of action I took
in terms of making the tape but I felt that the threats that had
been made against me were pretty extreme and I was left in the
middle not knowing what to do because I knew I was going to tell
the truth. From day one I decided I was going to tell the truth
but I was feeling pretty threatened by a senior Member of Government
who I had worked with over a period of a year or so.
167. The tape did not indicate a repeat of any
threat? Can I take you on to an area which interests me. You use
the term "grey area".
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
168. Now, like us all you have probably been
in the Labour Party for a life time.
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
169. Do you feel that political parties generally
have a problem? You have been General Secretary, it is an important
position. Do you feel that political parties more widely and generally
have a problem with demarkation and the line between political
activity and parliamentary activity? Do you feel there is a need
for reform there? Do you feel all this may have happened simply
because people do not really know where that grey line is? Can
I put that as a proposition to you?
(Mr Rowley) 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. The reason
I say that is not because I think John Maxton is not a clever
man, I think it was custom and practice. I think these types of
things have been practised before. That is why I believe had we
simply acknowledged that, yes, there was a grey area in terms
of the recruitment policies that we had operated with these people,
had we acknowledged that and said "This is an area that needs
to be cleaned up", if that is the right word "much more
specific rules given", then that would have been acceptable.
In terms of whether it is a grey area, I think it depends on the
profile. For example, as the campaign for the Scottish Parliament
progressed, we had the services of some very senior advisers in
the Government and some of them had to resign as special advisers
and go on to the Labour Party books for the course of the final
part of the election campaign. It was clear, if you like, to people
that you could not bring across advisers, etc, that would be paid
by the Government. 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 and, as far as I was concerned, coming
to the job new it was custom and practice. It was something that
had been practised before in the Scottish Labour Party and I suspect
it was something that was practised elsewhere.
170. Do you feel it is more widespread as you
feel it happened in the Labour Party? You go to all sorts of political
functions and you see all sorts of people all over Scotland from
the Labour Party, do you think it should be reformed?
(Mr Rowley) The reason we became concerned in the
first place, and the reason John Reid asked for Kevin Reid to
be put on the Labour Party books, was because the issue had been
raised in a national newspaper. The finger was being pointed at
the Conservative Party. This may be the kind of area that has
to be looked at. The Neill Committee has looked at a lot of the
arrangements that are in place for party funding. It is an area
which needs to be looked at, and perhaps then we would not be
in the position we are in today with this particular instance.
171. You say the practice was something we should
have come clean about. I want to know exactly what practice you
are talking about in that context?
(Mr Rowley) The practice was that we had employed
two people who were employed and paid part-time by the Labour
Party but were working full-time for the Labour Party and the
other part of their salary was being paid for by MPs, MPs' research
money. That was, if you like, the practice that had been in operation.
That was the practice somebody leaked to The Observer journalist,
Dean Nelson, and that was a practice where I believe when the
thing came out we should have said "Yes, there was a grey
area there". The lesson for us out of this is that you do
not employ people with a political party that are also employed
by individual Members of the House of Commons or Members of the
Scottish Parliament or whatever it is because there is clearly
a conflict between the two. That was the argument I had with John
Reid when this thing first broke.
172. It was not your argument that they were
not working for the MPs as well but simply you believed it was
wrong that the party should employ people who were, as well, being
paid for by MPs when they were doing the work? (Mr Rowley)
I was absolutely clear that neither of the two were working for
MPs, they were working full-time for the Labour Party. I was very
clear about that. John and I argued again about the definition
of who was working for whom and who could be doing what in the
evenings and at weekends. My view was very clear we had broken
the rules. We had undoubtedly broken the rules. Had we not broken
the rules John Reid would not have panicked in the first place
and asked forcefully that Kevin be put on the books of the Labour
Party. We were clearly breaking the rules. I think what I am saying
to you is I suspect that over the years a lot of rules have been
broken and the whole point when Labour came to power was we were
going to clean this whole thing up, even where we were doing things
that were not proper, we would acknowledge that and deal with
it. That is what the Neill Committee was meant to be about. That
was what we should have done. When this thing came out, it was
a question for me, do you lie your way out of it, my view was
that we should have learnt from previous experience and previous
administrations that when people try and lie their way out of
things they just tend to dig themselves deeper in. My view is
that we should tell the truth but we should acknowledge this is
a grey area. It is an area that for us, the lesson for us should
have been never again will we employ people that are also employed
with Members of Parliament or Members of the Scottish Parliament
for that matter. I would have rather taken that course than have
173. I think I understand where you are coming
from but I just want to be clear about this. 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.
I think that is something whether it is the Neill Committee or
whoever, they need to look at it. Yes, you are either working
for an MP or you are employed by the Labour Party but clearly
to be employed by both can create problems.
174. Let me go on. Looking at the practicalities,
you have been in politics a long time, what if they simply decide
to work in a voluntary capacity for the Labour Party whilst employed
by a Member of Parliament, or any party?
(Mr Rowley) I think it is a grey area. People who
are employed by MPs in constituencies, for example, whether it
is the Labour Party or any other party, will undoubtedly get involved
in some kind of work that is political. That is not what I am
talking about here. What I am talking about is that the Labour
Party as an employer employed people to work from a central office
in a major campaign. At the same time these people were then being
employed by MPs. I think that is where you have a problem and
that is where the problem can be. It is not about everybody who
is employed by an MP and has worked on constituency work themselves
for an MP, I know there is an area there where we can have a cross
over both ways, that would be in any party. This is about centrally
the party actually employing people who are also employed by MPs.
In this case that might have been playing with words but my view
is that we should have at least come clean and said there was
a problem and acknowledged that and said that we would not do
175. There was a difference of opinion between
you, I think, and Mr Maxton, and Mr Reid, as to whether they were
also working on their parliamentary duties.
(Mr Rowley) Yes.
176. Can you tell me how did you resolve that
conflict? Why did you believe the position was other than Mr Reid
and Mr Maxton were stating it to be?
(Mr Rowley) The first point was that I was in charge
of the Labour Party in Scotland at that time so I do know the
arrangements that I entered into. I would be lying if I said anything
other than I reached an agreement with these people: John Maxton
through Ann-Marie Whyte and John Reid directly in discussions
with him that both Kevin and Chris would be working for the Labour
Party full-time but we would be paying half of the salary, a part-time
salary of some sort or another and the other part coming from
here. I know that because I was the person who was in charge of
the monies of the Labour Party in Scotland. I tried to point this
out to John. He and I have had these discussions, so now to try
to pretend to each other that it was somehow different and not
the case; to pretend anything other than and simply to lie; we
had these differences of opinions. In discussions that we had
John said to me, "Can you say what Kevin did in his spare
time in the evenings or at the weekends?" I said, "No,
of course I can't say what he did at the weekends." It was
not my business to ask any member of staff what they were doing
with their spare time. It was at this point, "when Kevin
was working for me then. He was working for me in the evenings
and whatever". It is fine for him to say that. Obviously
we had that arrangement.
177. What I did not quite understand is what
is wrong with an arrangement that he could be available "full-time"
for the Labour Party and you paid him for half the time, if he
was also doing his work for which he was paid under the office
cost allowance? Is that not an interpretation which could be on
the offer which was made?
(Mr Rowley) It is the interpretation that John Reid
does put on that. That is not the case.
178. How do you know?
(Mr Rowley) Because I was there. I was the person
who was in charge of the party. I know the agreement we made with
these people. We would have Chris and Kevin working full-time
for the Labour Party. We would be paying them part-time and they
would be paid part-time by both John and by John Maxton.
179. What was full-time in your definition?
(Mr Rowley) Full-time in terms of Chris Winslow was
certainly a lot more hours than Kevin Reid. John made the point
that Kevin went home in the evenings. He did not work every weekend.
I would not hesitate to say about Chris Winslow, on the other
hand. He was in a Policy and Research Unit, focusing very much
on economics issues. He came from the university and had studied
economics. He was very, very sharp and very good. Full-time on
his part was certainly early morning, well into the evenings,
in terms of Chris Winslow. He worked weekends. Most of the staff
on the campaign were working very long hours. In terms of full-time
for Kevin, as I mentioned to you and the Commissioner, Kevin would
be there early morning. Once we moved for the operation into Delta
House, Kevin would be there very early to prepare the morning
briefs and would leave after lunchtime, after he had the lunchtime
news bulletins, which would be round about 1 or 1.30.