Examination of Witness (Questions 340
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2000
340. I do not want to press you on those sort
of details but I would like to come back to the question of hiring
and firing which you mentioned as one of his responsibilities.
Where does Ann-Marie Whyte fit into that? Would she be the one
who made the decisions about hiring and firing people at the level
of Suzanne and Kevin, or would that be Alex?
(Dr Reid) I have not a clue. I have never discussed
this matter with Ann-Marie Whyte at the time or afterwards. I
have not spoken to Ann-Marie Whyte from the day the investigation
began until a week last Friday when I was in the Labour Party
offices. She was off on pregnancy leave for a lot of that time,
I have never communicated with her, I have never caused anyone
else to communicate with her. I have never spoken to John RaffertyI
tell a lie, I think I said, "Hello, how are you?" at
a Labour Party Gala Dinnerin the course of the investigation.
So I just cannot tell you. I genuinely had nothing to do at the
time, and have not since, with Ann-Marie Whyte, and Ann-Marie
I think has made that plain in the statement. It was my lawyer
who spoke to her to take the statement, not me.
341. Would she have been in a position to know
about employment contracts and the nature of them?
(Dr Reid) Let me put it this way, I do not believe
Alex would be the first to say he was on top of everything, including
the management of staff and budgets and things like that. Indeed
I think he may have indicated that in his evidence. To put it
another way, Ann-Marie Whyte is a very valued member of staff
and is still there running the staff, and I have never, ever,
discussed the employment of staff, either Suzanne Hilliard or
Kevin, with Ann-Marie Whyte.
342. Would the management of volunteers have
gone through Ann-Marie Whyte or directly to the General Secretary
or somebody else?
(Dr Reid) No. The idea that the General Secretary
of the Party in Scotland would be managing student volunteers,
for instanceno. Kevin was establishing the media monitoring
and all of these things are done on an ad hoc basis. I
sometimes think, and I can understand why, that Ms Filkin thinks
political parties run like corporate organisations. Well, they
do not, especially building up to a general election campaign.
Anyone knows from their party headquarters that if someone comes
in and says, "I can do a couple of hours", you say,
"Right, go there", and it does not go up to the General
Secretary of the Party to do that. It is obvious that in the case
of Suzanne Hilliard, for instance, Alex did not know anything
about contracts or when she was working for me or anyone else.
That is the reality, I cannot put it any more clearly than that.
The idea that volunteers come in and have an interview and sit
downno, word of mouth goes round, people come in. There
was one chap who I know was in there in the afternoons as a volunteer
who worked in a butcher's shop in the morning. It would be extraordinary
if on that basis it was claimed that the Labour Party was stealing
the butcher's money, but that is the sort of thing which I think
is behind the thought-process of the complaint. I think in terms
of volunteers coming in to help the Labour Party, I cannot imagine
that the General Secretary would be in the midst of a campaign
deciding who would come in to help out the media monitoring on
a four hour shift and marking the work-time they did. There are
no clocks in there. All of us here know the reality of a general
election campaign; people come inretired people, students,
people on an afternoon off, some of them come in regularly, some
of them do notand if you are there and you have a job to
do, you basically try and get people to help you.
343. So as far as Suzanne Hilliard was concerned,
she could quite possibly have sat down at a desk within the Labour
Party office and actually have done work for you at that desk?
Or did you have an expectation she would be in your constituency
(Dr Reid) No, I did not have any expectation she would
be in my constituency office because I was not going to ask someone
who was not physically typing the things to go across Glasgow
and sit in Hamilton every day. I was asking her to do the best
she could as a bright young girl under the circumstances with
things she had never done before, and I was very happy because
she was ready, she was available, she was bright, she was obviously
prepared to work hard and Kevin knew her. I was in those circumstances
where you were looking for someone very quickly. It is as simple
as that. I know this is anecdotal but it might explain it. During
the period when I hired Suzanne Hilliard, I also hired a civil
servantan assistant private secretary. His name is Stephen.
You can check with the Ministry of Transport who will no doubt
be able to give you a statement confirming this.
344. This is you as Minister, is it?
(Dr Reid) This is me as Minister. I hired Stephen.
Do you know where I interviewed Stephen, such were the pressures
on my time? I interviewed Stephen in the back of my car as we
travelled from the DETR building to the Ministry of Transport
in Marsham Street. I could not fit in the time to sit down with
him. This is the pace at which events move. There is an air of
unreality about some of the comments I have read in the report,
that as soon as people are working five or six hours this is a
full-time job. I was working 17 hours a day, seven days a week
as a Minister for Her Majesty's Armed Forces and I was doing it
as a Minister of Transport as well. The people who work for me,
including my constituency secretary work hours that people outside
of this building in which we all work would not believe. I have
the great fortune, and have had from when I came into this jobmaybe
I have just been lucky, some Members might not beof having
members of staff who are equally committed and dedicated, who
are prepared to do that work. I phoned some people who work for
me at two in the morning and asked them to go out and get me the
first edition of the Daily Record before the Internet came
in. People do that sort of thing, Ms Filkin. The type of people
who do that do not have set hours. While I can understand why
you are concentrating on 20 hours, actually that is not the way
most of us look on it. We want dedicated people in what is public
service. There were a couple of public servants here who worked
very, very hard and of course they did it because they were committed.
I like to think they were committed to some extent to me but,
of course, they were also committed to the Labour Party. Those
two things are not incompatible.
Shona McIsaac: I want to go back to the whole
issue of contracts and the hours the staff put in. If we go to
the Commissioner's report, John, it is stated I am trying
to find the relevant paragraph. You probably remember the paragraph
number better than I do. It is stated there that it is
Chairman: Which paragraph?
345. I had it all ready and marked before the
Division but I have lost my place now.
(Dr Reid) You will not believe this, no disrespect,
but the one thing I do not appear to have brought is the Commissioner's
report. No, I have it, along with my marking. Paragraph?
346. That is right, 259. The Commissioner asserts
that it is irrelevant whether the evidence gathered during the
course of the inquiry shows the three researchers did not work
the required numbers of hours for Dr Read and Mr Maxton when they
were under contract to the two Members. You have spent a lot of
time explaining the working practices and the hours and so on,
how do you feel about that comment?
(Dr Reid) I have to say, I find this the most perplexing
and disturbing section of this. I genuinely struggled to discover
how Ms Filkin could have upheld this complaint because after ten
months' inquiry she has conceded that Kevin Reid did indeed carry
out his work for me and the Fees Office in paragraph 267 of the
report. With the exception of the last few weeks, where I think
she gets the number of weeks wrong, five or six rather than two
or three, she also concedes that Suzanne Hilliard carried out
her work for me in paragraphs 268 to 271 of the report. So it
is conceded that my staff carried out their duties to me and the
Fees Office but Ms Filkin still upholds the complaint. I have
asked myself why. This comes back to paragraph 259, which you
347. That is the one I am concerned about.
(Dr Reid) If I can just turn to it. In that Ms Filkin
appears to say, to me extraordinarily, that the fact that my staff
discharged their duties to me and the Fees Office is irrelevant.
She also says that the evidence that they did this work is now
irrelevant. What mattersI am trying to put this in plain
languageshe says, is there was a conspiratorial arrangement
that my staff would work for the Labour Party. Forgive me, and
I hope the Committee will work through this with me, but we know,
and the Fees Office have confirmed, that there was nothing improper
in my staff working for the Labour Party in addition to the work
for me. That could not have been the improper arrangement conspired
at because there was nothing improper in it, otherwise the complaint
could not be upheld. So it must have been an arrangement that
they would not do the work for me. That can be the only improper
arrangement, as I understand it. But there was no such arrangement.
There is not a shred of evidence, even having looked at what Mr
Rowley says, that any such arrangement was made. In addition to
that, my staff did carry out the duties required to me and the
Fees Office because Ms Filkin has just conceded that in her own
report. What it comes down to, as far as I understand it, is that
Ms Filkin would have us believe that there was a vast conspiracy
involving all of the people that I mentioned earlier onKevin
Reid, John Maxton, the late Donald Dewar who is in the complaint
at the beginning, Ann-Marie Whyte, Jonathan Upton, various unnamed
officials and so ona conspiracy to do something that either
was not improper in the first place or, if it was improper, was
never put into effect. That was the ground on which, as far as
I can see, she seeks to uphold the whole complaint. It has to
me, and I can only speak personally, all the signs of someone
who has done ten months' work at countless expense to the taxpayer
and has not produced any evidence to uphold the complaint and
has, therefore, produced a paragraph based on conspiracyand
conspiracy, as you know, can be defined as breathing together.
I just do not see how this complaint can be upheld on that basis,
that there was an arrangement that was either proper, that they
worked for the Labour Party and worked for me, or that it was
improper, but was then never put into effect. And that somehow
this vast conspiracy is still covering up an arrangement that
was never actually used.
348. Moving on from that, John. In the previous
paragraph, 258, the hours are talked about. Although I acknowledge
the Commissioner's report says that is irrelevant I want to get
some things about this clear in my mind. Suzanne Hilliard and
Kevin Reid worked for you. If they did less hours for you one
week, what arrangements did you have for them to make up that
time in subsequent weeks? We can see at the end of that paragraph
the Commissioner has put down what her view is of what the working
practices of Members of Parliament should be.
(Dr Reid) Can I say, first of all, that the first
line of that paragraph, "There is an implication in the responses
of Dr Reid and Mr Maxton that the complaints can be substantiated
only if it can be proved that, whilst under contract to the two
Members, the three researchers carried out none of their parliamentary
duties", is completely misleading. There is no such implication
of that at all. If it were not for the fact that we all are very
busy people, I would love to go through the report paragraph by
paragraph on the speculations and so on that are in it. Having
said that, I have never implied that at all, any more than I implied
that Alex Rowley was motivated only by malice. The fact of the
matter is that all of us make judgments on all of our staff and,
generally speaking, we trust our staff. A variable contract is
by definition a variable contract. When in 1997 I asked the Fees
Office what I should put in this model contract, because it was
the Fees Office that advised me about it, I said "it is a
researcher", they said "how many hours do they work?",
"well, I estimate 20 but it could be less some weeks, it
could be more other weeks, it could shift over a period, there
could be a very bad month, then a very short month, a very long
month" and they said "what you put down is 20 hours
variable and if you feel that in the round over a period of time
that is a reasonable level then that is fine". And I did
that. If the Fees Office were happy with that, and I cleared these
sorts of things with the Fees Office, how can the Fees Office
have been misled? Again, that is upheld.
349. So you would trust your members of staff
(Dr Reid) This is a matter of balance, is it not?
You trust your members of staff to get on with the work, to do
the work you have asked them to do, until you have concrete evidence
that they are not doing that. I have been in the fortunate position
I have never had in 13 years a member of staff who has failed
in that senseother members may have had. So of course there
is a degree of trust and that degree of trust is even greater
the further away you go from your constituency office. It is even
greater if you are under enormous pressure to make ad hoc
arrangements because your full-time constituency secretary, on
whom I had depended for something like 13 years, was tragically
taken ill in the circumstances which I have given you elsewhere.
350. So you would not say to a member of staff,
"You only did 10 hours last week, you have to make it up
to 30 next week"?
(Dr Reid) I would not do it on a week to week basis
but if I thought a member of staff was swinging the leadput
it that waythen, like anybody else, I would tell that member
of staff. Or, if I thought, "I am paying more for this and
allocating money to this resource which I would be better putting
somewhere else"we are all short of resources to run
our constituency offices and to carry out the work we do, so we
would reallocate that resourceof course you would do that.
351. In paragraph 263 of the Commissioner's
Reportand this links in with what you have been saying
about the hours and you trusting your staff to do the work you
have asked them to doit says that you would have broken
the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament in relation to their
stewardship of public money if you did not keep close and continuous
supervision of both the quality and quantity of work produced
by employees. Do you think it is practical to do that as a Member
of Parliament who does not have, say, a London or South East-based
(Dr Reid) It is one of these paragraphs which is loaded
with innuendo, is it not? I do not know whether you could ask
any busy MP or minister or secretary of state to have the degree
of "close and continuous supervision over the quantity and
quality of work produced" in the way that is implied here.
You can set the calibre or the quality because you see that. The
quantityI doubt whether any of us, until we are faced with
the position I am in today, actually count the number of letters
which go through. I did that because the Susan Hamilton Agency
was able to provide me with materials and because I got my secretary
who is now back at work, to run a survey of six weeks' work which
showed that for every letter answered we actually received about
four. Which meant that if there were 444 letters dealt with and
typed in that period, we probably had 1,600 constituency letters
to handle before the other mail and so on. I have become very
aware of the quantity and quality but I have to say that I doubt
if any member of this Committee actually would have an idea how
many letters are going through their office week on week. It is
even harder, of course, with research, because a researcher is
not a copy typist. In terms of quantity, you cannot count up the
number of words someone has read, the number of papers they have
gone through and so on. But you do, like any employer, know whether
the demands of the job have been satisfied and whether the people
who are paid to do the work for you are doing that work. If I
may finally comment on the first paragraph, I did not "leave
all the responsibility on the three researchers", or the
two researchers in my case, to vouch for the number of hours they
worked. The first sentence talks about the number of hoursI
said I was perfectly satisfied with the number of hours and the
work they did. The last bit of the paragraph, you will notice,
changes from the number of hours they worked to the quantity and
quality of work. That is a different thing. That is easier to
do. What I can say to you is that in my experience of people who
have worked for me, they have worked the quantity of hours far
in excess of anything they have been paid by me to do, and I think
that is generally the case with most Members of Parliament, and
they do it because these people are committed politically, they
are committed to public service, which is precisely why they also
want to help out their own political parties.
352. Finally on paragraph 265, and, Mr Chairman
it may be that the QC who is present may be able to answer my
concern here. Paragraph 265 states, "... it is for each Member
to ensure that any additional outside commitment taken on by a
research paid through the OCA is not so onerous as to call into
question his ability to meet his or her parliamentary obligations."
If somebody had a member of staff who also had other paid commitmentsyou
mentioned somebody working in a butcher's shop
(Dr Reid) I do not want it to be found that is untrue.
It was either a butcher's or a fishmonger's. I can never remember
whether it was a butcher's or fishmonger's. I will check and send
you a note on it, Mr Chairman.
353. I am just concerned under employment law
and so on whether it would be in order for a Member of Parliament
to start questioning someone's commitments elsewhere anyway if
people are doing other paid work. I do not know if the QC has
any particular view on this.
(Dr Reid) I will give my view and then, if the Chairman
wants it, you can ask Mr Goudie. My view is this, your primary
concern is to make sure that the people who are paid by you actually
produce the work for which they are being paid. If they are working
and are also committed as volunteers to the Territorial Army or
the scouts or any charity or any paid capacity outside, it is
quite clear from the Fees Office there is nothing whatsoever improper
about that, whether it is in politics or not in politics. So provided
that you are content that they are doing the job for which they
are paid, there would be no practical reasons, there would be
noas the Fees Office made clearregulatory reasons
for saying to people, "You can only work for me provided
you do not go and support this party or this charity." I
have no idea but I suspect that would be a breach of people's
rights but I do not know.
Chairman: Do you want to pursue this?
Shona McIsaac: I wanted a quick legal
view as well. I have reasons for this, Mr Chairman.
Chairman: Unless you feel really strongly,
I would prefer you not to.
354. I do feel particularly strongly about this
(Mr Goudie) Chairman, if you are content for me to
answer the point, I can answer it very shortly. The Committee
will no doubt appreciate that there are cases where the contracts
of employment may, rather exceptionally, make clear that the employee
owes an exclusive duty to the employer, and any element of what
is sometimes termed "moonlighting" is therefore out
of order. One would certainly not expect to see that in a contract
which provided for only 20 hours' work a week and in circumstances
where it is quite clear that it is compatible with one contract
of employment that the employee may have another contract of employment,
or other contracts of employment, or other outside commitments,
whether of an employment nature or not, although of course the
employer would be concerned to see that the employee was delivering
the goods to them in terms of the contractual obligations owed
to that employer. It would certainly not be part of the employer's
province to intrude into the question of what the employee was
doing in their other time.
355. That was my understanding.
(Mr Goudie) I hope that answers the question.
356. Thank you. Two more very brief questions.
The taped conversation between you and Alex Rowley, you did not
know that was being taped, did you? He did not tell you?
(Dr Reid) No.
357. How did you feel when you first saw that
(Dr Reid) Somewhat surprised since it became obvious
to me that Ms Filkin had known from 21st March that I had a conversation
with Alex Rowley and secondly that it had been taped. Given that
three months later she actually asked me the straight question,
"Have you had any conversations with Mr Alex Rowley",
I did feel that, to be truthful, it was a bit like entrapment,
but I had answered the question truthfully. How did I feel about
Alex doing it? I could not understand the reasons why he might
do such a thing. I know that it is the practice of Mr Nelson to
do it but basically I felt that Alex had in a sense tried to set
me up. The only final comment I will make is that I might have
tried to be more articulate during it. Alex and I both, when we
speak at home, tend to have accents which are a wee bit different
from the one I am using for the Committee at the moment, do you
know what I mean? We use expressions like, "D'ya know what
I mean?" I actually thought the only thing which was embarrassing
about it was this continual use of, "D'ya know what I mean,
Alex?" which does not have the Monty Python, nudge, nudge,
wink, wink, implication when used in the Scottish vernacular that
it appears to some people to indicate.
358. It would appear from the transcript that
you tried to dissuade Alex Rowley from taking evidence on oath.
(Dr Reid) Alex Rowley had mentioned this oath question.
Alex was very concerned. The very first conversation he had with
me was when Dean Nelson had apparently said something to him about
he may be forced to give this on oath. Throughout this conversation
with me Alex continually said two things to me which perplexed
me slightly. One was, "I must tell the truth. I must tell
the truth" and I told him he had to tell the truth but it
must be nothing other than the truth and that speculation was
not telling the truth, it was telling a lie. That is the first
thing that I would make plain. I never on any occasion, despite
what is said in certain sections of this report, put pressure
on Alex Rowley other than to tell the truth. I said "tell
the truth". I mentioned it about six times during our conversation.
The second thing is Alex had continually raised this question
that we might be in court and have to answer questions under oath
and so on. I had assured him that it was fine, that he did not
know a whole lot of things, like I had checked with the Fees Office,
that the work was being done for me, that I had evidence the work
was being done, that my secretary was off, but he raised it in
every conversation. When he raised it in this conversation I said
to him, "Alex, you do not need to take the oath" because
I was aware of the fact that he did not need to take an oath.
I told him what subsequently Ms Filkin has published as part of
her own procedures. I am not sure where the reference is that
I can give you. Ms Filkin makes, quite correctly, a gesture in
saying that people are not required to take the oath and I told
him. If my advice to Alex Rowley that he has the option of not
taking an oath was somehow wrong but Ms Filkin's public advice
that people do not need to take an oath is somehow right, I do
not know where the double standards are coming in.
Chairman: One last brief question.
359. Can I just say that the transcript which
you have seen is incomplete and there are large parts in my view
of that tape that are not included in the transcript.
(Dr Reid) They are not what, sorry?