Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence


2.  Letter to Mr Iain Duncan Smith from the Commissioner, 13 October 2003

Re: Complaint by Mr Michael Crick

I write to confirm the nature of the complaint against you which I have received from Mr Michael Crick.

The complaint arises from the results of an investigation for the BBC Newsnight programme, begun last May. To quote Mr Crick, the complaint "… concerns the fact that for the period from September 2001 to December 31 2002, Mr Duncan Smith paid his wife Betsy from his Parliamentary Staffing Allowance. We have uncovered considerable evidence that she did not, in fact, work for him during this period, which I understand is contrary to the House of Commons rules."

The evidence in support of the complaint forwarded by Mr Crick consists of:

1.  3 notes of interviews with what Mr Crick describes as "top-rank anonymous Conservative sources." I have not enclosed these for the present, as I have pointed out to Mr Crick that the anonymity of these sources makes it very difficult for me to weigh/test their evidence.

I will let you know as soon as I can what transpires in relation to these sources. Suffice it to say for now that the burden of their evidence is that Mrs Duncan Smith was being paid to December 2002 ostensibly as your diary secretary but was not in fact working as such or undertaking any other active role in your office.

2.  A note of an on-the record interview with your agent (Rikki Radford) in which, in response to a question "as far as you're aware, she [Mrs Duncan Smith] doesn't have any professional role for him [Mr Duncan Smith] since he became leader", Mr Radford replies "As far as I'm aware—and I can be absolute it's not 'as far as I'm aware', I know for sure she doesn't". A copy of this note is enclosed and I have a tape-recording of the original interview.[1]

3.  A copy of an e-mail dated 30 January 2003 from Vanessa Gearson to Mark MacGregor and others, a copy of which I also enclose (though I assume this is already available to you).[2]

4.  Transcripts of interviews (enclosed) with 6 Conservative Chingford Councillors, who say they have seen no sign of your wife working with you since you became party leader. [3]

5.  A note of a telephone conversation with Councillor John Gover (enclosed) in which it is claimed that he too makes similar statements.[4]

6.  Notes (enclosed) of contacts with 19 organisations in Chingford contacted by the BBC with whom you had dealings during 2002 (18 of which you visited), only one of which can recall having had any contact with your wife. Many remembered, however, dealings with other members of your staff whom they could name.[5]

I am sending this material to you immediately so that you can be aware of the nature of the allegations made against you, and can let me have any comments you may wish to offer on the material. In his letter to me covering the material, Mr Crick says that he hopes to send me further material within the next few days. I will, of course, let you know of any such material the moment I receive it, or indeed of any other relevant material I may unearth in the course of my inquiries.

In considering the complaint, I shall have in mind in particular the provision of the Code of Conduct for Members that:

"No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed."

The Green Book on Members' Allowances, etc requires that allowable expenditure is that which is;

"wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on parliamentary duties".

At the heart of the complaint are clearly the questions what duties Mrs Duncan Smith was being paid to undertake; whether the expenditure in question was "allowable"; and was she actually undertaking parliamentary work sufficient to justify the payments made to her from the public purse?

I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss these matters with you when we meet later today.

13 October 2003


1   See PCS Written Submission 42. Back

2   See PCS Written Submission 46. Back

3   See PCS Written Submission 30.  Back

4   See PCS Written Submission 31.  Back

5   See PCS Written Submission 44. Back


 
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