5. Joint written statement by Mr Iain
Duncan Smith, Mrs Elizabeth Duncan Smith and Mrs Christine Watson,
13 October 2003|
A summary of the evidence that could be given
by Mr Iain Duncan Smith, Mrs Betsy Duncan Smith and Mrs Christine
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), Betsy Duncan Smith (BDS)
and Christine Watson (Private Secretary)
1. By profession, BDS ran a freelance secretarial
service which would, provide secretarial services to Chief Executives
when their PA's were absent or away on holiday. For example, BDS
worked for Lord Thomas of Swinterton when he was Chairman of the
CPS from his home.
2. She has worked for IDS for over 10 years since
his election in 1992. She has a signed contract dated 1 October,
1997 which describes the nature of her diary and other secretarial
responsibilities and the fact that she is required to work for
25 hours a week from home or the office, in fact she worked considerably
longer hours than that. BDS will also produce a letter from the
Fees Office showing what she was paid no more than £15K until
she ceased her job on 31 December, 2002 and in the last year received
a total of £11K.
3. Up till August 2001, IDS and BDS lived in
Fulham. There was a fully equipped office there and indeed the
constituency work had been done from the home office when it could
not be carried out at Westminster during the 1997 and 2001 election
campaigns. During that period BDS was working with Annabelle Eyre
(Constituency Secretary) on the diary and various secretarial
tasks as required. When BDS lived in London, she was able to travel
into Westminster during the hours that her children were at school
and characteristically would work between about 9.30 and 3.00
but also would work late in the evenings and at weekends from
home and on a number of days BDS would work from the home office.
The work included running IDS's diary, and assisting when required
on constituency casework, liaising with the Chingford constituency
office and assisting Annabelle Eyre as and when required, for
example covering for her when she was away on holiday.
4. In August 2001, IDS and BDS moved to the house
in Swanboume, near Milton Keynes. As this was about an hour and
half by car to Westminster, it soon became apparent that it was
not realistic to travel up and down to London, with the school
commitments. So her work was done from Swanbourne where an office
was established at home.
5. On 13 September, 2001, IDS was elected Leader
of the Opposition. Furthermore, the Leader of the Opposition's
Private Office had to be set up with new staff and in fact no
member of William Hague's staff remained behind in the new office.
BDS having worked for IDS for 10 years provided continuity and
has been described by those who worked with her as the "sheet
anchor". It was IDS's and BDS's intention for BDS to give
up work once all the appointments were settled so as to concentrate
on being the wife of the Leader of the Opposition.
6. After he was elected leader, the constituency
office had to be packed up and moved location. During the course
of that there was a great strain on correspondence which BDS assisted
in clearing. This added to the pressures of those early months.
7. BDS set up an office in Swanbourne which was
fully equipped with fax, computer (subsequently a second computer
was added), e-mail and an ISDN line. Although BDS did initially,
come up several times to Westminster, she decided it was not an
efficient use of time as with the school hours it would mean that
she could spend only a couple of hours in Westminster. She therefore
operated mostly from Swanboume which enabled her to work for longer
8. BDS liaised with Andrew Whitby-Collins, who
had been appointed Diary Secretary in the Leader's Office after
the election campaign. He would on a regular basis send the long-term
diary covering IDS's appointments for 6 months which BDS would
then go through with IDS and feed into it the necessary engagements
and changes after discussions. AWC would also send through the
short-term weekly diary. BDS would assist by way of secretarial
and diary skills in sorting out what information IDS required
for meetings and other engagements. She would work in support
of and alongside the constituency office and leader's office.
BDS would also make sure that constituency events were arranged
following discussions with Rikki Radford (Constituency Agent)
and Coralie Buckmaster (Constituency Association Chairman).
9. BDS would also liaise with Christine Watson
who in October 2001 became the constituency secretary. CW had
previous experience in the House of Commons (until 1981) but BDS
was able to assist with the detailed knowledge that BDS had acquired
over 10 years of experience of working for IDS. Matters that she
was involved in included Christmas card competition, Christmas
card lists, visits to schools and hospitals in the constituency,
bazaars and association events, and an annual concert by the Savoy
Players. Much of this work would be done after the children had
gone to bed and often would involve BDS working until midnight.
She assisted IDS in formulating the actions necessary as a result
of the work sent down with him at the weekend. These actions were
followed up in liaison with CW, AWC and AE. This might typically
involve dictating some instructions or amending letters which
had already been typed. It was important as it enabled IDS to
catch up with the previous week's work. A considerable amount
of work would be done at weekends and for example it was not unusual
for BDS to do three hours work on Sunday evening. BDS and IDS
spoke at length at the end of every working day. During their
discussions she would raise matters outstanding and either IDS
or BDS or both would make notes to take the necessary action with
CW, AE or AWC.
10. There were a number of changes and re-organisations
in the staff and one needs to appreciate that the Leader of the
Opposition's office was being set up from scratch. For example,
in autumn 2002, Annabelle Eyre took on Tours and Planning having
previously been the Private Secretary. This position was created
by IDS to meet a growing requirement of the organisation and planning
of tours which had increased the workload of BDS. In August 2002,
CW took over as Private Secretary. Cara Walker was taken on as
Constituency Secretary in Westminster in September 2002 on a three
month trail basis. Her position was confirmed in November 2002.
Paula Malone was taken on as the new diary secretary in October
2002 taking over from AWC, who went to work in the Candidates
Department in CCO. Throughout all the various changes and upheavals
in the Leader's office, BDS remained in an advisory and supporting
11. Additionally, BDS also liaised with Rikki
Radford, the Agent in the constituency and Coralie Buckmaster,
the Chairman of the Association as the occasion arose. Both of
whom knew of BDS's professional arrangements.
12. An additional reorganisational difficulty
that arose was the fact that CW's office had to be moved from
34 Smith Square to 32 Smith Square and at Westminster the constituency
office moved from M1 to G1.
13. CW confirms these matters where they are
within her knowledge and attests to the efficient and professional
performance of her duties by BDS and that they were in regular
contact. Michael Crick surprisingly has not attempted to contact
her and CW has no criticism of BDS's work. They had a good working
relationship and she can confirm that BDS assisted in familiarising
CW with the constituency details, liaising over constituency appointments
and ensuring that IDS kept up to date with his correspondence
over night and at weekends and they were in regular contact. It
was only at this stage in November that the constituency office
took on a research assistant.
14. All those who worked with BDS over the period
13 September 2001 to 31 December 2002 stress the importance of
her involvement and professional commitment. In a period of great
change at home and in the office, BDS helped CW, AE and AWC carry
out their jobs which otherwise would have been made more difficult.
15. CW also confirms that although she did not
see the emails which Vanessa Gearson sent to certain Conservative
Party officials, but not IDS, from the two years that she has
worked for IDS she has never seen him act in a confrontational
manner or subjecting people to intolerable pressure.
16. It is important to note that throughout this
period no one from outside the private office ever enquired into
the employment of BDS with AE, AWC, CW or IDS. The first time
IDS discussed this with anyone was when Owen Paterson, his Parliamentary
Private Secretary, raised it in the autumn of 2002. Subsequently
VG raised the matter with him following an email that she sent
to others although not to IDS in January at which time she was
informed that BDS had ceased work in December 2002. However, she
was also informed that all these matters were correct and carried
out in line with BDS's contract.
17. CW does however recollect that this was a
difficult and upsetting time for VG owing to illness in the family.
IDS allowed her a great deal of time away from the office to deal
with these matters.
13 October 2003