Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence


6.  Written statement by Mrs Elizabeth Duncan Smith, 5 December 2003

[See also Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 2]

Complaints by Michael Crick (13-17 October 2003) against Mr Iain Duncan Smith MP

1.  This statement is made in response to the letter sent to me by Sir Philip Mawer dated 13 October 2003 and the letter together with attachments sent to my husband Iain Duncan Smith on 5 November 2003. I believe that the contents of this statement are a full and truthful account of the matters in question to the best of my knowledge and belief:

This statement is structured as follows:

Section 1: Description of the work I did for Iain.

Section 2: My working relationships.

Section 3: My response to the case against me.

Section 4: Use of MP salary allowance.

Section 5: Conclusions.

Background and Professional Experience

2.  I left school at 18 having obtained 3 A levels in English, History and French. I attended a one year secretarial course at Queen's College, South Kensington. Afterwards, I started working at Harrods and obtained a place on a Trainee Management Course which lasted a year. Having completed the course I left and joined a trading company, Paterson Simons, where I worked as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director. I left there to marry Iain Duncan Smith in 1982. We have four children aged 16, 14, 12 and 10.

3.  In 1983 I set up with a partner a business providing secretarial cover for Chief Executives and Managing Directors when their Personal Assistants or Secretaries were away. A critical part of my work was to be able to work with many different office and filing systems and computer programs. I was able to walk into any office and quickly familiarise myself with the computer software. I worked with a number of senior management of different businesses during this time. Amongst others I worked for Schroders (banking), Edward Erdman (property), Michael Joseph (publishing), Seascope (shipping), Burtons—Head Office (clothing retailers), Esmee Fairbairn (charitable trust) as well as architects, management consultants, advertising agencies, and many more. One of my employers was Lord Thomas of Swynnerton who was Chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies. I worked from his office at his home. After the birth of my first child in March 1987 I did more work from his office in his home taking my baby into work with me until the end of that year. I ceased this work at the end of 1988 and had my second baby in January 1989.

4.  When I started my business in 1983 I charged £5 per hour, which was the upper end of the hourly rate. By 1988 I was earning £12 per hour for my work. The equivalent rate now would be about £25-£30 per hour.

Section 1

Work in Iain's office before he was elected Leader of the Opposition

5.  Iain was elected as the MP for Chingford in 1992. From the end of 1992 I was employed as an occasional support secretary for Iain. Initially I was employed on a temporary basis to help with one off tasks. In 1993 however my employment became more permanent as Iain asked me to support the office with particular focus on the diary. My salary was administered by the Fees Office of the House of Commons, although I viewed my employer as being Iain rather than the Fees Office. I entered into a formal employment contract with Iain on 1 October 1997. I divided my working week between Westminster and my home office.

6.  My work involved looking after Iain's diary; responding to invitations, organising the meetings he was to attend and the visits he was to make, including many speaking engagements. Most of my work was done on the phone, though I sometimes typed out a letter confirming arrangements or sent out a formal reply to an invitation. I also responded to invitations sent from the constituency and arranged meetings and visits in the constituency. After Iain was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet in June 1997 I also arranged visits and tours around the country. Iain was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security in 1997 and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in 1999.

7.  Until 1997 I kept a manual copy of the diary for Iain and after I used a palm pilot to record the engagements and the relevant details for him on the computer. I would work on the palm pilot and regularly update the central copy of the diary that I kept for him on computer. At the time I ran the diary I was the only person who would make entries in it although Annabelle Eyre could access it and consult me about events that she wanted to include. I printed a daily copy of the diary for Iain to make sure he knew his agenda for the week. The diary entries were quite detailed stating not only what the appointment was and where it was taking place but, if appropriate, supplying details of telephone numbers and the names of those in charge of the event and details of what was expected of Iain whilst he was there and his travel arrangements. Iain often suggested the places he wanted to go to in his constituency and I would make the arrangements. Alternatively, individuals and/or organisations would extend invitations requesting him to visit elsewhere in the country and I would process these.

8.  The role I covered during this period was not simply Diary Secretary. Iain used me to chase issues through the office. I always had a wider role with Iain making sure that follow-up actions were processed. Often Annabelle Eyre would ask me to take some of the more complicated casework home and go through it with Iain in the evenings. Even at that time Iain had constant meetings and interruptions throughout the day and it was difficult to find enough time to go through some of the complicated cases. After reviewing the file with Iain I would feed back to Annabelle Eyre Iain's instructions for proceeding with a case. Annabelle Eyre and I worked together and acted as a professional team in the context of his work.

9.  I worked with a number of colleagues on his parliamentary work. Whilst I handled correspondence as and when necessary, it was not a large part of my role. However, I did cover for those responsible for the correspondence when they were away or on holiday. For example, in 1996 Iain's Constituency Secretary went on maternity leave and I provided full secretarial cover until her return. A large proportion of this work was done from home, often late in the evenings. In 1997 after the General Election of that year, Annabelle Eyre took over as Iain's Constituency Secretary. It is worth noting that Vanessa Gearson commented that Annabelle Eyre's and my relationship was one of previous family involvement and that Annabelle 'was a long standing family friend of Mrs Duncan Smith.' This somewhat barbed comment is not correct. I met Annabelle Eyre for the first time when she was employed by Iain to replace his outgoing Constituency Secretary in 1997 who left work to look after her first child. It was Fiona Walker who recommended that Annabelle Eyre should replace her. Iain and I had never met either Annabelle or any members of her family before then, neither had my parents.

10.  Iain has always had a good relationship with his secretaries and staff. Even now, we keep in touch with his last Constituency Secretary though we do not see each other very much as we both have busy lives. She came to help voluntarily during Iain's leadership campaign.

11.  After Annabelle Eyre was appointed as Iain's Constituency Secretary I helped her to gain a knowledge of the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency work. Because our desks were so close we were both aware of what we were each doing and we worked together as a team. Annabelle drew upon my knowledge of the constituency when she planned visits there for Iain and I knew of various constituents with whom Annabelle corresponded. If there were particular cases that Iain was interested in I would arrange for him to meet the constituents and Annabelle and I would discuss the casework. * * *

Working for Iain as Leader of the Opposition 14 September 2001- 31 December 2002

12.  As a preliminary point I understand that I have been asked to provide details of how my work changed after Iain was elected Leader. In fact, the nature of the work I did after Iain became Leader was essentially no different to that I was doing before he was Leader. The main difference is that whereas before I had been solely responsible for the diary, after Iain became Leader Andrew Whitby-Collins took over primary responsibility for this while I continued to assist him with diary arrangements.

13.  Iain stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party after the General Election in 2001. That was the start of a very busy time. All through the summer Iain campaigned with only a very short break for a few days with the family. The first month after he was elected Leader the tempo increased. He began work immediately he was elected. Within an hour of the result we visited the US Embassy to pay our respects for the victims of September 11th. Iain was elected Leader of the Conservative Party two days after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in New York. Within eighteen hours of being elected he had to select a Shadow Cabinet and write a response to a Statement concerning the Twin Towers. It was therefore necessary for the Leader's office to begin running immediately.

14.  The period immediately after Iain's election as leader was not easy for him or his team. He had to construct a new private office at the same time as carrying out the duties relevant to the Leader of the Opposition and those of a normal parliamentarian as well as Leader of the Conservative Party. He also had to pick the Conservative Party up from a bad General Election defeat and bruising Leadership Election which had lasted some three months. With the Chairman he had to re-arrange the structure of Central Office, set his priorities whilst dealing with the extra issues surrounding September 11th and its aftermath. In addition, he visited the United States and met the President in December 2001.

15.  My role changed to a limited extent after Iain was elected Leader in that I was now based in the office at home in Swanbourne, though for the first months of his Leadership I tried travelling to his London Office about once or twice a week until I realised that this was not practical in terms of the work achieved (please see further below). There were more people employed in Iain's office. Iain's workload as Leader increased enormously from what it had been when he was Shadow Defence Secretary. However, essentially the nature of the work I was doing remained the same. As Diary Secretary I had worked for Iain in all aspects of his life: as constituency MP, as parliamentarian and as a member of the Shadow Cabinet. This continued when Iain became Leader of the Opposition, as my job involved supporting Iain in his parliamentary role.

16.  It was agreed between us that I would continue to work until the office was established and until my input was no longer required. Iain felt that it would be better if I ceased working once the office arrangements were settled but that until then he required my assistance and that I would continue to play an important part in his professional life. I wanted my work to come to an end because I realised there would be more demands on my time attending official events and at the same time it was important that our family should not be neglected. I knew it would be difficult to combine these three roles, however I agreed that I would continue to work for Iain until his office was properly established.

17.  I have set out below details of the particular type of work I was involved in while employed by Iain.

Progress Chasing

18.  Iain wanted me to continue to work for him because he wanted me to make sure the work was done and key issues were followed up with those working in his outer office. This has been described as 'progress chasing'. This was work that I had done with Iain and other members of staff before he became leader: it became more important when his workload increased and he had even less time to spend with his outer office. Throughout this period from September 2001 to December 2002 I made sure that work was completed and issues followed up.

19.  Whilst Iain made time to speak to his inner office staff and was available for them when required, he was, as a result of his commitments, out of the office a great deal and he found it enormously helpful to use me to chase up issues and concerns with them to free up his time to deal with other matters. Particularly at the beginning of the leadership Iain had back-to-back meetings throughout his working day. For the first six months he endeavoured to have individual meetings with all of his parliamentary colleagues as well as ex MPs, present and ex Members of the House of Lords and members of the Voluntary Party, in addition to all his other commitments. Iain also had meetings with policy advisers, business leaders, voluntary groups, charitable organisations and religious and ethnic group leaders. He met ambassadors and representatives from other countries. He spent mornings, afternoons and evenings out of the office visiting London locations. For example, he went to Hackney on two separate occasions to visit firstly, the community centre and then Mildmay Hospital; he visited The Princess Royal's Trust for Carers in Hammersmith; he visited a GP's surgery in Camden, he visited the Bangladeshi Community Centre in Southend; he visited a food processing factory in Southall; he visited Archbishop Tennison's School in Vauxhall; he visited Brixton to meet the community leaders; and he attended the British Asian Conservative Link Reception in Brent.

20.  Checking back through Iain's diary I can confirm that it was packed with engagements. He often started work at 6 in the morning and went on past midnight. Throughout his working day he had breakfast meetings, working or speaking lunches, receptions and dinners at which he was often required to make a speech to say nothing of the enormous number of meetings with colleagues, policy advisers, ambassadors and representatives from foreign countries.

21.  He travelled extensively, within the UK:—(eg Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen (to visit a drugs rehabilitation centre, to visit the fish market and to meet representatives in the oil industry), Belfast (for the UUP Northern Ireland Conference), Cardiff (for a breakfast meeting with the Evangelical Alliance), Birmingham on three occasions (for a CBI Breakfast, an IOD Dinner, and thirdly for a visit to the Institute of Conductive Education and the Acorn Childrens' Hospice, Reading (for the Youth Crime launch), Chesham (to visit the National Society for Epilepsy), Basingstoke (to highlight the closure of council playgrounds), Portsmouth (to visit the naval base), RAF Conigsby in Lincolnshire, Pangbourne (for the Falkland Island Memorial Service), Leeds (for the Jewish Welfare Board dinner), Manchester (for the Holocaust Memorial Day, Windsor (for the State Banquet and for a Diplomatic Reception), Bournemouth (for the local Government Association Conference), Sheffield (for a dinner in Cutlers Hall in which he gave a speech about manufacturing), Bradford (for the launch of the Local Election Campaign, Ipswich (to visit Heath Road Hospital). He undertook two day tours away from the office (eg Midlands, Kent, NW, Cumbria, NE, Teeside and Newcastle, Norfolk, Suffolk, Leicester and Northamptonshire, Dorset, Devon, Wales and Scotland. He travelled abroad to the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels to meet the MEPs, and to the USA, Spain, Portugal, France, Gibraltar, Sweden, Holland and Denmark to meet the leaders in other countries and to visit both hospitals and schools in an attempt to discover how other countries ran their healthcare and education systems more efficiently than their UK equivalent.

22.  His daytime commitments meant that it was not easy for him to sit down with his closest colleagues in the private office to plan future events that he wanted to attend. Iain spoke to me every evening, and it was therefore easier for me to deal with Andrew, Annabelle and Christine about his appointments and ongoing matters of detail. Frequently I prepared lists of points that he wanted me to follow up.

Assisting with Iain's Diary

23.  Andrew Whitby-Collins was in charge of the diary, however I continued to be actively involved. I met Andrew for the first time at CCO shortly after he was appointed and spoke to him about all the outstanding engagements in Iain's diary including those on hold and pending. As there was very little space in the office and there was no spare desk I used to lay out paperwork on the floor in order to go through it. I was in London about once, sometimes twice a week during the last months of 2001, trying to work from London and combining these diary meetings with Andrew with functions that I was attending. Belinda McCammon mentions that I was 'kneeling', indeed I probably was down on my knees but had I been discussing the children's arrangements with Andrew such discussions would not have entailed a large number of documents and consequently there would have been no need to have been on the floor. Furthermore, she would never have been waiting in the Leaders' office for the several hours that it took for Andrew and I to go through all the diary arrangements. Her time waiting in the office would have been no more than a few minutes as space was very limited and there was nowhere to wait around. I also dealt with Annabelle during those early months in the same way. By the beginning of the New Year I ceased coming up to London but I continued to have update meetings with Andrew and Annabelle regularly when I was in London for a function, coming up early afternoon, so that we could go through matters together.

24.  When we weren't having face to face meetings in the office, Andrew contacted me regularly by telephone about the existing engagements in Iain's diary. Some events were planned up to six months in advance. I spoke to Andrew on many occasions during this period when he was assuming the role of Diary Secretary and answered many of the questions he raised. This transitional work continued as Andrew would draw upon my experience and consult me about annual events such as the Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Iain's constituency and the Christmas activities. It was important to Iain that those organisations whose invitations he had been unable to accept on previous occasions should be considered for future events and Andrew would consult me about these.

25.  My work with Andrew principally involved discussing future appointments to be made and events that Iain should attend. Andrew, Annabelle and I worked closely together discussing appointments and invitations and the travel arrangements for Iain's diary. Andrew sent me a copy of Iain's short term and long term diary regularly, generally by fax or by email or via the Box, and Iain and I would work through it and discuss particular items in the evenings and over the weekends. Andrew and Annabelle would send me invitations and requests for speaking engagements. I would then speak to Iain about them in concentrated periods when he was at home and he would tell me which he wanted to attend. Andrew would also speak to me about the forthcoming engagements. I would report back to Andrew on any changes that Iain wanted to make and let him know about Iain's requests for briefing papers if Iain wanted to be updated on a particular subject before meetings, eg. if he was going to see accountants or banking groups.

Secretarial work

26.  Iain uses his secretary or myself to work on the computer. I dealt with the e-mail account and printed out material that was sent to him by e-mail to bring it to his attention. Iain preferred to do much of his detailed work at home where his work was not interrupted rather than in Westminster where he had a frenetic working day. He did a lot of this concentrated work during the weekends or during the recesses. I assisted him in the work that he did at home, occasionally re-drafting documents or altering letters for him.

Constituency casework and correspondence

27.  Before Iain became Leader I used to discuss constituency correspondence with Annabelle Eyre and she would often ask me to speak to Iain in the evenings on some of the more complicated cases if she didn't have time to meet him during the day to go through the casework. There was a backlog of just over a month's constituency correspondence when Christine Watson was appointed as Constituency Secretary in October 2001. Annabelle Eyre, Christine Watson and I discussed several such cases. My work at that time generally consisted of advising Christine and Annabelle about steps to be taken and giving some background on the cases that Christine was taking over. * * *

Iain and I discussed these cases which were followed up by Annabelle and Christine who I spoke to at that time. These were quite complicated cases. I remember Iain had a researcher go through the *** case sometime before the 2001 General Election. He spent about two weeks reading through the file and trying to understand the case. Once Christine had got on top of the backlog of correspondence I generally spoke to her about constituency visits and not the casework files. Annabelle Eyre was still actively involved with the constituency visits.

28.  Checking through the constituency diary for the later months of 2001 I see various events that Iain attended in the constituency. Annabelle, Christine and I would decide what the best places for Iain to visit were and acting on Iain's instructions from me Annabelle and Christine would make the arrangements fitting them into Iain's tight schedule, most usually on a Friday. Below are some of the visits he made. There were invitations extended to him and places he wanted to visit which he wasn't able to fit into his diary and we had to prioritise the visits, refusing some and putting others on hold. There were of course innumerable Conservative Association events during this time which I do not include.

·  Visit to Whipps Cross Hospital; Visit to Haven House; Surgery.

·  Visit to Rushcroft School; Surgery.

·  Visit to Chingford Police Station; Visit to Haven House; Visit to Heathcote School.

·  Visit to Carnarvon Road re mobile phone mast; Surgery.

·  Christmas Bazaar.

·  Visit St Anthony's RC Primary School; Visit St Anne's Church Community Centre (Statis Training Garden).

·  Prizegiving at Normanhurst School.

·  Visit to Selwyn Infants School; Visit to Chingford C of E Infants School; Visit to Haven House.

·  Visit to Chingford Delivery Office and Post Office; Visit to Hale End Post Office; Visit to Woodford Green Post Office; Surgery.

·  Visit Whipps Cross Hospital; Visit Redbridge Police Station to meet Chief Superintendent Kynnersley

·  Visit Chingford Bowling Club; Oakhill Junior School for school dinner;

·  Visit Councillor Jim O'Shea at Broadway Music and Vision re CCTV; Surgery

·  Visit Churchills Junior School; Visit SCOPE for Charities Week to help in shop as volunteer; Surgery

Rikki Radford became agent in the middle of February 2002. I will deal with his involvement in the Constituency below (in the section marked The Reorganisations of the Office).

My normal working day and working week

29.  I worked more than 25 hours in a week for Iain after he was elected Leader of the Opposition. I spent from 10am to 3pm on weekdays in the office at home. However I also worked in the evenings when my youngest daughter was in bed and worked with Iain at weekends. I was constantly on call to help when needed.

30.  My normal working day involved telephone calls with Annabelle and/or Andrew Whitby-Collins following up points Iain had raised with me during our conversation the evening before. Annabelle and Andrew would generally call me, or I them, during the day. Christine generally rang me in the evenings. During the day I used to do a general update with Annabelle, check arrangements with her for visits Iain was making and go through the entries that Andrew made in Iain's diary in detail. This type of involvement with Iain's diary went far beyond what 'a wife' might normally be interested in.

31.  I would look after the office at home receiving faxes, answering the telephones and dealing with any queries. I received telephone calls from the Westminster offices, from some MPs, ex-MPs, Shadow Cabinet Ministers and Members of the House of Lords who knew that they could speak to me to pass important messages on to Iain. * * * Some of them preferred to send confidential and sensitive messages to Iain through me rather than speaking to people in his office in London. I also received telephone calls from Rikki Radford, the agent, and Coralie Buckmaster, the association chairman, concerning events and issues in the Constituency. I recall receiving letters from ***, on policy issues and constituency concerns. Iain often asked people to contact me at home rather than through his Westminster office. As a result I had calls and letters from journalists and people involved in broadcasting, people offering opinions, help and advice, people connected with voluntary groups, disability groups, community groups, charities, small businesses, and those campaigning on rural issues, European issues, medical professionals voicing concerns about the NHS and music groups campaigning about piracy. A large amount of time was spent reading through some of the policy documents, speech drafts and briefing packs in order to be updated and draw anything to Iain's attention that I thought was necessary.

32.  Iain used to telephone me every evening, including those days when he was on tour. We would speak about his day and he would raise various points which I would follow up and pass on to Annabelle, Andrew or Christine.

33.  A certain proportion of my time was spent handling post forwarded to Swanbourne. I would discuss such correspondence with Iain and then pass it on to Annabelle or Christine with Iain's instructions to deal with. Similarly, I dealt with the invitations myself asking Iain what he wanted to do and then passing the invitations with his instructions to Christine or Andrew. Towards the end of the week I used to receive faxes and emails for Iain to consider with policy papers and briefing documents for him to work on during the weekend to authorise.

Preparing for the weekends

34.  It was necessary for me to be kept informed of those matters that Annabelle, Andrew or Christine wanted me to discuss with Iain over the weekend. Iain and I would then discuss the work prepared for him by them and I would follow up on matters for him. This work was done at weekends. I would follow up on Iain's responses during the following week.

35.  Iain sometimes had to attend functions over the course of a weekend. Andrew, Annabelle and Christine would let me know Iain's weekend timetable and would send me all the details concerning the events, (including passes, travel arrangements and directions, special requests and instructions) so that I could ensure that his weekend arrangements ran smoothly and I had up-to-date contact details of these engagements in the event that arrangements had to be altered during the course of the weekend.

36.  On the weekends Iain would do a number of radio and television interviews. Nick Wood, Mike Penning and Annabel Tuck rang me during the week about the weekend press arrangements and press briefings. They would let me know about the timings, the arrangements and the people to call in case of any problems. They often came down to supervise these interviews but Iain sometimes did them without the assistance of his press officers, particularly if they were radio interviews and I would ensure that the arrangements were all in order.

37.  Towards the end of the week I would receive emails and faxes for Iain to consider with policy papers and briefing documents for him to work on, and sometime authorise, during the weekend. Iain and I worked a great deal at weekends trying to keep abreast of the enormous amount of work that he was dealing with. We sometimes worked together in the afternoons but generally worked quite late at night after the younger children were in bed. Over the weekends Iain and I would work through the Box which contained material sent down by his office.

The Box

38.  When Jenny Ungless arrived as Chief of Staff one of her duties was to oversee the box but Iain used to complain to me regularly that it lacked structure. Jenny, Annabelle, Andrew and Christine all added documents to the box. The documents were put into the box without any particular sense of order. At the beginning of his leadership I had to spend some time sorting out the contents for Iain, tying in additional material that I had received during the week, before we worked through its contents together. Getting the process organised around the box was down to trial and error in the first few months. Iain found that working with me over the weekend helped him focus on the priorities, as well as giving him the 'thinking time' that he simply didn't have during the frenzied working week at Westminster. As the months progressed greater order was imposed over the contents of the box and Iain started to arrange it with Annabelle. The box process was finally sorted out when Christine Watson arrived as Iain's Private Secretary. Together, Christine and I sorted out the best way for the documents to be categorised and presented, (ie. Leader, Constituency, Personal, Diary) and this cut out a lot of wasted time and improved the box management enormously.

39.  Iain would open the Box and I would organise the contents before sitting down to go through it with him. Annabelle, as Iain's Private Secretary, had the key to the Box with Iain. At that time Jenny Ungless was in overall charge but tended to focus on her own papers only. Annabelle and Andrew would alert me in advance to bring certain documents they thought to be of particular importance to Iain's attention. We worked through the box together checking draft correspondence and if Iain had changes to make to urgent correspondence I would do them for him in our office at home.

40.  As I worked from home no one was with me throughout the whole of the working day. However, Tom Finchett, the Estate Manager at Swanbourne who has been supervising work on the house, knew that he could always find me in the office at home during the day. I ensured my hours fitted Iain's work and I was on call and available whenever needed (see letter dated 3 November from Mr Finchett)[10]. If I was out of the office during the week I would let Annabelle and/or Andrew know so that they could contact me on my mobile.

Establishing the Swanbourne office

41.  Iain and I established an office in our Fulham home in 1992 when Iain was first elected as an MP. We had a parliamentary computer and printer, a fax machine and a photocopier. This equipment was upgraded about a year before the 2001 General Election. The equipment was professional and was bought out of the office costs allowance. The office was set up to enable Iain and myself to work from home and ensure that the Westminster Office could move and fully function from our home during the Parliamentary Elections of 1997 and 2001 when the House of Commons offices are closed and the parliamentary facilities are not available. Iain's Constituency Secretary and I worked in this Fulham office in 1997 and Annabelle Eyre and I worked in this office during the General Election in 2001.

42.  From 1997 I had been coming into the office almost every day at Westminster from our Fulham home, arriving by 10 am after having taken our children to school and leaving at 3 pm to collect them. Sometimes however I would work in the office from our Fulham home. The Fulham office was fully equipped. I did not keep a filing system at home but I had a list of ministers and contacts for constituency matters. Some files were kept at home but only on a temporary basis while Iain and I were working on them, otherwise they were kept in the Westminster Office.

43.  In August 2001 Iain and I moved from our Fulham home to Swanbourne near Milton Keynes. This move had been planned the year before. During the time I had worked in Iain's office we had observed that many MPs' secretaries fulfilled an effective and efficient role without having to be based in a Westminster Office. Iain and I had planned that I would continue to work for him for the most part running his office from Swanbourne.

44.  We brought the office equipment and office furniture that we had had in our Fulham Office with us. I found that it was difficult for me to continue working in Westminster when we moved to Swanbourne which, after dropping my daughter at school, was a two hour trip to Westminster and a two hour return trip to pick her up from school at 3.45. I did try to come into the office for the first two or three months but found that the travelling took too much time and it was more productive for me to work at home using the office facilities at Swanbourne.

45.  During the week I lived in Swanbourne with my youngest daughter. In the parliamentary session Iain stayed in London coming home to Swanbourne when he could. I took my daughter to her day school and used to fit my work around her school day. My other children are currently attending boarding schools.

46.  Our house in Swanbourne had an office with a separate telephone line when we moved in. This office was used on a regular basis by my brother up to the date that my family moved in. It was not the Estate Office which is at the other end of the village attached to the farm but an office used by my brother to work from Swanbourne. For ease of explanation I will call this Office 1. We had a separate telephone line in Office 1 (the telephone number ending ***) from which we ran the computer whilst using the home line (telephone number ending ***) for telephone calls and faxes. We moved our office equipment and office furniture from our Fulham house into Office 1 so that I could continue working from home. This equipment consisted of a modern computer and printer, a fax machine and a photocopier. We had brought with us a large supply of office paper and envelopes for use in the office which was topped up every few months with supplies of stationery sent down to us by Annabelle or Christine. I also moved my desk, office cupboards and filing cabinets to Office 1 in Swanbourne.

47.  Iain decided very shortly after he was elected Leader of the Opposition that it would be useful to expand the existing office facilities at Swanbourne. We planned to increase the size of the layout and capacity of Office 1 by making more efficient use of room space by levelling the floor instead of having the room divided in two by two steps. For ease of reference I will refer to the expanded office as Office 3. It was Iain's plan that the Office 3 facilities would be used by members of his staff when they came to work Swanbourne during the summer recess or during election periods. At the same time as we were making those changes to Office 1 we decided to rewire and renew the heating system in that part of the house. The building work was supervised by the Estates Manager and paid for by the Estate. I was not involved in any of the work. Mark MacGregor saw the building work at Swanbourne when he came to visit Iain in August 2002.

48.  Whilst the work was being carried out on Office 3 we set up my office in another room (Office 2) in a separate part of the house. I started to work in Office 2 in November 2001. On 30 October 2001 BT installed an ISDN line to Office 2. The ISDN line had three separate telephone lines in it: one for the computer, one for the fax machine and one for the telephone (these are the telephone numbers ending ***, *** and ***). The bills for this line went straight to CCO and were paid directly by them. CCO supported the office in Swanbourne and we installed another computer, printer and fax/copier machine from CCO to upgrade the existing facilities. Dani Strydom, (an employee of CCO) came to Swanbourne on a number of occasions to support the running of this equipment. I also had the use of the home telephone line in that office (telephone number ending 546) which I often made and took work related calls on.

49.  * * *

50.  The facilities in Office 2 were very good. Annabelle Eyre used them when she came to Swanbourne during the summer recess 2002 to go through correspondence and diary matters with Iain and me. Annabel Tuck, Iain's press officer also used the facilities in Office 2 when she worked at Swanbourne. Sometime during the early part of 2002 Iain got a Broadcast Unit so that he could do radio interviews from the office using the ISDN line in digital quality.

51.  Iain often arranged to meet people at Swanbourne, including some members of his Shadow Cabinet, (David Davies, Michael Howard, Michael Ancram, David MacLean and Oliver Letwin), some journalists and some of his press team as well. I remember policy meetings taking place at Swanbourne between Dominic Cummings and Rick Nye. Annabelle Eyre used to come down during the recess periods to go through outstanding matters arising in the office. Nick Wood, Mike Penning and Annabel Tuck were regular visitors. Besides setting up TV interviews and dealing with media requests from Swanbourne they frequently held meetings with Iain at Swanbourne.

52.  The alterations to Office 3 and that section of the house were completed by the end of December 2002. BT transferred the existing ISDN lines from Office 2 to Office 3 and installed additional new lines on 15th and 16th January 2003, using the CCO job number. We then moved the equipment from Office 2 into Office 3.

The Reorganisations of the office

53.  In February 2002 Rikki Radford was employed as the Constituency Agent for Chingford. Before then *** was the Secretary based in the constituency. She set up the constituency surgeries for Iain, firstly with Annabelle Eyre prior to September 2001 and then with Christine Watson. I wasn't involved in the Surgery bookings though I was aware of cases once the constituents had been to see Iain during a Surgery as Iain would run me through his follow up notes and we would discuss anything he thought of particular concern or interest. Prior to September 2001 I had put the Conservative Association events within the constituency into Iain's diary, working from the Calendar that *** had drawn up listing the events for the year. Once Christine Watson became Iain's Constituency Secretary she took over that role and we discussed which events Iain should attend. *** still works in the constituency.

54.  Rikki Radford was very proactive. When he first became Iain's agent he spoke to me a lot in order to find out as much as possible about the workings of the constituency. He was able to spend more time planning events than it had been possible to organise before when *** was on her own in the constituency office. He liaised with the local press and he got to know a lot of traders and local business men. He spoke regularly to all the councillors and got involved with many people and many issues within the Constituency. Generally, I worked with Christine and Annabelle on constituency visits but we all had dealings with Rikki Radford. He followed up many constituency issues and he wanted certain visits incorporated into the diary. Coralie Buckmaster, who became Association Chairman in March, called me from time to time, and I her, checking on the events to be organised in the constituency. Iain is a conscientious MP. Before he was elected Leader he would aim to be in his constituency every week, and often during the week. Although it got more difficult to do this when he became Leader he insisted on getting to his constituency regularly.

55.  Checking through the diary I list the engagements that Iain undertook in the Constituency from shortly after Rikki Radford was appointed until December 2002. I do not include the Constituency Association engagements. I do not remember Vanessa Gearson having any involvement in organising these events.

·  Visit Highams Park re Signal Box Meeting; Return to House of Commons for meeting with Laura Noel, Chief Executive of the Redbridge and Waltham Forest Health Authority.

·  Visit Chingford Foundation School; Lunch with editors of local newspapers (I wasn't involved with this as I have never had anything to do with the Constituency Press); Visit to Chingford Police Station for opening of new cells and visit to detention wing; Surgery.

·  Lunch with Woodford Rugby Club.

·  Visit to St Mary's School; Visit to Chingford Junior School; Surgery.

·  Selwyn Infants School to visit House of Commons

·  Visit to Albert Crescent—Iain met 40 residents from the Churchill Terrace Estate; Pub lunch at Travellers Friend in Woodford Green to meet victims of crime; Visit to Woodford and Wanstead Police Station.

·  Visit to Woodford County High School; Photoshoot with Chapel End Players.

·  Visit to Whipps Cross Hospital to meet Chief Executive (Peter Coles). This involved touring the SPBU (special care baby unit), the Magnolia Ward (maternity ward), the Planetree Centre (to meet the anaesthetists), the Elizabeth Ward (coronary care), Bryon Cardiac Centre.

·  Chapel End Players performance of 'The Gondoliers'.

·  Surgery; Chingford Hall School (Tour and Golden Jubilee Lunch); Meeting with Local Medical Committee (GPs); Volunteer in Cancer Research UK Shop in South Woodford.

·  Photo call at Tiny Tots Nursery re successful planning application; Visit Waltham Forest Magistrates Court and Witness Service; Visit Joseph Clarke School to present cheque and certificate for London Electricity School Grounds award—lunch cooked by students; Visit Churchfields Infants School re Book Week; Surgery.

·  Interview with Simon Heffer of the Daily Mail at 5 Chingford Avenue; Chingford Village Festival

·  Visit to Whitefield's School; Visit to George Lane, South Woodford re CCTV

·  Heathcote School to visit House of Commons

·  Visit Whipps Cross Hospital to meet Paramedics and Ambulance Crew; Visit Wellington Pre-school to present award; Visit to STATIS to meet Rev Ellis; Drop in on New Road Sports Centre; Surgery.

·  Visit Ilford Police Station.

·  Haven House Open Day.

·  Service and Reception to celebrate Centenary of Waltham Forest Hebrew Congregation.

·  Battle of Britain Commemoration Service at St Peter & St Paul' Church.

·  Visit George Monoux College; Larkswood Infant School; Visit Enterprise House, Surgery; Highams Park School Prize Giving.

·  Meeting with Rev. Ellis at Larkshall Road; Interview with Ilford Recorder; Meeting with Oliver Coleville of Tudor Vale Properties; Surgery.

·  Address Pensioners Rally (Redbridge Forum for the Elderly).

·  Remembrance Service, Woodford; Reception St Mary's Church Hall; Christmas Bazaar.

·  Visit Joseph Clarke School (£5,000 donation from Abbey National); Visit Honey Lane Nursing Home; Lunch at Palm Nursing Home; Surgery.

·  Surgery.

·  Meet Christmas Card Winners at HoC.

·  Visit Soup Kitchen for Homeless.

·  Visit Chingford Post Office; Hawkswood School; Chingford Police Station, Whipps Cross Hospital; Surgery.

56.  During Summer 2002 there were more organisational changes in Iain's office. Andrew Whitby-Collins left having announced his departure in July. Iain and I discussed Andrew's replacement. Iain wanted to employ *** who had worked for previous Chief Whips but who had stepped down from that role after the General Election to get married. She met Iain at Westminster and discussed the matter with him but declined at the beginning of September as she didn't want to work the number of hours that would be necessary. Shortly after that Iain interviewed Paula Malone for the post of Diary Secretary and decided to employ her. Annabelle Eyre was appointed Head of Planning and Tours. Christine Watson became Private Secretary. Cara Walker was brought in to be trained up by Christine Watson to do the job of Constituency Secretary and Christine Watson appointed Tom Hooper to support Cara Walker. This was a time of great pressure for the whole of the Leader's Office. Although initially Iain intended that these changes would result in my role being phased out he told me that in the interim he wanted me to continue to work to help until he was certain I would no longer be required, which we both felt would be soon.

57.  Sebastian Coe had advised Iain that William Hague had had a full time organiser for his tours and Iain had realised that one of the reasons there was such pressure on the office was the need to organise tours more efficiently. Up until that summer these tours had been organised by a number of people within Central Office and the ACDs in the constituencies. The result had been that the organisation was patchy. This caused a lot of pressure because there were a lot of last minute changes and re-organising. This in turn put pressure on me to make sure other matters were followed up properly while these issues were resolved. As a result Iain decided to appoint Annabelle Eyre to oversee the tours and make sure the organisation of the tours improved. She left her post to take up this new role and Iain asked Christine Watson to become his Private Secretary. Annabelle Eyre's involvement in planning and running the tours made a huge difference to the smooth running of the Leader's Office.

58.  I continued to work with Annabelle when she was appointed Head of Planning and Tours. Before Sept 2001 we had worked together to make Iain's visits to the constituency and his tours as efficient as possible. Annabelle drew on this previous experience, setting up visits to police stations, drug rehabilitation centres, prisoner re-offending organisations, mental health charities, rural crime prevention organisations, voluntary organisations, to list but a few. The tours soon became very effective means for Iain to meet many people across the country whose ideas Iain used in formulating policy, whilst also meeting party workers in the associations. Iain would ask me to speak to Annabelle about these visits and ensure that the places she arranged for him to visit were in line with his strategy.

Last months of my employment

59.  September was a busy month for Iain. It was spent doing all the normal parliamentary work but in addition he spent some time preparing for the party conference in October, particularly working on his speech and preparing for the Shadow Cabinet Away Day in Newbury. He was based at home and I assisted him throughout this period as was required—a lot of correspondence and work was sent down from the office and Iain also held a number of meetings at Swanbourne during this time.

60.  Immediately after the Party Conference in October 2002 Iain embarked on a three week tour which lasted until early November. This resulted in an enormous amount of work for his office who had to continue all their normal tasks. Iain was not in Westminster very much during this period, except on Wednesdays when he returned for PMQs, and he did most of his work during weekends and in the evenings with my assistance.

61.  Mark MacGregor states that he was responsible for these tours and I had no involvement. I believe he was responsible for putting a team together but I had many discussions with Annabelle Eyre, who was part of that team, about the content and workings of the tours which were of particular interest to Iain as they involved visits to vulnerable areas and were about seeing organisations that offered real solutions to some of the problems encountered. He visited the Eden Project in Manchester which was a run down estate that had been rejuvenated by a group of Christians; he visited Small Heath School in Birmingham; he visited Barry Comprehensive School and Care for the Family in Cardiff; he visited Bishop Bell School and Hazel Court School in Birmingham and then set off for Northern Ireland for the UUP Conference. The following week he visited DARE (a drugs prevention organisation) in Nottingham; he visited a Young Offenders Institute in Warrington, and a Marie Curie Hospice and Dixons Community College in Bradford; he visited an Asian Family Network Centre in Leicester and a rural crime prevention organisation 'Farm Watch' in Northamptonshire; on the Saturday he went to a Pensioners Rally in his constituency. The final week of the tour he visited CFAR (a centre for adolescent rehabilitation) in Exeter; he went to Oxford and visited a Police Station embarking on a restorative Justice Programme and an organisation dealing with youth offenders in Oxford; he then went to Scotland where he met the Gallowgate Family Support Group in Glasgow and Bfriends, an organisation offering mentoring to vulnerable young children in Edinburgh. His last visit was the following Thursday when he went to Birmingham to visit the Conductive Education Centre and the Acorn Children's Hospice.

62.  In October shortly after Conference I spoke to Christine Watson about transferring my files up to Iain's office as I was planning to cease my employment and I thought it best to keep all my correspondence in Iain's office. I sent it to Christine with instructions for her to throw away anything that she thought was no longer necessary to keep. At the same time we spoke about how I would like to sign correspondence written on my behalf as wife of Leader of the Opposition. We agreed that this correspondence would be dealt with and filed in the House of Commons office. I also sent up the last of Iain's papers. There was very little paperwork as most papers, etc., were forwarded straight to his office in Westminster. I sent what little there was with a note for Christine to file if it wasn't duplicated in the office or 'bin' if she didn't feel it was worth keeping. I also sent up several files that I still had in the office with miscellaneous information and letters. I don't know if Christine Watson kept this material—I left it to her discretion. I shredded all confidential correspondence.

63.  After Conference from the middle of October I was unwell with a virus for a couple of weeks. I was still running a temperature when I attended the Blue Ribbon Dinner and visited Oxford with Iain at the end of October. Annabelle, who had been away in September due to her father's illness, spent October on Tour with Iain as well as trying to get home to support her mother through her father's illness. During this period Christine was trying to get on top of her new role as Private Secretary while at the same time training Cara to become Constituency Secretary and re-organising the Leader's Office according to her exacting standards. I remained in contact with Christine throughout this period.

64.  Iain's tour around the country was mainly to visit regeneration schemes, to visit and speak to people. On the whole these were not party political visits but were opportunities for Iain to listen to the representatives of voluntary groups such as the Eden Project in Manchester and CFAR in Exeter and to be shown what the organisations were doing. My work continued whilst Iain was on tour. I had not planned to tour with him but went to Oxford on 31st October and to Birmingham on 7th November to visit the Conductive Education Centre. He continued to use me to progress chase in the office. For instance Iain would tell me about the people that he met and any meetings he wanted to arrange between such individuals and his colleagues. He would also ask me to follow up the tours with letters thanking the people he had met for their time and hospitality. I would arrange the letters with Annabelle and Iain would then be sent the letters to sign and send out.

65.  By the middle of November it was clear that the new office arrangements would work out and that it would no longer be necessary for me to work for Iain. By that time Christine Watson was on top of her job and it was clear that she would be able to run the office from Westminster. Cara Walker was becoming established as Constituency Secretary. Paula Malone was on top of the diary arrangements. Iain wanted me to stay on to be available until the end of the year to help him with his work during the busy period.

66.  December was always a busy period for Iain, in addition to his normal work, there were special events that he had to attend, visits that he like to make in the constituency, ie, the Post Office and the Hospital, and the Christmas Cards had to be printed, signed off and sent. In November we agreed to end my employment as we had discussed in the previous months and it came to a close at the end of December.

67.  I worked on the Christmas card list in the Winter of 2002. This is just one example of the type of work which was part and parcel of the general work for the Leader's Office and was, for the reasons explained below, considerably time consuming. The 2001 Christmas card list had been hurriedly put together as Iain had only recently been elected Leader and Christine and I wanted to make sure it was as comprehensive as possible. As Leader Iain sent out about three thousand Christmas cards. This involved a lot of work checking the accuracy of the lists, removing duplications and checking that addresses were up to date. The Christmas cards are split into separate categories: political, business, media, Conservative Central Office, voluntary groups, personal, treasurers, miscellaneous organisations, amongst others. I would check through the list manually and then the changes were incorporated onto the computer records. The Christmas cards are prepared in batches for Iain to sign and Christine and I started the process in the middle of November.

68.  Iain decided that we should have a Christmas card competition to select the constituency card design in 2002. I organised this with Christine Watson. Iain sent out a letter asking each of the schools to send in entries which I helped to judge with Christine and Iain. The winning card was printed as the Constituency Christmas card and the winner and runners-up were invited to the House of Commons with their parents for a tea party with Iain.

69.  My employment ended on 31 December 2002. As a result of the changes Iain was satisfied that the issues I had been covering had been sorted out, particularly by Christine Watson and her re-organising of the Box. Annabelle Eyre's new role took a lot of pressure off the office. As the office became more established and organised it became easier for Iain's closest staff to see him in the office as opposed to waiting for him to deal with the matters at home with me.

70.  The termination of my employment had nothing to do with the publicity about Michael Trend's use of his parliamentary allowances. Iain and I had intended for me to cease work after he was elected Leader of the Opposition. I had stayed on longer than we had originally intended simply because, as a result of Jenny Ungless's departure and the reorganisation of Iain's office it was necessary for the office to settle in again. Once the new arrangements were working I ceased work so that I would have more time to spend touring with him in preparation for the local elections in May 2003.

Wife of the Leader of the Opposition

71.  I assumed additional commitments as wife of the Leader of the Opposition for which I was not paid. I did not however want my youngest child to miss out as a result of my being constantly away from home and as a result I restricted the number of engagements that I attended. As a general guide I usually attended about one dinner or formal occasion a week. There was increasing pressure for me to get involved in tours of the country with Iain, especially in the run up to the local elections in May 2003, which is another contributory factor to the reason I wanted to cease to be employed at the end of 2002. I did a considerable number of tours with Iain between January 2003 and 1st May 2003, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was good for us to be together after so much separation during the previous 15 months, though I tried to get back to Swanbourne as often as possible so that my daughter had a proper home routine.

72.  * * *

Family commitments

73.  Finally, there have been some comments in the evidence provided by other people that my only involvement with Iain's diary during this period involved family engagements. I have always recorded the children's school commitments in Iain's diary, as well as the children's birthdays, in my role as Iain's wife. This was simply a matter of asking Andrew or Christine or Paula to put these entries into Iain's diary. I make no apology for this, as they took very little time. Iain always told his staff that these dates were important and they should avoid double-bookings. It merely involved blocking off a certain amount of time for personal engagements. This was quite frequently done quite some time in advance on the basis of term cards which gave the dates of events that would probably involve the children. It was important for him and for those making arrangements for Iain to know about them in order to keep some time free for his family. It is still a function that I perform today. I do not and have never regarded myself as being paid for this work.

Section 2

Working Contacts and Relationships

74.  I had direct contact with a limited number of people who were appointed in Iain's outer office. This was connected with the nature of my work. I was not involved in advising Iain on policy decisions or dealing with other politicians, other than taking messages for Iain. I assisted Iain and those working in his office by making sure that letters were signed, questions were answered, plans made for his future visits and matters he had to attend to in his parliamentary duties were dealt with.

75.  Following Iain's election as Leader of the Opposition I worked with the people appointed in Iain's outer office. Andrew Whitby-Collins was appointed as Iain's Diary Secretary. Annabelle Eyre continued as Private Secretary with responsibilities for both constituency work and the additional work involved with Iain's new role as the Leader of the Opposition. It was clear very soon after Iain's election that he would need some extra assistance in Westminster. In October 2001 Iain appointed Christine Watson as Constituency Secretary. I did not interview Christine Watson but I did check her references and discussed her appointment with Annabelle. I worked almost exclusively with Iain, Annabelle Eyre, Andrew Whitby-Collins and increasingly with Christine Watson. We worked together as a team. Although Andrew and Annabelle were given titles to reflect their main areas of responsibility if necessary they worked interchangeably.

76.  I don't remember meeting Belinda McCammon in the Leader's office though I did meet her at our Fulham home during the Leadership Election, when I understand she had been one of three press officers on the campaign and had been paid for her work. However, I understand that once Iain became Leader Nick Wood took over all responsibility for the Press Office and she was not required in that role any longer. She was taken on with a temporary contract to do general work as required in the outer office until a re-organisation was initiated. Jenny Ungless, in discussion with Iain, decided to end her temporary employment and she left at the end of January 2002.

77.  Having worked with Iain for nearly ten years I had the longest experience working in his parliamentary office. In addition to the other tasks that I undertook those working in the outer office consulted me as they established themselves in their new roles.

Contact with people and organisations within the constituency

78.  In his statement Michael Crick produces a list which indicates that the organisations he contacted had no dealings with me but before September 2001 I did indeed have direct dealings with most of those organisations—I was in contact with all the schools in the constituency, including the three special need schools, (Joseph Clarke School, Hawkswood School and Whitefield's School—* * *), Waltham Forest College and Sir George Monoux College, Chingford Police Station, Haven House Hospice, Whipps Cross Hospital, Enterprise House Community Association (wardened housing for the elderly) and Redbridge and Waltham Forest Health Authority as Iain endeavoured to visit all the constituency doctors' practices. Churches together in North Chingford had an annual service and I liaised with them each year either accepting their invitation for Iain or refusing if Iain had prior commitments. The visit to the Imperial War Museum, which I mention simply because Mr Crick has raised it, was not a constituency event, but nonetheless an event I was involved in discussions with Annabelle Eyre and Andrew Whitby-Collins as they sought my advice whether Iain would be interested in attending the book launch and the arrangements concerning it.

79.  I never had a lot of interaction with the councillors during the time I worked with Iain. Annabelle tended to have dealings with them, due to the nature of the casework, when she sometimes had to contact them to seek their advice on constituency matters or arrange lobby groups or arrange publicity to highlight a concern. I did though deal with Geoffrey Walker, when Iain requested me to contact him to stand in for him at an event he was unable to get to. Likewise I sometimes spoke to ***, who was President of the Association and a Councillor for Chingford Green. * * * I sometimes spoke to John Gover on constituency matters and during the summer of 2001 just before the Election I arranged for his son to work in the Westminster office to get some work experience. Leslie Finlayson an active councillor sometimes contacted me about constituency matters if she wanted to get messages directly through to Iain or spoke to me when I was in the constituency. I had first got to know her before 2001 when in her capacity as Councillor for Hale End Ward she had campaigned against an unpopular housing development. If Mr Crick and his reporters had asked the Councillors they spoke to and lied to about the nature of their questions in an honest and up front way, I would have expected this to be clear.

80.  Even when I was working in the Westminster office before Iain was elected Leader I never produced much correspondence myself and rarely did so under my own name. Most of the work was done over the telephone as I had an organisational role although occasionally I would write a letter confirming arrangements or type a formal reply to an invitation. When contacting organisations I generally went by the title of Diary Secretary. I thought this was a more professional arrangement. However, if I was attending an event with Iain and the children I would generally identify myself as Iain's wife, for the purpose of arranging arrival times and reserving tickets for an event. In this context Chapel End Players, Chingford Festival and the local Scouts Organisation would probably remember my dealings with them. I attach two letters from people who have contacted the Chingford Association Office having read some of the allegations in the newspapers who can verify these arrangements.[11] They have written in support as they felt Iain and I had received unfair treatment from the Press. I am grateful to them for coming forward in this manner.

81.  Having set out above some details of the work I was involved in and the people I dealt with, I will now go on to deal further below with why the criticisms and allegations made concerning my work and employment by Iain are misconceived.

Enquiries about my employment in Iain's office

82.  No-one asked me about my employment in Iain's office between September 2001 and December 2002. Iain mentioned to me at the time that it was sent that Vanessa Gearson had sent an e-mail which referred to my employment in January 2003 to a number of people in Conservative Central Office. He could not understand why she had sent it as she had not spoken to him about any concerns that she may have had. I find her version of events following the email of 30 January 2003 incredible because Iain is not someone who loses his temper or shouts when things go wrong. He rightly demands efficiency but he doesn't believe it is productive to shout at his staff.

83.  A number of comments have been made by Michael Crick and Vanessa Gearson suggesting that I should have done some of these tasks because I am Iain's wife and it was wrong that I should be paid for them. I resent the patronising attitude concerning my 'duties as a wife'. In my view, the usual "duties" of a wife do not extend to spending many hours sorting out a spouse's work-related correspondence at weekends and midnight, organising his diary, generally maintaining a close working relationship with his office and assisting on work-related matters as required. This attitude also overlooks the fact that a large number of MPs on both side of the political divide do employ their spouses in connection with their work as MPs. Despite the fact I am a professionally qualified and experienced PA it is implied that I should have worked for my husband for no payment. It was nevertheless the case that as his wife, I could provide him with assistance at, what would have been regarded unsocial hours for any other employee, and I did work for as long as was necessary without regard to how many hours over those I was contracted to do. In working for Iain I was not employed elsewhere, even though other employment would probably have been better remunerated considering my experience and qualifications.

84.  When referring to my employment some people have cast doubt about the extent of the work that I did in the office at home. It is however my experience that the time I spent working at home was more productive than that I spent in London as there were fewer distractions and it was much less frenzied and of course saved on the travel time. I was more able to concentrate on tasks and read documents than I had in the office in Westminster. I had previously experienced working in a home office when I worked for Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. Because someone checks into their office at a set time and leaves at a set time they are assumed to have worked throughout. Because I worked from home the opposite has been assumed by some who have made these assertions.

Section 3

Response to the statements and transcripts produced by other people

85.  In the next few paragraphs I will respond to allegations made by a number of people in the evidence that they have presented to the Parliamentary Commissioner.

86.  Shortly after he was elected Leader Iain appointed a new Chief of Staff in his office, Jenny Ungless. It was however clear to Iain from an early stage that she wasn't developing into the job as she seemed unable to master the political side. As I stated above the Box was not well organised as there was no overall organisation of the material. Annabelle and Andrew didn't find her easy to work with. I was aware relationships between her and the outer office were deteriorating which resulted in greater pressures on my role in order to pick up issues that should otherwise have been organised from Iain's inner office.

87.  Mark MacGregor was the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party. I didn't have any dealings with him and would not have expected to do so. I do recall meeting him on 27th August 2002 however when he visited our home in Swanbourne and remember interrupting his meeting with Iain with a call from the Westminster office that needed Iain's urgent attention. He knew I worked for Iain and had an office at Swanbourne. Iain showed him the work that we were having done on Office 3 so that we would be able to accommodate a team of people in the run up to the local elections or a General Election. Like others who were aware of our plans, I understood he thought it would be useful. He shows a huge lack of knowledge in his spoken statement when he says 'the only comments I can ever recall being made were about whether a particular event was appropriate for Betsy to attend and or, less frequently, whether it was appropriate for her children to attend, and someone would have contacted her.' From the start of Iain's leadership Iain made it clear to his Leader's office staff that the children were not going to be used to promote his image through photographs or publicity events.

88.  Vanessa Gearson was appointed as Administrative Head of the Office in the Autumn of 2002. She knew I was working for Iain and she could have raised any queries she had regarding my employment with Iain, myself or any of the people I had worked or was working with.

89.  I do remember saying to Iain that I thought her response to his job offer to her when he phoned her from our family holiday in Italy was extraordinary. I heard the conversation in which she basically said 'What happens if you're not Leader, who will I report to?' Iain was quite taken aback. When Owen spoke to him later he said that Vanessa Gearson had spoken to him and had apologised as she realised after the conversation she had said some rather silly things. Iain was reassured but I have to say we both thought her reaction to the job offer was rather odd.

90.  I had a lot of contact with Annabelle Eyre and so I was aware that Vanessa Gearson had upset Annabelle. Before Vanessa Gearson started to work in the Leader's office she had become very friendly with Annabelle but immediately after she was appointed Vanessa Gearson's attitude towards Annabelle changed. Annabelle was upset about this.

91.  I can only remember one occasion when I spoke to Vanessa Gearson on the phone. I think it was shortly after Conservative Party Conference in October 2002. It was after Iain and I had met ***, environmentalist, who wanted to get involved with the environment debate. Iain asked me to ring Vanessa Gearson to put *** in touch with the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment. She didn't seem particularly interested and I didn't get the impression that she was going to follow up my request even though I told her Iain had asked me to speak to her about this. * * * He is a well-known environmentalist and had expressed an interest in contributing to the environmental debate. I didn't chase her about this as I felt uncomfortable about doing so.

92.  On 30th October Vanessa Gearson accompanied Iain and me to the Blue Ribbon Dinner. On the way to the dinner I remember running through a check list of issues and some paperwork I had in a plastic file with Iain. One of the issues I raised was a request Iain had had to visit Ashmead School with myself. I raised this with Iain and he asked Vanessa Gearson to work this visit into his diary. She said she would but she never contacted me for details or followed this up and I got the impression she was uninterested in working with me. Instead I asked Annabelle Eyre to include this visit in the tour programme as it was easier to work with her. On both these occasions Vanessa Gearson was less than forthcoming and as a result of these two conversations I dealt with Annabelle and Christine rather than Vanessa Gearson. It is worth pointing out at this stage that if Vanessa Gearson had any concerns about the nature of my work she could have spoken to Iain and myself during that car journey. It must have been obvious to her what sort of work I was doing for Iain. Instead she sat quietly in the front seat of the car.

93.  The only other time Iain mentioned Vanessa Gearson in relation to me was after the Conference of October 2002 when on one of the Wednesdays when he was in London during his Post Conference Tour Programme she had gone into his office to say was unhappy with my outfits. Apparently she didn't think the handling of my clothes for Conference was well organised and thought Annabelle Eyre was the wrong person to help me. Iain told her that I was happy with my clothing arrangements and didn't see any need to make any changes in that area. I was surprised that she had been to see Iain on this matter of my clothes as it had nothing to do with her and I was not aware of any problems.

94.  Vanessa Gearson claims that she did not overhear conversations between me and Christine and assumes that as a result I was doing no work. As I have said most of my conversations with Christine were in the evenings when, I understand, Vanessa Gearson was not in the office. Before the end of 2002 I remember going through work related correspondence with Christine in the Leader's Office before accompanying Iain to various events. Vanessa Gearson was never in the office at that time. I understand she used to leave the office at 6pm. Considering the office moves, the move between CCO and the House of Commons on weekdays, her attendance of meetings and her absence from the office due to her father's illness and the length of her normal working day Vanessa Gearson cannot have had much opportunity to overhear conversations I had with Christine about work before I ceased work in December 2002—part of the overlap period with Vanessa Gearson would have encompassed the Christmas recess. By 2003, of course, our conversations would have related to functions I was attending as wife of the Leader of the Opposition rather than work which I had been doing before then. Since ceasing to work for Iain I don't recall meeting Vanessa Gearson in the Leader's Office in the House of Commons when I have visited Iain's office. Prior to ceasing work I do remember meeting her once in Conservative Central Office when I was in London for a daytime engagement and I remember meeting her at the Party Conference of that year when I congratulated her on becoming the PPC at Cheltenham. I do not recall meeting her on any occasion other than those I have mentioned. Our 'hallos' have always been civil and I had no reason to believe she bore me such ill will.

95.  Vanessa Gearson states that she used to answer Christine Watson's calls when Christine was out of the office. I never remember her answering Christine's phone—most of my telephone conversations with Christine tended to be outside in regular working hours but whenever I did ring Christine's phone at the office she always answered it as she rarely left her desk.

96.  In her testimony Vanessa Gearson refers to Swanbourne as being dilapidated but she has never visited the house. She did not seem to realise that throughout the period that Iain was Leader a number of people came for meetings at Swanbourne and some stayed the night, that would not have been possible if the house had been in the state she claimed. The house at its heart is Elizabethan with Georgian additions. Before Iain and I moved in it was being occupied by my parents and my brother. We moved in in August 2001. We did not move out of the house to the flat until March 2003 to allow work to be done to the older section of the house. By that time I had ceased work and even during that time Office 3 was used by Iain and myself. Vanessa Gearson refers to the state of the telephones in the house. New phone lines had been installed on 6th August 2001 before Iain became Leader. The office line was a modern line and had been established for as long as I can remember.

97.  Vanessa Gearson also refers to the use of my mobile telephone. The bills on this were very small as it was only used when I was joining Iain at a function, simply as a means of contact so that the office could call me if Iain's arrangements were altered in any way or I could contact the office if I was held up in traffic and needed to re-arrange our schedule. Iain occasionally used the phone as a back-up if he had left his mobile phone in London or if the batteries on his mobile phone were running low. As Vanessa Gearson said, the bills, as a result of this, were very low and were covered by CCO. I was not aware at the time that she questioned my use of the mobile. She says ' she claimed [referring to me] that the telephone was primarily used by Mr Duncan Smith.' I never claimed anything—I was never asked or questioned about my use of this mobile phone. The only conversation I can recall having about the mobile phone was with Christine Watson around midsummer this year when Iain upgraded his mobile phone and she asked me whether I wanted to upgrade my phone as well. I explained to her that this was not necessary as I only ever used it to make arrangements to meet Iain at a function or on tour. I also said that it was occasionally used by Iain if he had forgotten his or it was low on battery. Perhaps this is the conversation which Vanessa Gearson is referring to—if so, she will be aware that it took place after my employment ceased.

98.  In her memo to Stanley Kalms in March 2003 Vanessa Gearson raised queries about the invoice for the installation of 13 BT telephone lines. She states he requested this memo but I note the memo doesn't start 'As requested.' In addition, I often met Stanley and he never raised the matter with me or mentioned it as a problem, neither did he raise it with Iain at their weekly meetings. It is unfortunate that Vanessa Gearson did not raise these concerns with me. Completely independently in February 2003 I became concerned that something was wrong with the billing and the number of telephone lines to Swanbourne. I passed the bills for these lines directly to Conservative Central Office, however I became aware that the bills did not appear to reflect the numbers on the sockets and sent a memo to Christine Watson to this effect. It has since transpired that BT had installed and billed us for three more lines than the 10 we requested and BT has recently refunded these extra payments. These 10 lines would have enabled three people to work from Swanbourne. I am surprised that Vanessa Gearson did not speak to Iain, myself or Christine Watson, to whom I forwarded the telephone bills for passing on to CCO for payment rather than raising it with Sir Stanley Kalms, if she had done so the fault might have been corrected earlier. Office 3 was completed in December 2002 but Office 2 had been in fully functioning order at Swanbourne over a year before.

Supporting documentary evidence

99.  It has been almost a year since I stopped working for Iain and over two years since I started working for him as Leader of the Opposition and it has been difficult to piece together the work that I did for him at the time. Had I been asked at the time about my work then I would have retained more than I have now. I have constructed this account of my work from my recollection and Iain's diary. I kept few documents: simply because it was the nature of the work that I made sure documents were sent out and approved and diary appointments checked. At the time I thought it unnecessary to keep notes to this effect. I had no idea my work would be questioned. In this sort of political work documents tend to be disposed of when they are no longer needed. The work is done when it has to be done. I do not keep records of time spent in the way a lawyer or accountant might. It never occurred to me it might be necessary to do so.

100.  I will show the Parliamentary Commissioner when he visits Swanbourne sample telephone bills and will explain what telephone lines were used for what purpose.

101.  When we first moved to Swanbourne I did most of my work over the telephone or by communicating with the Westminster office by fax. In November 2001 I opened an e-mail account with Yahoo. I tended to delete emails as I dealt with the issues contained in them. In May 2002 I opened an e-mail account with British Telecom and that is the account that I use today. In the middle of this year however I started to experience some difficulty using the e-mail account. I kept receiving warnings that my e-mail account was full. I therefore deleted all the e-mails on my account up to September 2002 to clear space. At that time as I had finished work I did not think that I would need to retain copies of the material. At the start of this Inquiry I had trouble printing documents off my computer. I contacted Home Technologies who discovered I had a series of viruses which they were able to eradicate talking me through the eradication process over the phone. At that time I asked if it were possible to recover e-mails that had been deleted and was told if I had deleted them twice (ie by confirming when prompted that I wanted to delete them) I wouldn't be able to retrieve them. Subsequently, Rikki Radford told me he knew of a man called Tim Wilkinson who had managed to recover some of his documents from the hard drive of his computer. Tim Wilkinson came to Swanbourne on 11 November to see if he could help me. Unfortunately, it appears that due to the viruses the hard drive has become corrupted so though I retrieved some very old files his search was not very successful. I attach a copy of a fax dated 4 December from Mr Wilkinson confirming that most of the e-mails and documents on the hard drive of the computer were irretrievable.[12] I needed to contact Home Technologies again recently (21st November) as I again had trouble printing documents from the computer. They cleared the several viruses which had struck again, including a particularly bad one, and explained that in order to stop the computer from becoming infected by this severe virus the computer needs to be updated.

102.  I will show the Parliamentary Commissioner when he visits Swanbourne samples of the type of work I did while employed by Iain and of the times at which I did it.

Section 4

Use of MP Salary Allowance

103.  I was never aware of any concern having been expressed about the payment of my salary from the Salary Allowance that Iain receives as an MP. Neither Vanessa Gearson, nor Mark MacGregor raised this matter with me. Had they done so I would have been more than happy to discuss the matter with them. I find it quite extraordinary in light of the way Vanessa Gearson describes her role and her apparent anxiety about the matter that she did not do so. As I was clearly working outside the office, the obvious thing if she did have a genuine concern would have been for her to ask me about my job (as she appears to have done with Christine Watson). I believe the fact that she did not do so speaks for itself.

104.  At the time I did not analyse the work that I did for Iain according to the different roles that he undertook as Leader of Opposition, Constituency MP and Leader of the Conservative Party. The lines between the three roles were blurred and I assisted Iain on those matters on which he required assistance. Looking back however I can say that the majority of my time was spent supporting Iain in his parliamentary rather than his party political role. Whilst I did attend some Conservative Association events as Iain's wife I helped him with his parliamentary work from the office at Swanbourne. Central Office normally dealt with Conservative Association invitations for Iain, obviously, those invitations he accepted were entered into his diary but otherwise I did not have much involvement with them. I rarely attended the events and, if I did, I did not consider it to be part of my employment.

Section 5

Conclusions

105.  For all the reasons I have set out above I invite the Parliamentary Commissioner to accept my account of the work I did while employed by Iain, particularly when it is supported by those who worked with me and who know the true facts. Even those who seek to assert that I did not do the work I was paid for accept that that they do not actually know what the facts of my employment were—a dubious basis on which to found such serious allegations. The fact is that the people making these allegations did not work with me and therefore did not have occasion to witness the work that I did.

106.  I must state that this Inquiry has resulted in a lot of anxiety and distress not only for myself, Iain and those asked to present evidence but also for our family. * * * I feel that this might have been avoidable, as indeed would the trial by media, if more protection had been given to us by the Inquiry itself and the rules governing complaints against MP's had been complied with by our accusers (ie prohibiting disclosure of evidence or the making of statements to the press while the Inquiry is in process). We have been subject to unwarranted intrusion without the protections usually accorded to a court of law. I believe a lot of what was written in the Press was assumption and inaccuracies taken from partial and leaked testimonies which were put by those persons in the Press to do the maximum damage.

107.  I do not believe many offices could have stood up to such close scrutiny as that to which Iain's office has been subjected especially one such as the Leader's Office, where everyone was working under such pressures each day. The work of the office continued during the course of the Inquiry and its staff were expected to respond quickly to allegations made by witnesses who seem to have spent months plotting and taking confidential documents out of the office for use at a later date, despite the tumultuous events taking place around them, the impact on the jobs of some of them, and the fact that Iain was no longer Leader. My husband's staff, who are decent, loyal and hard-working, feel deeply shocked at the turn of events.

108.  I am by nature a private person. As a professional freelance secretary I endeavoured to be an asset to my employers by being efficient and effective and working well with the other staff. I have never made a great show of being an MP's wife or made a big issue of working for my husband. Indeed between 1997 and 2001 many people who were in and out of Iain's office had no idea I was his wife. I have always refused to do profiles and interviews in order to protect the children's and our family life. Although Iain has been in the public eye we have both endeavoured to protect our children from media intrusion. I find the public nature of this Inquiry very distressing.

109.  I appreciate that the motive of those who have made these false allegations is irrelevant and the issue here is what the truth is. However, in view of the fact that I have been very publicly accused of claiming public money to which I was not entitled, and that I have found myself subject through no fault of mine to massive intrusion and personalised media coverage, I feel I must make the following points.

110.  The crucial point is that insofar as they relate to me and my work, the testimony and statements of Mark MacGregor and Vanessa Gearson are hugely inaccurate and misleading. I am sorry to say in addition that from my perspective Vanessa Gearson has spared no effort to be gratuitously offensive to me, as well as to Iain, Christine and Annabelle. She has sought to denigrate my husband's character, as well as my own, and has made unfounded and offensive innuendoes about my relationship with him. A number of her comments are needlessly intrusive, totally irrelevant to this inquiry and very hurtful. I regard it as implausible that Vanessa Gearson is as she claims the victim in this matter. The real victims are those of us who have had to put up with these personal attacks and her smears on our characters, which have been paraded through the Media without any possibility of rebuttal. During this very difficult period for my husband's staff she has made no attempt to contact those with whom she claims to have had such close working relationships to express any form of sympathy. I have been surprised that for someone who aspires to be in public life she has behaved in such an underhand fashion. She presents herself as a woman of conscience but if she had had genuine concerns it seems to me that she would have spoken out at an earlier stage and checked her facts with Iain or myself or spoken to the people I worked directly with. Surely she would have aired her concerns after sending the e-mails of January 2003 if Iain's explanation had not satisfied her? Instead she appears to have been quite happy to continue to work in the Leader's Office for the next six months.

111.  I cannot end this statement without emphasising that the whole process of this Inquiry has been very distressing and damaging not least to those who through no fault of theirs have lost their jobs. While clearly this is not the place for discussing in any detail the politics that underlie the complainants' actions it is clearly relevant to look at their motivation (in order to further their own personal political agenda) of changing the Leader of the Conservative Party, who was after all the first Conservative Leader elected by the membership of the Conservative Party. For the reasons I have set out above, I do not consider that all of those who have instigated these allegations have necessarily done so in good faith.

112.  We have been overwhelmed by the many letters of support we have received from the public (from people of differing political persuasions) expressing their sense of injustice at the events of the last couple of months.

113.  I would like to finish by saying that I believe I played a vital part in helping to organise my husband's busy life in bringing my expertise and previous experience to help in running his office and ensure a smooth transition following his election as Leader of the Conservative Party.

5 December 2003


10   See PCS Written Submission 12. Back

11   Not appended by the Commissioner. Back

12   Not appended by the Commissioner.  Back


 
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