6. Written statement by Mrs Elizabeth
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
Section 3: My response
to the case against me.
Section 4: Use of MP salary
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), BurtonsHead 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.
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
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
17. I have set out below details of the particular
type of work I was involved in while employed by Iain.
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.
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.
to Whipps Cross Hospital; Visit to Haven House; Surgery.
to Rushcroft School; Surgery.
to Chingford Police Station; Visit to Haven House; Visit to Heathcote
to Carnarvon Road re mobile phone mast; Surgery.
St Anthony's RC Primary School; Visit St Anne's Church Community
Centre (Statis Training Garden).
at Normanhurst School.
to Selwyn Infants School; Visit to Chingford C of E Infants School;
Visit to Haven House.
to Chingford Delivery Office and Post Office; Visit to Hale End
Post Office; Visit to Woodford Green Post Office; Surgery.
Whipps Cross Hospital; Visit Redbridge Police Station to meet
Chief Superintendent Kynnersley
Chingford Bowling Club; Oakhill Junior School for school dinner;
Councillor Jim O'Shea at Broadway Music and Vision re CCTV; Surgery
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
with Woodford Rugby Club.
to St Mary's School; Visit to Chingford Junior School; Surgery.
Infants School to visit House of Commons
to Albert CrescentIain 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
to Woodford County High School; Photoshoot with Chapel End Players.
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.
End Players performance of 'The Gondoliers'.
Chingford Hall School (Tour and Golden Jubilee Lunch); Meeting
with Local Medical Committee (GPs); Volunteer in Cancer Research
UK Shop in South Woodford.
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 awardlunch cooked by students;
Visit Churchfields Infants School re Book Week; Surgery.
with Simon Heffer of the Daily Mail at 5 Chingford Avenue; Chingford
to Whitefield's School; Visit to George Lane, South Woodford re
School to visit House of Commons
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.
Ilford Police Station.
House Open Day.
and Reception to celebrate Centenary of Waltham Forest Hebrew
of Britain Commemoration Service at St Peter & St Paul' Church.
George Monoux College; Larkswood Infant School; Visit Enterprise
House, Surgery; Highams Park School Prize Giving.
with Rev. Ellis at Larkshall Road; Interview with Ilford Recorder;
Meeting with Oliver Coleville of Tudor Vale Properties; Surgery.
Pensioners Rally (Redbridge Forum for the Elderly).
Service, Woodford; Reception St Mary's Church Hall; Christmas
Joseph Clarke School (£5,000 donation from Abbey National);
Visit Honey Lane Nursing Home; Lunch at Palm Nursing Home; Surgery.
Christmas Card Winners at HoC.
Soup Kitchen for Homeless.
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 requireda 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 materialI left it to her discretion. I shredded all
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
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
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. * * *
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.
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
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 organisationsI 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
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.
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
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.
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 2002part
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
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 phonemost 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 anythingI 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 toif
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
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.
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.
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 werea 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
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
Not appended by the Commissioner. Back
Not appended by the Commissioner. Back