Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence


9.  Written statement by Miss Annabelle Eyre, 13 October 2003

[See also Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 7]

Background

1.  I have worked for Iain Duncan Smith since May 1997. From May 1997 to 13 September 2001 I worked for Iain Duncan Smith as Constituency Secretary. During that time I worked for him not only for the constituency but also to support him in his role as a Shadow Cabinet Minister. I worked closely with Elizabeth Duncan Smith who was Iain Duncan Smith's diary secretary and at that time worked from his Westminster office firstly based at 7 Millbank and then at Norman Shaw North as well as the office that Iain Duncan Smith established in his home in Fulham. In August 2001 Mr and Mrs Duncan Smith moved to their present home in Swanboume, Milton Keynes and established an office there. We worked with a number of interns who acted as researchers supporting Iain Duncan Smith's constituency work.

2.  On Iain Duncan Smith's election to the leadership of the Conservative Party I became the Private Secretary for the Leader of the Opposition. None of William Hague's staff remained in the Leader of the Opposition's office after Iain Duncan Smith was elected leader so it was necessary to establish a new office very quickly. In September 2001 the constituency office that we had established in Norman Shaw North was packed up. All of its contents were moved to its present location in the Leader of the Opposition's office in the Palace of Westminster. Christine Watson assumed my role as Constituency Secretary in October 2001. She caught up with correspondence that had accumulated in the interim and she arranged for the office to be unpacked in Westminster.

3.  As Private Secretary for the Leader of the Opposition I dealt with personal correspondence that he received. The public correspondence was sent to the Leader of the Opposition's correspondence unit, which I co-ordinated and the Parliamentary correspondence was sent to the Chief of Staff and Mr Duncan Smith's Parliamentary Private Secretary. I dealt with all other correspondence. I held this role from 13 September 2001 to August 2002 when I was appointed Head of Tours and Planning.

Elizabeth Duncan Smith's work

4.  From 13 September 2001 to October 2002 I worked closely with Elizabeth Duncan Smith, Christine Watson and Andrew Whitby-Collins. I had established a close working relationship with Elizabeth Duncan Smith during the period during which I had been Constituency Secretary and we continued to work closely together when I was appointed Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.

5.  Elizabeth Duncan Smith worked during this time exclusively from the office that she and Iain Duncan Smith had established in their home Swanbourne. She had full access to normal office facilities there and during this time they had a number of fax and telephone lines to their home and had full e-mail facilities. Mainly I communicated with Elizabeth Duncan Smith on the telephone, usually using the landline to their home or the office in Swanbourne. I sent documentation and correspondence to Iain Duncan Smith at the weekends about which I often spoke to Elizabeth. I also sent her e-mails in response to her telephone enquiries or, after e-mail facilities were properly set up in the autumn of 2001, sent documents to her for Iain Duncan Smith's attention by e-mail. I attach a sample of e-mails that I sent to Elizabeth Duncan Smith during this period.[60] As you can see from the attached sample e-mails these concerned diary appointments, arranging for constituency and other correspondence to be considered by Iain Duncan Smith.

6.  Elizabeth Duncan Smith was essential during the period that I was working as Private Secretary to co-ordinate the passage of information between me and Andrew Whitby-Collins and Iain Duncan Smith. Although Andrew and I had different job titles we occasionally acted interchangeably covering each other's absences and sharing the work as necessary. During the day, especially at the beginning of his leadership, Iain Duncan Smith had so many other commitments, meetings to attend and people to see, that it was hard for us speak to him about his correspondence and his diary. During this period Andrew and I found that Elizabeth was essential to be able to pass on messages between us and Iain Duncan Smith and to work through the material that we sent him to study over the weekends.

7.  I found that if there was anything that I particularly wanted Iain Duncan Smith to focus his attention on during the weekend that I would speak to Elizabeth Duncan Smith about it and she would respond on his behalf on Monday and/or Tuesday. Elizabeth Duncan Smith kept a list of those matters that Iain Duncan Smith wanted me to deal with and would come back to me to make sure that I had completed the tasks. She would often ask me to pass on information concerning the constituency to Christine Watson. Since I had worked with Elizabeth Duncan Smith for a long time and knew the constituency well often she used to tell me of certain arrangements that Iain Duncan Smith wanted to make in the constituency and would ask me to make sure that Christine Watson made the arrangements for him.

8.  At the time that Iain Duncan Smith was appointed as Leader of the Opposition it was discussed that it would be difficult for Elizabeth Duncan Smith to be seen to making arrangements for her husband. Andrew and I therefore made telephone calls and sent out correspondence on behalf of Iain Duncan Smith but we did so following the instructions and advice that Elizabeth Duncan Smith gave us about the arrangements that Iain Duncan Smith wanted to make. We handled the external contacts but internally Elizabeth Duncan Smith took a supervisory and advisory role in making those arrangements.

9.  In August 2002 there was a considerable re-organisation in the Constituency and Leader of the Opposition offices. I moved to become Head of Planning and Tours.* * *. Christine Watson moved from the Constituency Secretary to assume the post I had previously held as Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. At the same time Andrew Whitby-Collins announced his intention to leave for another post and Jenny Ungless resigned as the Chief of Staff. During this period it was essential to draw upon Elizabeth Duncan Smith's experience in the constituency over the transitional period.

10.  At no point has anyone from outside the private office asked me about the work that Mrs Duncan Smith did during the period that he was appointed leader to December 2002.

11.  I was not aware of any complaints having been made about Elizabeth Duncan Smith's employment until the recent press coverage making reference to Vanessa Gearson' s e-mails.

13 October 2003


60   Not appended by the Commissioner. Back


 
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