24. Written statement by Mrs Christine
Watson, 17 October 2003|
[See also Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 22]
1. I first began working with IDS on 15th October
2001. I was appointed as IDS's Constituency Secretary, a role
that had previously been undertaken by Annabelle Eyre.
2. When IDS was elected leader of the Conservative
Party there was a considerable change in the personnel of the
offices. No one from William Hague's office of leader of the opposition
continued in place when IDS took over the leadership. He therefore
asked Annabelle Eyre (AE) to set up a new office for him as the
Leader of the Opposition. Andrew Whitby-Collins (AWC) was appointed
as Iain Duncan Smith's Diary Secretary in the Leader of the Opposition's
Work with BDS
3. The Constituency offices were not ready immediately
so for the first few weeks I worked from Central Office with AWC
and AE. It was then necessary for me to arrange to move to the
new offices in M2 in Parliament. The office materials were not
moved until late October and it took a lot of work to arrange
for all the boxes to be unpacked and casework placed in order.
In the first months that I was employed, I spent a considerable
amount of time unpacking and putting IDS's office in order.
4. There was a period of about a month from September
2001 to October 2001 when no one was appointed exclusively as
Iain Duncan-Smith's Constituency Secretary although work was being
done by a number of people. Some correspondence had accumulated
during that period and during the leadership election, as a result,
when I was appointed, I had to deal with a backlog of correspondence.
I had to become familiar with the current cases and obtain information
about the filing systems in the office very quickly.
5. Initially Betsy continued with her previous
practice of dealing with AE and I only had indirect contact with
her as I worked closely with AE familiarising myself with the
constituency matters. Initially BDS worked with AE and they referred
constituency matters to me that BDS had raised with them. BDS
was employed in IDS's office before Annabelle Eyre was recruited
and therefore has got the longest experience of any of the members
of staff working for him. BDS provided me with invaluable information
about constituents. I was able to draw upon Betsy's expert knowledge
of Iain Duncan-Smith's Constituency office during this time.
6. I was aware ofbut not very involved
withBDS' close management of the diary. This work was largely
carried out in liaison with AE and AWC who were making and implementing
day-to-day diary decisions.
7. I was responsible for constituency correspondence
which I would send to Iain to deal with in the evenings but particularly
at weekends. BDS would make sure that he considered the papers
and would feed back any issues he would raise, this was particularly
the case over the weekends. She was progress checking to make
sure that the constituency work was covered. Whenever IDS went
to the constituency he would raise the issues with BDS that he
wanted to deal with and she would pass them on to AE who would
speak to me. BDS would make sure that the work I sent down was
done and she would respond to me in her conversations with AE.
8. Perhaps the most important work undertaken
by BDS was at weekends. In a way that no-one else could, BDS would
go through constituency correspondence with IDS on Saturdays and
Sundaysensuring that it was processed and returned to me
and that any queries that I had were answered. This was a major
task as little time could be found during the working week for
constituency work to be processed. IDS spent most of the week
working on issues connected with his leadership of the Conservative
9. BDS was not in the office at Parliament but
she worked from the office at their home in Swanbourne. BDS was
an important source of advice on constituency issues. I particularly
remember her helpfulness with understanding the difficulties faced
by Rose Addis. Mrs Addis was a constituency case that became a
national story when IDS raised her story at Prime Minister's Question
Time. BDS provided intensive help for special projects. I remember
her constant help with Iain's Christmas card competition and in
the drawing up of his Christmas card list.
10. It took me almost a year to establish the
Constituency Office. In July 2002, I moved from Iain Duncan Smith's
Constituency Office to become Private Secretary to the Leader
of the Opposition. When I became Private Secretary to the Leader
of the Opposition I became responsible for preparing the box of
work for IDS's consideration in the evenings and at weekends.
This included constituency correspondence prepared by Cara Walker
who was appointed as Constituency Secretary in September 2002.
I relied upon BDS to draw matters that I considered to be particularly
important to IDS's attention.
11. Cara Walker, the new Constituency Secretary
was a recent university graduate. Before Cara was able to take
over the constituency casework it was necessary for me to train
her. I realised that it was necessary to get a research assistant
to support Cara in her role. In November 2002 Tom Hooper was appointed
to work with Cara in the constituency office, he stayed until
June 2003. During their time working in the office Tom and Cara
reported almost exclusively to me and have not had much contact
with Betsy. Until the Constituency office was re-established I
ran it and drew upon BDS's assistance to bring certain matters
to IDS's attention and to make sure that outstanding matters were
12. Finally, I would like to attest to the quality
of the working relationship I had with Betsy. She was always available.
When I phoned her she was either waiting at the end of the line
or she returned my call quickly. I have found her to be very reliable,
competent and efficient.
The memorandum to Vanessa Gearson
13. At the time that I wrote the memorandum to
Vanessa Gearson I was trying to negotiate my new contract having
been promoted from Constituency Secretary to the Private Secretary
of the Leader of the Opposition. In this context Vanessa asked
me to explain my current role and give details of what I had done
as Constituency Secretary. She was new to the department, having
only been appointed as Administrative Head of the Leader's Office
in September 2002, and did not know of all the work that I had
14. This memo, which was marked 'Strictly Private
and Confidential', expressed my concerns about the workload that
I was dealing with at that particular time in the office in Parliament.
It was written at Vanessa's request at a time of maximum stress
within the office. I wrote it a time when I was tired and overworked.
I think my frame of mind is evident in the style of the memo which
was never intended to be a permanent record or a full record.
It does not give a full account of the way that all of the offices
were being run. It does not refer to the work that Betsy was doing
in the office in Swanbourne and it does not refer to the work
that Rikki Radford was doing in the constituency because the memo
dealt only with the position in Parliament. My concern was to
make sure that I received recognition and appropriate remuneration
from the Conservative Party for the work that I was doing and
had done in IDS's offices.
15. I cannot remember Vanessa Gearson commenting
to me about the work that BDS did for IDS following the submission
of the memorandum. She said very little about it after I gave
it to her. Had she regarded BDS's employment as an issue arising
out of the memo I would have thought that she would have spoken
to me about it.
16. Although I am distressed at the memo's publication
it does not undermine my submission of 13th October or my known
belief that BDS did undertake regular constituency work for IDS.
BDS's constituency work is not discussed in my memo but neither
is the work of IDS' full-time Agent, Rikki Radford.
17. The memo focuses on the particular problems
at the time working with the Houses of Parliament and Conservative
Central Office team. Problems which have since been resolved.
17 October 2003
79 See PCS Written Submission 49. Back