25. Written statement by Mrs Christine
Watson, 19 November 2003|
[See also Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 23]
1. This statement has been prepared in response
to the questions raised in letters sent to me by Sir Philip Mawer
dated 20 October 2003 and 27 October 2003. I have also been shown
copies of the transcripts and statements produced by Mark MacGregor,
Michael Crick, Stephen Gilbert and Vanessa Gearson with the permission
of Sir Philip and I also include comments on them.
Administration of Mr Duncan Smith's parliamentary
allowances and expenses
2. I did not assume any responsibility for the
administration of the allowances that Mr Duncan Smith is given
as an MP until I became Private Secretary to the Leader of the
Opposition in August 2002. Before I assumed that role the allowances
and expenses were administered by Annabelle Eyre.
3. When I assumed the role of looking after the
allowances and expenses I read the Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances
and Pensions "green" handbook produced by the Fees Office.
When I arrived there were a number of papers relating to the financial
administration of the office which Annabelle created, she knew
her way around these papers but they were not yet filed. I assumed
responsibility for handling the finances and put the financial
papers in order.
Work as Private Secretary
4. As Private Secretary I was employed to assist
Mr Duncan Smith in his role as Leader of the Opposition which
is, of course, a parliamentary position with attendant parliamentary
duties that are in addition to Mr Duncan Smith's constituency
duties as an MP. I have always worked more than my contracted
hours as Private Secretary. I would say on average 70-75 hours
5. Whilst, for ease of reference, Mr Duncan Smith's
staff referred to the 'constituency office' and the 'Leader's
office' the work is not so easily divided between the two and
both offices assist Mr Duncan Smith with his parliamentary duties.
That was especially the case for me. In the first few months of
my employment as Private Secretary I was doing quite a lot of
constituency work whilst training Cara Walker to take over as
Constituency Secretary. In the first few months of Cara's employment
1 helped her draft letters, correcting those she drafted and at
the same time teaching her how to do case work. During those first
few months we also moved the Constituency Office from M2 to G1
in the Commons. I still supervise Cara and the Researcher, David
Haselhurst. As she has become more experienced she has gradually
assumed more responsibility for the case work however 1 still
check letters that she produces, I check the progress of cases
that she and David Haselhurst are working on and they still consult
6. The Private Secretary needs to have knowledge
of how the constituency office is run in order to be able to co-ordinate
that work with that of the Leader of the Opposition. My role as
Private Secretary involves co-coordinating all aspects of Mr Duncan
Smith's life; as MP, as the Parliamentary Leader of the Opposition
in addition to his family life and political role as leader of
the Conservative Party. Whilst the vast majority of my time is
and has been spent assisting him as an MP and in his parliamentary
role as Leader of the Opposition nevertheless as his assistant
it is inevitable that occasionally I assist him with some personal
tasks given the extensive hours that he works and because he is
away from his home during the week.
7. I do not, however, assist Mr Duncan Smith
in his party political role as the leader of the Conservative
Party. Conservative party employees unconnected to the Leader's
Office assist him on party matters. I think that the only strictly
party political task I can remember doing for him was sending
out letters of congratulations on his behalf to Conservative councillors
who had been elected in local by-elections and was additional
to my usual duties. I also attended the Conservative Party conferences
in my capacity as Private Secretary.
8. In the Memorandum that I wrote of 24 October
2002 I referred to setting up a political filing system for Mr
Duncan Smith. This is a structure of four filing cabinets containing
correspondence that he has with MPs or members of the House of
Lords about parliamentary business, correspondence with the Crown
and with the Prime Minister and with ambassadors, religious leaders
or the leaders of other countries together with press correspondence.
It is not a party political filing system as such but a reference
system for him to use in his parliamentary work. I had established
many filing systems in the course of my work both as Constituency
Secretary and as Private Secretary. I started this system in July
2002 and completed it in the autumn of 2002. This was an additional
task that I assumed to assist Mr Duncan Smith and I largely did
it over the weekends in my own time.
9. During the course of my work I also had to
supervise a number of interns who came to find out how the Leader
of the Opposition's office ran, We have a number of students who
work with us for limited periods to find out about the Leader
of the Opposition's office and to learn mere about the parliamentary
process. I have taken responsibility for looking after them whilst
they are with us giving them guidance and advice.
10. When I started my work as Private Secretary
it was necessary for me to find someone who could take over my
previous role as Constituency Secretary. I favoured appointing
someone quite young who could be trained and continue to run the
office as I had done. Cara applied for the position to Mr Duncan
Smith and Owen Paterson replied on his behalf to inform her he
had passed the letter to Vanessa to deal with. Vanessa did not
follow it up. By chance Cara met my daughter at a party and my
daughter suggested that I might be able to help. I subsequently
appointed and trained her. I attach the correspondence from Cara
11. I understand that Vanessa Gearson has referred
to me doing personal tasks for Mr Duncan Smith. I am disappointed
that she has referred to me, as I am an experienced professional
PA and trained secretary, in this way. I was not a cleaner for
Mr Duncan Smith but his Private Secretary. It is completely incidental
that in supporting Mr Duncan Smith's role as Leader of the Opposition
I made sure that his dry cleaning was done for him. In June 2002
Mr Duncan Smith started to rent a flat in London occupied during
the week because the return journey to Swanbourne was impractical.
Mr and Mrs Duncan Smith used the London flat like hotel accommodation
when they were in London and it has very few personal items in
it. I have a key to the flat just as Annabelle had the key before
me. This proved to be very useful if, for instance, Iain was away
but wanted to get hold of an item left in the flat. Some business
meetings took place there and deliveries needed to be organised.
I also had contact with the resident caretaker, who also has a
Funds for new staff
12. At the tune that I was appointed Private
Secretary until Cara Walker took over the role of Constituency
Secretary, I was still performing two roles. From September to
November 2002 I was paid from the staffing allowance on the same
salary that I received as Constituency Secretary. On 1 December
2002 my salary was reduced to reflect the decline in the amount
of constituency work that I had to do. I still receive a small
salary from Mr Duncan Smith's parliamentary staffing allowance
reflecting my work in connection with Mr Duncan Smith's constituency
duties. The majority of my salary is however now paid by funds
allocated to the Leader''s Office via the Conservative Central
Office. I believe those funds are 'Short Money'.
Background to the comments in the memorandum
13. The circumstances in which I wrote the confidential
memorandum of 24 October 2002 to Vanessa Gearson are set out in
my previous submissions. My comments on the pressure that I was
under when I wrote the memorandum are repeated here as is my description
of the personal and confidential nature of that memorandum.
14. After I became private Secretary Cara Walker
started training as my replacement as Constituency Secretary.
I realised, because of the quantity of work I had done as Constituency
Secretary and the increasing workload in the Westminster office,
that my replacement as Constituency Secretary needed an assistant.
I explored therefore the possibility of appointing a researcher.
In the long term I thought it would also be helpful to subscribe
to the Parliamentary Research Unit. Shortly after I became responsible
for looking after the allowances and expenses of Mr Duncan Smith's
constituency office I tried to work out how it might be possible
to employ two extra people to support constituency work from the
staffing allowance that Mr Duncan Smith is given as an MP.
15. In the autumn of 2002 I became increasingly
concerned about being able to pay all the necessary salaries from
the staffing allowance. When I refer in the Memorandum to my 'concerns'
about the payments which had been made to Annabelle Eyre from
the staffing allowance it is because her salary was fairly large
and consequently reduced the fund then available to employ other
people. Cara Walker had by that time been working in the office
since September and, although she undertook that role with a lot
of assistance from me, I was satisfied that she was capable of
assuming the role on a permanent basis.
16. Cara Walker was employed originally on a
provisional basis without salary. I wanted to confirm her employment
and see she was paid a reasonable salary. Cara was anxious about
her financial position at the time and one day came to see me
concerning salary. She needed to have a salary as she had just
moved in to a new flat which she was renting. Papers were submitted
to the Fees Office in the middle of October 2002 to place Cara
Walker on the payroll. However, the Fees Office lost Cara's paperwork
and, as a result, she did not receive her first payment of salary
until the end of November 2002. The payment was however backdated
to the beginning of September 2002 to take into account the whole
period of her probationary employment in the constituency office.
17. When making plans for the employment of extra
staff in the constituency office at Westminster I considered the
budget for the financial year April2002 to March 2003. The fees
office produced at my request a number of projections in autumn
2002 based on different scenarios of how the staffing allowance
could be used in that financial year.
18. I was new to my role as Private Secretary
and, although I had got to know Mr Duncan Smith as his Constituency
Secretary, I was still not sure when to approach him about these
administrative matters or when I would be able to do so. Mr Duncan
Smith was very busy at the time. He was out of the office for
most of September through to early November and at various times
in November and December. I found it difficult to arrange to see
him on this matter and since it involved how staff were employed
and determining the salaries I also considered it to be a rather
sensitive matter. It was for this reason that I approached Mr
Duncan Smith's PPSs Owen Paterson and Alastair Burt.
Negotiating my contract
19. When I wrote the highly confidential memorandum
of 24 October 2002 1 referred to resolving my budgetary concerns
about Mr Duncan Smith's staffing allowance and whether it could
pay all of his staff. I knew that if my salary was taken out of
Short Money it would free up money to employ other people to work
in the constituency from the staffing allowance Mr Duncan Smith
could claim as an MP. I also thought I was entitled to an increase
in salary to reflect my long working hours.
20. When I wrote the memorandum there was also
a considerable amount of' pressure on me about my own salary negotiations
I was negotiating a new employment contract with Conservative
Central Office at the time because Short Money given to support
the Leader's Office is sent to Conservative Central Office to
be administered by them. I was very concerned that I found myself
having to justify my employment to Conservative Central Office
although I regarded Mr Duncan Smith as my employer and the person
I reported to. There had also been a delay in their production
of my employment contract.
21. I therefore provided Vanessa Gearson, who
was then newly appointed as Administrative Head of the Leader's
Office with details of all the work I had done for Mr Duncan Smith
and the responsibilities I had held and still held in Mr Duncan
Smith's office. At the time I thought that she would help me.
22. Although the staffing allowance is given
to Mr Duncan Smith for his parliamentary duties, of which his
Leadership of the Opposition formed an additional component. I
thought, at the time, that since the Conservative Party received
Short Money specifically allocated to support the Leader of the
Opposition's office that I should have a new contract with the
Conservative Central Office for my new role as Private Secretary.
At the time I wrote the memorandum I was worried about it. This
is what I referred to when I stated in the memorandum that there
were 'questions to be asked'.
23. As I now understand the matter, however,
both the Short Money and the staffing allowance are given to assist
Mr Duncan Smith in his 'parliamentary duties' and that since I
was and continue to assist him in his parliamentary duties as
Private Secretary that I can be paid out of his staffing allowance
or Short Money.
24. Conservative Central Office were slow to
act: I now understand they had financial problems of their own
and were reducing their own staffing levels. They finally provided
me with a draft contract of employment in November 2002. The contract
contemplated that my salary would be increased to reflect my increasing
responsibilities as Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.
I was however concerned by the terms of the contract that were
drawn up by Conservative Central Office. Although I was working
directly for Mr Duncan Smith my contract said that I was required
to report to Vanessa Gearson. I questioned whether this clause
was appropriate and raised the matter with Vanessa Gearson, Mr
Duncan Smith and others. I know that the party administers the
Short Money but the reality is that the Leader chooses his own
staff for the Leader's Office, not Conservative Central Office.
I felt I had no option but to accept the terms of the contract
as drafted. Although I had misgivings I signed the contract on
11 December 2002. I was not given any additional salary until
after I signed the contract and then my pay increase was backdated
to the day I started as Private Secretary in one lump sum which
was paid at the end of December 2002. I attach copies of my employment
Mrs Duncan Smith's resignation
25. In August 2002 Vanessa Gearson was appointed
as Administrative Head of the Leader's office. I did not know
her before she was appointed and we did not have much conversation
with her until she moved into an office to join me in Conservative
Central Office. I had shared the office with Andrew Whitby-Collins
until he left it after the Conservative Party Conference in October
2002 and Vanessa Gearson moved in. I think that Vanessa moved
in on Tuesday 15 October 2002.
26. I had a number of conversations in the autumn
2002 about sorting out the staffing allowance budget to allow
the recruitment of additional staff I was however very busy at
the time and it only formed one of a vast number of important
matters that I was dealing with at the time.
27. I see from Vanessa Gearson's testimony she
claims that I spoke to her about my budgetary concerns in September
2002. 1 do not specifically remember doing so and I doubt that
I spoke to her about it in September before we started to share
the office in Conservative Central Office. It is possible however
that I might have spoken to her about it then but I don't remember
a specific meeting being arranged as would have been necessary
at that time.
28. I am surprised that she claims she was involved
in a number of discussions about the staff employed by Iain out
of the MP's allowances in the Communications Committee. I was
not aware of any of these discussions as no one informed me about
them. I was and am in charge of handling Mr Duncan Smith's MPs
allowances and expenses and Vanessa was never involved in dealing
with them. The Office Costs Allowance was phased out and had ceased
to be used by Iain by the time that I took over as his Private
Secretary: the salaries of his staff during from September 2001
to December 2002 were paid from the MP's staffing allowance.
29. I first started to consult the Fees Office
in October 2002, after they lost Cara Walker's papers and I therefore
had to arrange for two months of her salary to be paid at the
end of November 2002. 1 did so under my own initiative and not
because Vanessa Gearson instructed me or even suggested to me
that I do so. It was a natural step for me to take to gain advice
concerning my financial duties and budgetary concerns at the time.
I found that it was more effective to go to visit the Fees Office
in person rather than speak to them over the telephone. I used
to visit the Fees Office regularly (and Cara accompanied me),
but not every week, to obtain accurate up to date information
about the sums left in that financial year's staffing allowance
and to speak to them about the staffing arrangements. I found
the best day to go to the Fees Office was a Friday when normally
Westminster was relatively quiet and therefore the Fees Office
were not as busy. I also had more time on a Friday. I spoke to
a number of people there including Dan Gorman and Neville Jordan.
30. Some time after the Conservative Party Conference
in 2002 I spoke to Alastair Burt MP about the employment of more
staff in the Constituency office. Alastair Burt had recently been
employed as a second Parliamentary Private Secretary (the other
being Owen Paterson) to Mr Duncan Smith. He agreed to speak to
Iain about it for me. I recall that in late November Alastair
spoke to Iain about Tom Hooper's employment as a constituency
researcher and Tom Hooper's employment contract was subsequently
signed. At the time that Tom Hooper's contract was entered into
it had been settled as to who would be paid from the staffing
allowance. A copy of Torn Hooper's employment contract is enclosed.
The use of the staffing allowance was resolved by me, Iain and
Alastair. Vanessa had no part in that.
31. I do not keep a personal diary so I do not
know exactly when I became aware of Mr and Mrs Duncan Smith's
decision that Mrs Duncan Smith's employment would come to an end.
At the time of this discussion in November, however, it was clear
that Mrs Duncan Smith would come off the staffing allowance. I
believe it was also agreed then that the proportion of my salary
that came from the staffing allowance should be reduced and that
the rest of my salary should be paid by the Conservative Party
from the Short Money. Annabelle Eyre had come off the staffing
allowance in August 2002 and was then employed by Conservative
32. Tom Hooper started to work in the office
in November. Tom was taken on to assist Cara as a researcher.
The Fees Office had told me that in order to arrange for Tom Hooper
to be placed on the payroll for December the paperwork had to
be sent by no later than the middle of December. Tom's salary
was backdated to 20 November 2002.
33. I had informed the Fees Office verbally by
the middle of December 2002 that Mrs Duncan Smith was to be taken
off the pay roll at the end of December 2002.
34. I first heard about the Michael Trend allegations
when they appeared in the press. I never connected that newspaper
story with Mrs Duncan Smith's employment and to my knowledge it
did not play any part in the decision of when she would give up
working for her husband. The Trend story was published in the
middle of December by which time the decision about those to be
employed by Mr Duncan Smith from the staffing allowance had already
Additional comments on evidence disclosed to
Mr Duncan Smith
35. In addition to general points and factual
inaccuracies in their statements and transcripts some of which
are set out above I have commented below on specific issues raised
in the evidence given by Michael Crick, Stephen Gilbert, Mark
MacGregor and Vanessa Gearson.
36. Mr Crick refers to the work that Andrew Whitby-Collins
and Annabelle were doing as being party political which is the
reason that he claims they were paid, or claims they should have
been by the Conservative Party. As the Conservative Patty administers
the Short Money for the Leader's Office and as Annabelle, Andrew
and I were all at various times employed during the period in
question working for Mr Duncan Smith doing parliamentary rather
than party political work for the Leader's Office we were necessarily
paid through the CCO. Similarly the work that Mrs Duncan Smith
did with us was parliamentary rather than party political but
she was not employed to work in the Leader's Office as such and
continued to be paid from the staffing allowance.
37. I have already provided evidence about why
Mrs Duncan Smith's work is not referred to in my memorandum of
24 October 2002. That memorandum was not a survey of the work
done by other people in Mr Duncan Smith's office but was my note
of work that I had undertaken and was doing.
38. I have seen a copy of Mr Crick's note: Interpreting
Christine Watson's memorandum and he is completely inaccurate
in the way that he reads that memorandum.
I did not like criticising Annabelle Eyre in the memorandum which
is the reason I referred to 'having no intention to tell tales'
however in order to describe my workload I had to refer to additional
tasks which were passed on to mc by Annabelle.
General comments applicable to Stephen Gilbert,
Mark MacGregor and Vanessa
39. I am surprised that Mark MacGregor, Stephen
Gilbert and Vanessa Gearson discussed the use of the parliamentary
staffing allowance at the Chairman's Communication Committee meetings
at Conservative Central Office. I administered Mr Duncan Smith's
staffing allowance at the relevant time not Vanessa Gearson. They
never approached me about their meetings or discussed the use
of Iain's Parliamentary staffing allowance with me and before
I read these transcripts I was not aware that they discussed it.
Mark MacGregor, Mr Gilbert and Vanessa Gearson refer to the Office
Costs Allowance which Iain ceased to use before I started to handle
the finances: at this time Iain's office staff were paid out of
his staffing allowance.
40. Mark MacGregor and Vanessa Gearson are wrong
in attributing the reorganisation of Mr Duncan Smith's parliamentary
allowances and the termination of Mrs Duncan Smith's employment
with the publication of the Michael Trend case. All the budgetary
matters had been resolved by the end of November 2002 with the
changes effected by the Fees Office by the end of December 2002.
41. Vanessa was appointed in August 2002 as Administrative
Head of the Leader's office. I see from p 19 of Vanessa Gearson's
that she claims that in the summer of 2002 it was clear to rue
and other members of the Leader's Office that she would replace
Jenny Ungless in the role of Chief of Staff. I was not aware that
Vanessa Gearson was going to be appointed to any position in the
Leader's Office that summer before I went on holiday on August
2002. She was appointed in August and started in September. As
I understand it, she was never appointed as Chief of Staff of
the Leader's Officeshe was the Administrative Head of the
Leader's Office. I never once attended a staff meeting with Vanessa
42. I do not know how Vanessa can have formed
a view about how busy we were in August 2002. I returned from
holiday in August and started in my post as "Private Secretary"
on Thursday, 22 August 2002. When I returned on 22 August in addition
to all of my normal duties I spent a lot of time packing and unpacking
the Leader's office at Smith Square when we moved from 34 Smith
Square to 32 Smith Square.
43. Vanessa Gearson started work in September
2002 but she did not start sharing an office with me until after
Andrew Whitby-Collins left in the middle of October 2002. I estimate
this to be approximately 15th October 2002 after the Bournemouth
Conference. I found Vanessa's involvement in the office disconcerting:
it seemed that she was trying to squeeze my role and restrict
my access to Iain. This was one of the reasons that I was uncertain
about having to report to her under my Conservative Central Office
contract. Now that I have seen her claims about being the Head
of the Office and Chief of Staff some of her behaviour becomes
understandable. But her claims are simply untrue.
44. As Private secretary I reported directly
to Iain although Vanessa claimed to exercise authority over me.
As 1 have said, the contractual term was imposed because Conservative
Central Office administers the Short Money but it did not accord
with the reality of the situation.
45. In the autumn 2002, shortly after Vanessa
joined the Leader's office, her father became unwell. He lived
with her mother in Miami. Vanessa went to visit them on several
occasions whilst she was in the Leader's Office. She was away
visiting her parents, for over 2 weeks from 6 November to 18 November
2002. I know that she was very distressed about her father's illness
during this period. She was with her parents again between Christmas
2002 and the New Year period of 2003 and did not return to work
until early January 2003 whereas I was in the office between Christmas
and the New Year.
46. I did not get the impression that Vanessa
worked as many hours as I did. Vanessa had a number of demands
on her time including her obligations as chairman of school governors
and as a councillor in Barnet. In addition on some Fridays Vanessa
went to visit Cheltenham which is where she has been selected
as Parliamentary candidate. I worked in the office most nights
until 9.00pm and sometimes later.
47. I prepared the box of work for Mr Duncan
Smith each evening and over the weekends. I had one of the keys
to the box and Mr Duncan Smith had the other. The box was closed
at night when Mr Duncan Smith left the office and either he took
the box or his driver carried it to the government car for him.
48. I started to organise the material in the
box by placing it in plastic envelopes with notes on the front
of them. The constituency material was sometimes placed in the
box if it fitted in, otherwise it was placed in a plastic envelope
marked "constituency letters for signature". The constituency
letters tended to be added to the box at the end of the week so
that Mr Duncan Smith could consider and sign them over the weekend,
Urgent letters regarding the constituency were occasionally dealt
with during the week and placed in the box if and when necessary.
If there was a large amount of constituency correspondence I would
keep the package separate. Vanessa Gearson, like other members
of staff in the Leader's Office, would give me anything that she
wanted to place in the box before she left in the evenings.
49. In the morning I would open the box or Iain
would keep it in his room and open it himself. I do not recall
any problem arising over work that Mr Duncan Smith had not dealt
with that was placed in the box. If he had not dealt with urgent
letters or matters, I would speak to him and he would deal with
them in the office. Mr Duncan Smith would also give me those documents
from the box to be passed to other people in the office. The constituency
material from the box was initially handed to me. After having
gone through them, I then handed them to Cara or Tom Hooper: Vanessa
would not have seen the constituency documents.
50. I am surprised that Vanessa claims to have
an intimate knowledge of the constituency work. To my knowledge
she had no involvement in constituency matters. The constituency
work was not completely integrated with the Leader's office: there
were many people working in the Leader's office in Westminster
who did no constituency work for Iain. Vanessa describes me in
her written submission (p8)
as ceasing to work for Iain as his parliamentary private secretary
at the end of August 2002. I was appointed as his Private Secretary
on 22 August 2002.
51. I shared an office with Vanessa at CCO in
32 Smith Square in the mornings after the Bournemouth Conference
2002 but when we came over to Parliament in the afternoon we worked
in different offices. Vanessa could not see and I doubt that she
could hear what I was doing. There was always a busy atmosphere
in the Leader's office in Parliament with numbers of people coming
in and out all throughout the day. Although I would occasionally
shout through to Paula in the office that she shared with Vanessa,
next door, I reject Vanessa's claim to have heard most of my telephone
conversations from her office. I could not hear her conversations
and certainly did not ever attempt to. When the office was very
quiet I could just hear her from her desk in the other office
and as I was occupied with other important matters in relation
to my working day I did not pay much attention to them.
52. Cara reported to me and always asked my advice
rather than speaking to Vanessa Gearson. Cara used to bring paperwork
to me to check and used to speak to me about it. Vanessa Gearson
may have listened in to my conversations with Cara for the brief
period that Cara was working in Conservative Central Office when
Cara used to visit me in the office that that I was sharing with
Vanessa. During October 2002 however Cara moved to the Commons
on a permanent basis and she used to come to see me when 1 moved
over to the Leader's office in the afternoons. I would be surprised
it Vanessa Gearson could have heard our conversations there because
my office was in an adjoining room separated by a door. I am not
aware of Cara ever asking Vanessa for advice.
53. Cara was not involved in organising constituency
events with me during this period as they were organised by me
and Rikki Radford, the Agent. I used to give the list of constituency
dates to Paula and Vanessa was not involved with any aspect of
54. Vanessa was wrong when she said that Mrs
Duncan Smith did not do any work for Mr Duncan Smith and that
her basis for concluding this was that Mrs Duncan Smith was not
in touch with her on a regular basis. Mrs Duncan Smith was in
touch with me, Annabelle and Rikki Radford on a regular basis.
I have already described in my previous statement the extent of
Mrs Duncan Smith's work.
55. Mrs Duncan Smith did request office supplies
from me. I attach to this statement one of the requests that I
received from her. I received this note requesting copies of House
of Commons prepaid envelopes from Mrs Duncan Smith on 11 October
2002 attached to a copy of a BT telephone bill for the Swanbourne
office fax line.
56. Vanessa Gearson refers in her statement to
evening meals that were arranged at Mr Duncan Smith's flat. I
only recall one occasion when I purchased food for a meal that
Iain was having with a number of colleagues and that took place
in Owen Paterson's flat. Owen Paterson, one of Mr Duncan Smith's
PPSs, lived in the same block of flats as Iain. I purchased pre-prepared
food from Marks & Spencer and heated it up. If Mr Duncan Smith
asked me to buy any food supplies, then I would. I looked after
the catering arrangements in the Leader's Office. I also bought
all the supplies for the Leader's Office.
57. In her statement and transcript Vanessa Gearson
refers to the memorandum that I sent her. She did not speak to
me about Mrs Duncan Smith's work at the time that I gave her the
memorandum. The memorandum refers to work that I received from
Mrs Duncan Smith in her role as wife of the Leader of the Opposition.
I do not describe in the memorandum the work that Mrs Duncan Smith
did at that time because, as I have explained in my previous statement
and testimony, that was not the purpose of the memorandum, She
asked me to put in writing the work I had been doing in the office
to the date of writing the memorandum.
58. At page 12-13 of Vanessa Gearsons transcript
she suggests that we had a conversation in which she said that
when Annabelle Eyre was Iain Duncan Smith's Private Secretary
she was acting in a party political capacity rather than a parliamentary
one and therefore should not have been paid from the office costs
allowance. She also claims that it was clear to me that when I
became the Private Secretary that I needed to stop being paid
from the Office Costs Allowance. I was not paid out of the Office
Costs Allowance I was being paid from the staffing allowance.
Furthermore I have never discussed the distinction between party
political and parliamentary roles, if I had I would have been
able to tell her that both Annabelle and I were performing parliamentary
roles. If she had understood the nature of the work that Annabelle
and I had done and were doing as Private Secretary she would have
realised that we were performing parliamentary roles.
59. In pages 31-32 of Vanessa Gearson's transcript,
Vanessa suggests that I brought to her attention a concern that
Mrs Duncan Smith was being paid a sum of money from the office
costs allowance when she did not actually have a role to play.
That is not the case. I never had that concern and I never had
such a conversation. If indeed we had had that conversation then
Vanessa would have known that Mrs Duncan Smith was not paid £18,000
per year, when I knew her actual salary, and she would also have
known that Mrs Duncan Smith was not paid out of the Office Costs
Allowance but the staffing allowance.
60. I am not aware of misleading submissions
having been made to the House of Commons Fees Office. Tom Hooper
was appointed as a researcher in November 2002 and not September
61. I did not cease being paid from Mr Duncan
Smith's staffing allowance: I continue to be paid some money from
it to the current day to reflect my work administering his parliamentary
allowances and expenses together with planning his constituency
visits with Rikki Radford, his agent. I was paid by Conservative
Central Office from September 2002 and my salary was back-dated
in December 2002 to reflect this. I never discussed Mr Duncan
Smith's allowance with Rebecca Layton.
62. Vanessa Gearson mentions in her statement
and pages 11-12 of the transcript
a problem that she vaguely thought had arisen over the use of
the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA). I cannot remember speaking
to her about the Additional Costs Allowance. I think she is referring
to discussions that 1 had with Annabelle Eyre about the administration
of the ACA. When I took over the financial papers from Annabelle
Eyre they were not in any particular order however the papers
had been completed properly. In accordance with the rules Iain
claimed his mortgage interest on his Chingford house from the
Additional Costs Allowance. When I assumed responsibility for
administering the allowances Annabelle told me that I should continue
to fill in the ACA claim forms. I had some questions about whether
supporting documents were required she told me that these were
not necessary and this was confirmed to me by the Fees Office.
There was however never an issue with the actual claim from the
ACA for mortgage interest on the Chingford house only some questions
I had about what documentation was necessary.
Transcript of Stephen Gilbert
63. In reference to p7 Stephen Gilbert never
spoke to me about the nature of my role in the office and my duties.
This is clear from the reference that he makes at p30 of his transcript
where he has difficulty giving an account of my duties.
64. In contrast in his transcript Stephen Gilbert
does not seem to recollect the discussion of the terms of my contract
with Conservative Central Office. I am surprised that he does
not recollect the difficulties I experienced renegotiating my
contract. He shared an office with Mark MacGregor at the time.
65. I hardly spoke to Mark MacGregor about anything.
We had a formal working relationship. I started as Mr Duncan Smith's
Private Secretary on 22 August and not September 2002 as Mr MacGregor
66. After Mr Duncan Smith was elected leader
of the Conservative Party he was unable to spend as much time
in the constituency as he had done before. From 15 September to
20 December 2002 I estimate he only spent seven days in the constituency.
19 November 2003
80 See PCS Written Submission 49. Back
Not appended by the Commissioner. Back
Not appended by the Commissioner. Back
See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9. Back
See PCS Written Submission 13. Back
See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9. Back
See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9. Back
See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9. Back
See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence10. Back