Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence


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 per week.

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 me.

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 and Owen.

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 key.

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[80]

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 contracts.

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.[81] 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 Central Office.

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 been made.

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.

Michael Crick

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.[82] 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.

Vanessa Gearson

41.  Vanessa was appointed in August 2002 as Administrative Head of the Leader's office. I see from p 19 of Vanessa Gearson's transcript[83] 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 Office—she was the Administrative Head of the Leader's Office. I never once attended a staff meeting with Vanessa Gearson.

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)[84] 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 this procedure.

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[85] 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,[86] 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 2002.

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[87] 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.[88]

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 recalls.

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

81   Not appended by the Commissioner.  Back

82   Not appended by the Commissioner. Back

83   See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9.  Back

84   See PCS Written Submission 13.  Back

85   See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9.  Back

86   See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9.  Back

87   See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 9.  Back

88   See Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence10.  Back


 
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