Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence

28.  Joint written statement by Miss Annabelle Eyre and Mr Andrew Whitby-Collins, 7 January 2004

Comments and response to testimony from Mr Adrian Muldrew

As has been discussed previously, whilst the set up envisaged by David Maclean for the office had a number of merits to it, ultimately it was let down by some of the people involved.

Annabelle Eyre made it clear to David Maclean that she did not think that the volunteers who had worked on the leadership campaign would successfully transfer to working in the Leader's Office, however it was decided that they ought to be given the opportunity.

Annabelle Eyre's role was defined, but the remainder of the staff had very little direction as to what their roles would be. For practical reasons Andrew Whitby-Collins had to assume the duties of the diary secretary quickly.

Jonathan Caine was a support speech writer for William Hague. He carried out this task when he was not fulfilling his main role as research support to the spokesman for Northern Ireland in the Shadow Cabinet. He was not involved in the running of the Leader's Office either before Iain became Leader or after.

Andrew Whitby-Collins concerned by the observations of Adrian Muldrew particularly in regard to the planning of the tours during the campaign which Andrew Whitby-Collins planned almost entirely on his own. It is also not correct that Andrew Whitby-Collins assumed any official title for himself.

With reference to Adrian Muldrew's belief that a "barrier" went up between the inner core of the Leader's office and the rest of the staff, we would point out that those described as the core were the staff of the Private Office and there was a natural division both physically and for the sake of confidentiality, between them and other staff of the Leader's Office. However at no time were we aware that there was any feeling of resentment as a result of this arrangement.

If there was a meeting (pg 12), its occurrence and conclusions were not communicated to the rest of the office, we were not aware that Adrian Muldrew had been given lead responsibility for briefing for events and visits. On her arrival, this responsibility was given to Rebecca Layton, who liaised with Andrew Whitby-Collins directly.

We dispute the reference to "relative anarchy" in the office. The Private Office was functioning perfectly satisfactorily. However, the problem with the remainder of the staff was because they had no specific job titles, or specific duties. Unfortunately, despite being proposed for the role as Chief of Staff by David Maclean, Jenny Ungless was unable or unwilling to take a grip on the situation and sort out the workings of the office.

We disagree with assertions about the arrangements in the Leader's Office. Letters to supporters were dealt with by Christopher Montgomery and Bunny Smedley, and any delay arose here; Iain replied individually to the donors who had funded his campaign. We also disagree with his comments about the way correspondence from various people in the party and diary requests were dealt with.

The comments about the phone system are incorrect. Annabelle and Andrew's calls were only answered in the private office, unless our phones were specifically diverted to another member of staff. When we were on the phone, calls would go through to voice mail automatically, it would not have been possible for another member of staff to have intercepted the call. When we were out of the office, more often than not we would divert our phones to our mobile phones, and when we the House was sitting and during the afternoon we moved over to the Commons, we would divert our phones to the office there. There were occasions when we would ask Adrian to pick up our calls, but this was generally at lunchtime on a Friday when the volume of calls was lighter and was certainly not at all a regular occurrence.

As Adrian states, he was unlikely to be aware of Betsy's involvement because there were a number of areas that he was not involved in. His position was such that he wouldn't have been involved in the constituency, or diary related matters—such things would have been dealt with in the private office.

With regard to his queries about the Christmas Cards, Annabelle Eyre totally refutes that she discussed the Christmas Card list with Christopher Montgomery. Betsy was consulted about its compilation in 2001. The difference between 2001 and previous years is that it was a much bigger and more complex list.

7 January 2004

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