Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence

Evidence from Chingford

30.  Transcripts of telephone conversations between Ms Louise Western and six Chingford Councillors, 29 September 2003

Councillor Geoff Walker

GW:  Hello

LW:  Hi, is that Geoffrey Walker

GW:  Speaking

LW:   Hi, my name's Louise I'm calling from BBC Newsnight. Just wondered if you had a couple of minutes to spare.

GW:  It's difficult, I'm actually at work at the moment. .erm . .what's it about

LW:  It'll literally take 2 minutes or I can call you some other time—at a more convenient time which ever is easier

GW:  Can you tell me what it's about

LW:  Yes certainly, we're just looking at the role of MPs within their local constituency and how someone like you would go about making an arrangement with Iain Duncan Smith …who you would talk to

GW:  Well it's not a problem I just either phone him up or make an appointment to see him at the surgery

LW:   Nice and easy ….who do you normally talk to

GW:  Iain. I normally talk to Iain direct

LW:   Oh right do you never go through either his diary secretary or his agent

GW:   Oh well sometimes I get Rikki his agent or sometimes his secretary

LW:   What's the name of his secretary

GW:   Oh Christine erm

LW:   Christine Walton?

GW:  No no he's got 2.....erm…..his parliamentary secretary is Christine Watson I think

LW:  oh Christine Watson yeah

GW:  I normally just phone a number—I don't normally call her by a name

LW:   oh right, have you ever had any dealings with his wife … because I know she's…

GW:  Betsy yes

LW:   You have. …on a professional level

GW:   When she was working ... before he became leader then she would sometimes call me up and ask me to stand in for him if there was a function that he couldn't get to

LW:   so this was before September 01 … when he became leader didn't he

GW:   Yes yes

LW:   so you've had no dealings with her since

GW:   Well yes I see her from time to time

LW:   you see her rather than have the same kind of dealings with her you had before or prior to him becoming leader.

GW:   Yes

LW:   Right I know she was a very important part of the role he played so it's quite usual for I suppose for her

GW:  One would expect so

LW:   Yeah so the main people are Christine Watson and Rikki Radford

GW:  Yes

LW:   Oh right

GW:   Or Iain himself would sometimes speak directly when it's an important matter which saves going to people in between

LW:  Is it quite easy for you to go straight to him then?

GW:   I don't have a problem

LW:   oh right, ok that's over the phone rather or is it

GW:   usually, well both I see him quite regularly here anyway but

LW:   yeah he's quite active

GW:   Oh yes he's very good

LW:   yeah absolutely well OK. Just out of interest what kind of dealings did you have with Betsy what kind of events did she help to arrange.

GW:   not so much arrange, people who would ask Iain to attend like a scouts parade something like that that he couldn't get to she would phone me up and ask me to stand in for him.

LW:  ok I see what you mean, do you know if she did that for quite a while

GW:   well yes for several years

LW:   ok well that's great, thank you very much for your time, sorry to disturb you at work

GW:  No problem

LW:   Bye

Councillor Michael Fish

LW:   Hi, it's Louise at BBC's Newsnight, I'm just wondering if you had some time to talk

ME:  yes ok

LW:   We're just looking at the role of MPs in their constituency and your particular constituency is Iain Duncan Smith is the main MP who plays a pretty huge role he gets very involved in local activities we're just wondering how you would go about contacting him

ME:  Oh through his office or his agent

LW:  sorry

ME:  through his office or his local agent

LW:  Who do you normally talk to in the office

ME:  Well his agent

LW:   Who is Rikki Radford. Is he the person you'd normally talk to organize anything like that

ME:  yes I think so

LW:   we know his wife is very involved plays a very important part in his business affairs she was a diary secretary I think .... Have you ever had any dealings with her

MF:  I don't think so, no

LW:   So it is mainly Rikki, what about Christine Watson I think who is the other person in his office

ME:  Well she maybe the London office I wouldn't know

LW:  Oh right ok but there have been no dealing with Betsy as far as you know

MF:  Not that I know of

LW:   right ok so is it generally very easy to get hold of him one way or another

MF:  Erm…. I should have thought it was fairly easy but as you say there is a difference in actual fact where we were historically part of the Epping division and we had Churchill during the war and Norman Tebbit as he became further up the poll he also was a very good local became more difficult for him as he went further up so it is a problem when MPs have more than one job

LW:   From what I can gather Iain Duncan Smith does a very good job

MF:  yes I think he does.... he throws himself especially into I know trying to protect special schools

LW:  yes he does St Joseph's and Hawkswood

ME:   Hawkswood yes

LW:  the work he's doing is great, have you had any dealings with him over those

MF:  Well I'm Chairman of Hawkswood Governors

LW:   oh right ok so does all that correspondence go through Rikki Radford or

MF:  No I think that all goes direct to him but I know Rikki Radford actually co-ordinates the local work and local visits and things like that and attends the appropriate council meetings to listen to what's going on

LW:  oh right, a big part of the community

MF:  yes

LW:  That's very helpful, thank you for your time, is this a home number I've got you on

MF:   yes I've retired

LW:   well thank you very much for taking some time to talk to us.

MF:  Right thank you

LW:   Bye

ME :  Bye

Councillor Eric Williams

LW:  Hi, just wondering if you have a couple of minutes to talk

EW:   I think I know what you're talking about and I've been asked to refer you to the press office at conservative central office and that's really all I have to say

LW:  How do you …

EW:   Thank you very much goodbye

Councillor Linda Huggett

LH:  depends on what it's about Louise

LW:   We're looking at the role of MPs in their local constituency

LH:   oh right

LW:   and one of the people who is really active in their constituency is Iain Duncan Smith. We're just wondering how you would go about contacting him in relation to any of the events he attends

LH:  Right, well I'm actually one of his councillors

LW:   yes we realize that

LH:  he's very contactable

LW:  who would you normally go through

LH:  I would normally go through his secretary

LW:  who's that

LH:  erm he's got 2 secretaries one's for constituency business and one for his ordinary business so it would be Christine

LW:  Is that Christine Walton Watson

LH:  yes Watson that's right

LW:   there are some Annabelles as well

LH:  yes that his other secretary Annabelle

LW:  oh right so it's either Christine or Annabelle

LH:   he's very contactable if you got an urgent issue he's always there he's very supportive

LW:  yeah no he seems to be—he seems to be amazing. Have you ever had any dealing with his wife

LH:   Yes

LW:   because I know she has a very important role

LH:   yes and his family

LW:  oh right is that through a professional way or rather than personal

LH:   no it's personal—they attend a lot of the functions that we hold

LW:   she comes with him

LH:   yes

LW:   has she ever taken part in organzing any of the diary events or have you ever spoken to her in that relation

LH:  I have actually spoken to her when one of the secretaries hasn't been well when I haven't been able to contact one of the secretaries—I've got Iain's pager you see

LW:   oh right

LH:   if I wanted to get hold of him very urgently I could

LW:   oh right

LH:   but I wouldn't abuse that I'd normally go through the secretaries

LW:   right when would have been the last time you would have spoken to Betsy say for professional reasons for organizing some sort of event

LH:   Well normally I would go through the secretary and the secretary would contact Betsy

LW:  right so you haven't had any direct dealings with her in the last year or 2

LH:  yes I have I've seen her at the functions.

LW:   oh right right yeah but other than seeing her at the functions maybe contacting her to organize

LH:  No hasn't been necessary

LW:   right so it is normally Christine. What's Annabelle's surname I understand there are 2 of them I just want to differentiate between them

LH:  I haven't go my diary on me at the moment, it's written down in my diary

LW:   oh right ok is it worth calling you back

LH:  well you can phone Annabelle direct she's at the House of Commons

LW:  Ok that's fantastic thank you so much for your time

LH:  That's ok

LW:  sorry for interrupting you at work

LH:  That's alright—any reason you're asking the questions

LW:   yeah we're looking at local MPs work within their constituency we're asking several councillors

LH:  Iain in particular or a whole range of them

LW:   at the moment Iain but it's pure research purposes at the moment

LH:   all I can say is that he's very actively involved at local level and if you've got a problem he's almost immediately contactable

LW:  that seems to be

LH:  he's very supportive

LW:   yes absolutely alright

LH:  unlike a lot of others

LW:   Yes it's funny you say that, …. I'm picking on him as being one of the better ones at the moment so absolutely even in within the Walthamstow area he's....

LH:  yes he is very active and if you've got a problem he's very supportive

LW:   hmmm ok well that's good to know. Thank you

LH:   ok

LW :  Thank you very much

LH:   thank you good bye

Councillor Laurie Braham

LW:  We're just looking at various MPs work within their constituency and one of the people who's very active is Iain Duncan Smith

LB:  Of course

LW:  and we're just wondering erm the kind of role that you would have to take if you needed to say get in touch with him who you'd contact that kind of thing

LB:  Well.... ha ha... erm a direct line number

LW:  is that direct to him or

LB:  Well I'd ring his secretary

LW:  his secretary now is that—are we talking Christine or

LB:  yep

LW:   There's an Annabelle as well isn't there

LB:   Yeah that's right

LW:  would you go to either of them or

LB:  or I could email them whichever

LW:   right but they're generally the people you'd go through

LB:  well no actually—I don't know what the purpose of the questions are but of course we have a common agent

LW:   Now is that Rikki

LB:  Rikki Radford yeah—normally I'd ring Rikki on his mobile which gets me through to Iain if I need him swiftly I get him swiftly

LW:  right—he seems to be very good very approachable

LB:   He is

LW:  yeah

LB:  Extremely

LW:   just wondering there's a guy in his office Adrian Muldrew is that right

LB:   Adrian

LW:   Muldrew

LB:   I'm not aware of him I may have met him but I'm not aware of him

LW:   oh right

LB:  I don't have dealings with him

LW:  oh ok... would you have ever dealt with his wife because I know she plays a very important role in his.

LB:  Betsy yes

LW:  have you had dealings with her

LB:  oh yes well he's a family man..we … well (a poster???) it's a friendly clique if you like you know we meet fairly the children and Betsy so does my wife of course... we're all sort of included.

LW:  Does Betsy ever get involved in kind of organizing diary events within the area

LB:   not as far as I know—I mean I've never discussed politics or political things with her but diary events., when you say diary events so comes to all bazzars and coffee mornings and

LW   So she turns up at the events but doesn't get involved in organizing them or anything

LB:  oh no no no he leaves that to his ... he's leader of the party for Gods sake (laughs)

LW:   yes no we know he plays an important role and family is important to him

LB:   oh absolutely

LW:   we have seen her with him whenever the local paper is down at a fair or something—she's always there

LB:  yeah absolutely

LW:  well thank you for your time

LB:   not at all

LW:   sorry to disturb you at home.

LB:  not at all—a pleasure

LW:   thanks bye

Councillor Matthew Davis

MD:  Hello

LW:   Is Matthew Davies there please

MD:  You're speaking to him

LW:   Oh hi my name's Louise, I'm calling from BBC Newsnight, can I just check you're still a councillor in the hale end and highams park area

MD:   I am

LW:   Oh great, do you have a few minutes to spare

MD:   Go on

LW:  We're just looking at the role of MPs in their constituency, the kind of activities they get up to and how they're set up, that kind of thing and we're wondering whether how you go about such commitments and in terms of Iain Duncan Smith the kind of contact you'd have with him because I know he's incredibly busy within the constituency and whether you have much er many dealings with him.

MD:  errm there's 2 things I should say about this. The first one is yes certainly I do and secondly I'm not going to talk about Iain unless I've spoken to his office first. He is leader of the party and I don't think it's right for me to speak to the BBC about him without checking.... with his office first to be honest.

LW:  Oh sure, I mean all we're asking are general questions about the kind of constituency events and how they're set up that kind of thing that's all

MD:  Erm

LW:   nothing specific just in terms... if there are constituency events happening in a couple of weeks who would be the people you would deal with at his office whether it's er I think a couple of names have come up as in Diary Secretary or anyone like that

MD:  er well yes erm as a general rule you would either call one of the Annabelles or speak to Iain's agent constituency agent

LW:  Is that Rikki Radford

MD:   Yes

LW:   oh right

MD:  Personally I would always speak to Rikki because obviously he's in hourly contact with Iain more or less. If you want to let Iain know about something I found normally calling Rikki is the best.

LW:   O right, I know his wife gets very involved in these events as well I think she was his diary secretary

MD:  What Iain's wife

LW:   Yes

MD:  I don't know about that

LW:   So you've never had any contact with her

MD:  No I have I've met Betsy a number of times and she's a very nice person

LW:  I'm sure she is. Is that a professional level or a personal level

MD:  What do you mean

LW:   When you say you've met her...

MD:  She comes with him to events

LW:  Right ok so you've never actually organized any events through her

MD:   no he has staff to do that

LW:   Right ok that's lovely thank you so much for your time. Have I called you at work

MD:  No

LW:   at home

MD:  I'm self employed I work from home you can normally get me on this number but if you call me late at night I won't answer it

LW:  Well that's fair enough, thank you good bye

MD :  Bye

29 September 2003

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