Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence

31.  Transcript of telephone conversation between Mr Neal Dalgleish and Councillor John Gover, 29 September 2003

Top 10" of the telephone conversation is missing. Recording begins:

ND:  I just wondered, do you know whether Mrs Duncan Smith was also working for him at that time . . . in his constituency (first answer refers to the missing earlier question to Mr Gover about when he stopped being Mr DS's agent.)

JG:  Honestly, well I think you should speak to his present agent. I don't … what I did ... I'm a councillor for the London borough of Waltham Forest … that's how I spend most of my time. She certainly appeared with some frequency during the election campaign. Campaigning is a slightly different thing from routine constituency work.

ND:  Of course, yes. What I was wondering was ...because what I thought was that she used to be, if not now his constituency secretary. I mean she worked arranging visits and so on when, before he was leader of the opposition.

JG:  I wouldn't know that, I wasn't … the only in depth involvement I had was in running the campaign. What, how he organises his life as a Member of Parliament, who worked for him I just don't know. It would be fairly common place for Members wives to have a role in their job as a constituency MP. But the extent to which she did or didn't I just don't know.

ND:  And presumably he is still your constituency MP for the ward that you represent on the local authority?

JG:  Oh yeh.

ND:  So if you want to arrange a meeting or something with him. Or get him to come along and help out on something which affects your ward who do you deal with. Who do you deal with, who arranges it?

JG:  Well I would deal now with his...the last time I had to speak to him his constituency secretary ..although I think she might have had a job title since ..his constituency secretary was a lady called ..Christine Watson ..or it might be Maureen ..I think it's Christine know her do you?

ND:  the name is familiar yes ..she works for him in his parliamentary office.

JG:  yeh well the last time I needed him with some help on a constituency matter she was the lady I dealt I went through

ND:  She did his diary as far as you know? least if you wanted to try to make a diary date for him to come to the constituency and help out with something it would be her you would deal with would it?

JG:  Well on the basis of past experience that's where I would start. Whether I would get the same person on a future occasion I don't know. But I know how to access his office.

ND:  ..well that's what I'm saying's not usually his wife who deals with that sort of thing?

JG:  No in my experience ..but my experience is quite limited because I don't …Well what people don't appreciate is that ...the, a Member of Parliament has very limited powers to assist constituents in matters which are within the portfolio of the local authority …the best thing he can do is write to the Chief Executive and perhaps pull some weight or something but a very large number of all constituency MPs can obviously this applies to constituents contains something to the effect that this is a matter that is within the authority of your local council. And of course those things are pursued by councillors.

ND:  Of course

JG:  I haven't …I'm trying to think ..I really can't remember the last time I thought it would be useful to say to Iain I want you to exercise some muscle on this or that particular matter because if you know what you're doing as a councillor you can normally make things happen yourself.

ND:  Yeh ..l suppose what often happens is you want the MP to appear, to come along and support an event .. you know?

JG:  Well yeh that sort of thing .. if it was in the constituency then the first port of call would be his constituency agent .. that's a man called Rikki Radford. Who you may have heard of..

ND:  Yeh..

JG:  If it was me I would say that .. we tend to do these things in a way which tend to keep them happy would arrange it fairly well in advance and if you had an event which you didn't have to fix the time and date of straight away you'd speak to Rikki and ask him what's a good chance ..of a date. He would give you some ideas you'd then fix the date ..go back to him and he's probably conjunction with Iain's office would come up with an answer. Which if there was sufficient notice ..then if there were no obstacles then in my experience the answer would usually be yes.

ND:  Yes ..he seems to do a lot of work in the constituency even as party leader..

JG:  Oh yeh…I'm sitting in my car in the main street of (Milton Keynes ??) at the moment ..if it was a Friday I would expect to see him walking down the Street sometime. Because the constituency office is just off the main street ..A number of the traders have his photograph up in their shop because, just to commemorate an occasion when he just walked in to say hello. I don't know what the substance of your enquiry is ..but I can tell you that DS is an extremely conscientious constituency MP..

ND:  oh no ..people have said absolutely that...and even as leader of the opposition which means he has lots of other things to do ..he's still there

JG:  In a sense I suppose he's lucky because the constituency is pretty close to London. He maintains a house in the constituency you probably know.

ND:  He doesn't live in the constituency normally though does he ..?

JG:  He's maintained a home in the constituency since he was adopted as parliamentary candidate about 15 years ago and has kept it all the way through. My recent experience since ..I think he's now moved out of the house he used to occupy in Fulham and moved out to Buckinghamshire ..he doesn't, I understand spend a lot of time overnight in Chingford because it's close to London.

ND:  Of course it's a long trip from Chingford to Buckinghamshire on a Friday night.

JG:  ..This house ..the main reason he hasn't moved to Chingford from London on a permanent basis is that he has young children in local schools in Fulham.

ND:  I see

JG:  ..But even in those days he did quite frequently during the election campaign for example ..when we'd get finished at night ..he'd go back to Chingford and put his head down.

ND:  ..and just back to my original point ..have you had him visit you or do any events for you in the last couple of years?

JG:  Yes ..I had an issue on an estate which is in my ward which I picked up and ran with, to do with security. The estate was constructed in the 1950s when the need for the sort of security precautions which are now necessary was not so evident and the estate was falling behind in that regard. I made a fuss with the local authority and while this was going on and I was in the process of getting the matter sufficient priority he visited the estate. Spoke to all the residents, the ones that wanted to talk to him and made a speech supporting the initiative

ND:  Was the recently?

JG:  That would have been this time last year

ND:  Last autumn or whatever?

JG:  No last summer

ND:  That's summer 2002? That was all arranged through Rikki Radford was it?

JG:  Yeh

ND:  And not Mrs Duncan Smith?

JG:  Correct.... What is the significance of your question?

ND:  I'm just trying to find out whether she's worked in the constituency or not.

JG:  Why don't you ask her?

ND:  You're absolutely right ..I'm sure at some point I will.

ND:  I'm very grateful ..thanks very much.

JG:  What's your name again?

ND:  It's Neal Dalgleish

JG:  Ok thanks bye.

29 September 2003

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