Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence

34.  Written statement by Councillor John Gover, 13 October 2003


I joined the then Conservative & Unionist Party in about 1962 in 1964. I entered the Party's professional service as a trainee. In 1966, having in the meantime achieved lesser qualifications I was awarded, by examination, the Certificate to Practice as a political agent in the service of the Conservative & Unionist Party. I followed that profession in four separate constituencies until 1970, when of my own volition I left the Party's employ to pursue a career in industry.

Statement of Substance

Knowing I had the requisite skills and in the absence of an alternative qualified resource, Chingford Conservative Association asked me to act as election agent to Mr Iain Duncan Smith at the General Elections of 1997 and 2001. I willingly did so and for only nominal remuneration.

In that role I obviously became personally acquainted with Mr Duncan Smith and his wife Elizabeth, usually known as Betsy. It is my clear recollection that during the approach to the 2001 general election campaign and during it, Betsy had a significant administrative role in Mr Duncan Smith's day-to-day work.

Later in 2001, Mr Duncan Smith was elected Leader of the Conservative Party. After that, during 2002, I spoke with Betsy on several occasions about constituency matters particularly concerning Mr Duncan Smith's constituency presence and related overnight accommodation. Those discussions could not have happened unless she, Betsy, had a role in her husband's political life, and was aware of his movements as Party Leader. I suppose Betsy spoke to me in addition to others because of the acquaintance formed during the general elections.

During the general elections I was aware that Betsy worked from an office at home. She would have had to because parliamentary offices are not available to MPs whilst Parliament is dissolved. I believe that in any event it was her practice to divide her working time between the parliamentary office and home-based facilities. I had landline telephone numbers for both locations.

It may however be relevant to state that most of the conversations in 2002 took place by mobile telephone. Whilst it has not been used during 2003, what I believe to be Betsy's mobile telephone number is still, at this moment, stored in my device, as it was at the relevant time(s). I do not know whether the number has changed.

Being aware of the reason why I have been asked to make this statement, I would say that I do not have and never have had any knowledge of how Mr Duncan Smith deploys or has deployed the annual financial allowance available to him as an MP for secretarial/administrative assistance, so far as Betsy or anyone else is concerned.

13 October 2003

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