Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence


43.  Written statement by Mr Rikki Radford, 13 October 2003

[See also Volume III, PCS Oral Evidence 19]

1.  I am employed by the Conservative Party Central Office as the agent for the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith MP. I have held that position since February 2002. I was appointed to this position by the conservative party association for Chingford and Woodford Green, which is Mr Duncan Smith's constituency.

2.  From my first week working for Mr Duncan Smith I have had dealings with his wife Elizabeth Duncan Smith ('Betsy'). I was told at the outset by Annabelle Eyre that 'Betsy was on call' if I needed a hand with anything.

3.  I did not know at that time that Betsy was employed by her husband as, inter alia., a diary secretary but I subsequently became aware that that was the case. I know that many MPs who employ their wives so I did not consider the matter of any note. As far as I was concerned Betsy was an on-call resource of information because of her contacts within the constituency.

4.  I had regular dealings with Betsy concerning constituency matters. I spoke to her at least 4 or 5 times a month by telephone or more depending on the state of activity in the constituency. For example, in the run up to the local elections in May 2002 I had to speak to her often about her contacts. Similarly, Betsy was familiar with Mr Duncan Smith's charitable activities in his constituency and those in which he wanted to become involved.

5.  I was aware that Betsy had far more extensive dealings with other members of Mr Duncan Smith's staff, including Annabelle Eyre and Andrew Whitby-Collins who would be able to give further and better details of her duties.

6.  I know first hand that Betsy was active in her employed role up to December 2002. I recall, for example, that she coordinated the Christmas Card mailings for the constituency that year, which benefited from her knowledge of the very many persons on our mailing list.

7.  I know first hand that efforts were being made in late 2002 to find and employ a person to take over Betsy's duties for her husband. I met some of the potential replacements, as would have to work with them in their constituency role.

8.  After a replacement for Betsy was found, and Betsy had resigned from her employed role, I still continued to deal with her concerning matters such as diary clashes but with far less frequency. I now deal primarily with Christine Watson, Mr Duncan Smith's private secretary, concerning constituency matters.

9.  I am aware that certain allegations have been made concerning Betsy's employment by her husband following an investigation by Mr Michael Crick, a freelance journalist, originally intended for broadcast on BBC's Newsnight programme, but which have subsequently been published in the national press.

10.  I have been aware for some time that Mr Crick has been interested in investigating stories which seek to disparage Mr Duncan Smith.

i)  After the May elections in 2003, Mr Crick called several of the schools in our constituency to find out how active Mr Duncan Smith was as their MP. I understand that he interviewed on camera the head teacher of Hawkswood School, a school for special needs children, which Mr Duncan Smith has actively campaigned to keep open.

ii)  Mr Crick pursued a story, the details of which I do not recall, concerning which university Mr Duncan Smith attended.

iii)  In the summer of 2003 Mr Crick made inquiries of the occupant of Mr Duncan Smith's house in our constituency (which I understand is occupied by Mr Duncan Smith's sister) in order to determine whether rent was being paid and Mr Duncan Smith had declared that income.

11.  I was first contacted by Mr Crick, in relation to his present allegations against Mr and Mrs Duncan Smith, on Monday 29 September. He called me to ask questions about Betsy. It was short conversation. As I recall, he asked three questions about Betsy: (1) Is she the diary secretary? (2) Is she working for Mr Duncan Smith? (3) Is she a speechwriter? I answered 'no' or negatively to all of these. It was clear to me from the way in which the questions were put in the present tense that we were discussing Betsy's present role and not any role she may have had in the past. If the questions had been framed as "did she" or "was she", then I would have answered differently based for the reasons I have set out above.

12.  I am appalled to learn that Mr Crick has now caused my responses to published in a manner which I regard as false and misleading.

13.  The Sunday Telegraph (12 October 2003, p5, column 2) published that:

"In a tape recorded conversation Mr Radford appeared to tell Crick that Mrs Duncan Smith had not worked for her husband since he became leader.

When asked whether she had fulfilled a professional role for her husband after he became leader, Mr Radford said: I can be absolute...I know for sure she doesn't..."

14.  It is self evident that my answer is concerned with the present. I understood Mr Crick to be asking me about Betsy's current employ. If I had been asked about her past employment I would have given the appropriate, very different answer, based on the my knowledge as set out above in this statement.

15.  On page 6 (column 4) of the same edition of The Sunday Telegraph there is published in a linked story in which appears:

"When I put the idea of Mrs Duncan Smith being a researcher or speech writer to Rikki Radford, Mr Duncan Smith's constituency agent, he seemed incredulous, 'Come on!' he remarked derisively."

16.  All I would note about this quote is that it is put in, and answered in, the present tense. I believe my response is quoted accurately and was prompted by the absurdity of suggesting Betsy being Mr Duncan Smith's speechwriter, when it is well known that is not the case.

17.  On 13 October 2003 (p4) The Daily Telegraph reported:

"Crick also contacted Rikki Radford... and, in a recorded interview, asked him if Mrs Duncan Smith had fulfilled a professional role for her husband since he became party leader.

Mr Radford replied: "I know for sure she doesn't..."

18.  Once again, my reply which relates to the present status of Mrs Duncan Smith, is again, more emphatically and falsely stated as a response to a question relating to whether she "had" and "since he became party leader". I cannot recall that the question was put to me in that context or I would have answered it appropriately.

19.  At no stage did Mr Crick inform me he was recording our conversation of 29 September. If, as is reported, he did so then the recording is evidence of the true context of our conversation, which, as I reiterate, was the present not the past.

20.  The contents of this statement are true to the best of my knowledge and recollection.

13 October 2003


 
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