Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Written Evidence

53.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Iain Duncan Smith, 4 February 2004

Thank you for your letter.

Your letter incorporating Mr Walker's new comments confirms every key issue in my letter of 6 January, including:

1.  Mr Walker's letter confirms, for the second time, that he is satisfied with the claims on my house in Chingford. He also confirms that there is no guidance on what 'regular usage' entails. However, Mr Walker has chosen to introduce in this letter, surprisingly, a new term, that of 'reasonable use'. I cannot see how it is appropriate in the context of this enquiry to suggest that it would have been helpful if I had provided information about frequency—such information is neither required nor meaningful.

As you will recall, I said at our meeting that there is not and never was any basis for Dr Gearson to question my ACA claims let alone to suggest that the Fees Office had investigated them. This has now been confirmed twice by the Fees Office.

It is clear from the Fees Office notes and records that there is no mention of the words "Short Money" in connection with any inquiries/visits by Christine Watson. Accordingly there is no document contradicting anything that Christine has said in her testimony (and of course Mr Walker was not party to any of the relevant conversations between Christine Watson and the Fees Office).

The specific file note (Caroline Stockton, 20 October 2002)[132] confirms Christine's testimony that she went to the Fees Office to discuss the "staffing allowance" and she was informing the Office that only part of her salary would in future be paid from the staffing allowance, which in fact happened.

2.  I also note that Mr Walker has changed his position; he now seeks to suggest that this is "not so much whether Short Money was used appropriately, but whether the Parliamentary Staffing Allowance was used on party political work." That is surely incorrect, whether it was Short Money or staffing allowance the member of staff paid from either fund must be employed on parliamentary business (as distinct from party political work). My position continues to be that there was no misuse of my staffing allowance—my staff were engaged on parliamentary business. In his original letter of 10 December 2003 Mr Walker's suggestion was that my "staff' were advised about Short Money, which now proves groundless and that statement is now dropped. As he now recognises, his records demonstrate only (a) conversations with Christine and (b) there is no mention of Short Money in any of them.

3.  Furthermore, although Mr Walker does not expressly deal with the matter, he must be taken to accept what I said in my letter about there being no definition of "parliamentary business" nor any guidance on the parliamentary duties of the "Leader of the Opposition". That places a considerable limitation on the quality of any advice which the Fees Office is capable of providing on these issues.

4.  I see nothing in anything Mr Walker has said (or document he quotes) which contradicts the testimony of either myself or Christine Watson, I believe it now confirms our testimony in every material aspect.

4 February 2004

132   Not appended by the Commissioner-see Volume I, Appendix 1, para 169.  Back

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