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Scrounging off the state? When Ian Duncan Smith put his wife on the parliamentary payroll

IDSThere is an unsavoury episode in the parliamentary history of Ian Duncan Smith that he will be hoping people will have forgotten. This concerns Dr Vanessa Gearson, who IDS appointed as his Chief of Staff for part of his time as Tory Leader (prior to this Dr Gearson worked as Private Secretary to the Chair of the Tory Party).

On 16th October 2003, Dr Gearson gave a long and very detailed written statement to the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges. This concerned “the matter of the investigation into the employment of Betsy Duncan Smith”. Dr Gearson had been surprised to discover that Mrs Duncan Smith was employed for 25 hours a week at £18,000 per annum, paid for out of IDS’s Parliamentary Office Costs Allowance.

Dr Gearson was “unwilling to support Mr Duncan Smith’s contention that his wife had worked for him in a significant capacity during the time I spent as head of his office”. Dr Gearson saw “absolutely no evidence of the work carried out by Mrs Duncan Smith”.

In support of this contention Dr Gearson examined four key tasks: “The Diary”, “Correspondence”, “Financial Arrangements” and “Practical Considerations”. Dr Gearson “saw no evidence of involvement by Mrs Duncan Smith in any of these key tasks.”

Dr Gearson pointed out that the political and parliamentary offices of the IDS couple were entirely integrated and “I was in a unique and pivotal position in overseeing the work carried out in both offices”. Also from the evidence, “it is difficult to accept Mr Duncan Smith’s assertion that Mrs Duncan Smith was working for him in a parliamentary capacity from a fully functional office at their home”.

Dr Gearson raised her concerns with people close to IDS and “not one person ever questioned or contradicted my assertion that Mrs Duncan Smith was being paid without appearing to do any work”.

Dr Gearson stated that she was briefed against and threatened, but she stood firm.

Dr Gearson summed up as follows: “It remains my conclusion that the press allegations made regarding the employment of Mrs Duncan Smith are significantly more likely to be true than not”.

This article originally appeared in Campaign Briefing, produced by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.


  1. Jim says:

    Great. We all know and dislike IDS but if the Left’s bid for intellectual leadership is to be spearheaded by re-treading 12 year old articles then the future looks bleak

    1. Susan O'Neill says:

      This was something I was not aware of and it seems that certain people would rather I and many others should remain ignorant of certain facts. How inconvenient it must be to those Tory shills that such truths are reported.
      Many thanks for this “news”.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Then you must have been asleep somewhere under haystack for the last 15 years; because you’re probably the only person in the entire country who didn’t know about, “Bettsygate, and also the extent to which IDS lied blatantly about his experience and qualifications and education on his CV and so on.

        The man is in almost every possible respect a poisonous, vile and creeping little reptile.

        But this very much an example of, “Dog bites man,” (ie, not news,) rather than, “Man bites dog,” (news,) as the old saying goes; but you don’t have to look far at all within the Westminster sewer to find equally odious examples of malfeasance, dishonesty and graft that are equally well know, (thanks to papers like the Daily Telegraph in particular,)

        The examples of the kind of money, (more than most people earn in year,) that sticky fingered individuals such as Harman, Laws, Cooper, Miller, Balls, even Andy Burnham have obtained by dishonestly, “fiddling,” their expenses in one way or another has become almost a cliché; had anyone other than an MP been caught doing this in the course of their employment they’d certainly have landed in court facing a serious criminal prosecution.

        Then their is the career of Stephen Green, (later a government Minister) at HSBC where every possible kind of criminality, (laundering drug money, financing terrorism, fixing the bank rates; a list far to long to complete here,) seems to have been perpetrated and on a huge scale whilst he was in charge.

        But lets not also forget stuff like this as well, but once again old news.

        “I’m a bit like a sort of cab for hire,” Stephen Byers explained to the fake lobbyist whom he had never met before and whose credentials he had not checked. “I still get a lot of confidential information because I’m still linked to No 10,” he boasted. His fee, the former Labour transport secretary explained, was “usually between £3,000 and £5,000 a day”. He had a particular “trump card” to offer clients in the shape of his friendship with Lord Mandelson. He had also, he pointed out, done serious business for a major client with Lord Adonis at the transport department – “We sort of worked together, basically the way he was comfortable doing it.” If that was not enough and if his clients were interested, “we could have a word with Tony”.

        People in Glass Houses?

  2. Robert says:

    The 2015/16 annual register of MPs’ interests shows that 129 out of 650 elected in May’s general election employs a family member or relation, including sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.
    As many as 15 new MPs are employing family members include Richard Arkless, MP for Dumfries and Galloway and Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      That’s a fair point and as far as it goes and in principle there’s nothing particularly that wrong about it, (up to a point,) but the whole issue of Betsy-gate was that even IDS’s own political agent conceded that to his knowledge she never even opened an envelope in capacity in which she was supposed to have been employed; which made it fraud; pure and simple.

      I man in some respects ahead of his time, though not in any good way..

  3. […] For the full article, ”Scrounging off the state? When Ian Duncan-Smith put his wife on the parliamentary payroll”, from which the above extract is taken, can be read on the following link. […]

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