IDS in 48-hour wait over payment probe

Parliamentary watchdog Sir Philip Mawer is to decide whether to launch a full-blown investigation into claims that Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith wrongly paid his wife Betsy for secretarial work.

An announcement from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was expected within the next 48 hours after reporter Michael Crick handed him another file to add to the dossier already submitted.

Sir Philip said he would look at the allegations "properly, fairly and expeditiously", taking account of all the evidence, including that produced today.

Mr Crick said he had now handed in a seven-page memo from Christine Watson, Mr Duncan Smith's private secretary and former constituency secretary.

He said it painted a "very different picture" to that already set out in a statement of evidence to Sir Philip by Ms Watson and Mr and Mrs Duncan Smith.

Mr Crick told BBC2's The Daily Politics that the memo showed Ms Watson was "solely" running Mr Duncan Smith's "very busy" constituency office without any assistance.

The Conservative leader has emphatically denied all allegations against him, saying: "I totally reject claims that I was guilty of financial wrongdoing in the employment of my wife as a diary secretary after I became Conservative Party leader."

And senior shadow cabinet members rallied to his cause today. Party chairman Theresa May said Betsy Duncan Smith was the "sheet anchor" for the Tory leader.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said he was certain the Conservative Party would "come to its senses" and rally round its leader.

Mrs May conceded on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the ex-head of Mr Duncan Smith's private office and current deputy director of the Tory party Vanessa Gearson had raised concerns in an e-mail about Mrs Duncan Smith's role.

But the Conservative chairman said: "Having looked at the summary of the evidence that's been presented to the Commissioner, I think it is perfectly clear that Betsy did do the work that she was paid to do, that was important work in keeping the office together.

"She was, as the evidence says, the sheet anchor. She was the person who was pulling it all together, providing continuity and ensuring that things were running as smoothly as possible."

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