Maria Miller expenses scandal: Did Culture Secretary's special adviser threaten journalist?

 

Further pressure mounted on the Culture Secretary Maria Miller as the Daily Telegraph released an audio tape of a phone call between her special adviser and a reporter investigating her expenses claims.

The footage reveals that Mrs Miller’s aide Jo Hindley “flagged up” a meeting the Cabinet minister would be having with the paper’s then editor Tony Gallagher about the Leveson report into press standards – a move both Mr Gallagher and the reporter regarded as a threat.

The tape comes as details of letters sent by Mrs Miller to the parliamentary commissioner that investigated her expenses claims led to allegations by Labour MP John Mann that the MP may have bullied the watchdog during the lengthy inquiry - a charge she denies.

Commissioner Kathryn Hudson recommended that Mrs Miller should repay £45,000 in expenses claimed for a house which she shared with her parents. This was overruled by cross-party House of Commons Standards Committee who calculated that Mrs Miller should pay £5,800 in over-claimed mortgage interest.

The 10-member committee attempted to defuse criticism of its actions by releasing a joint statement with Ms Hudson describing the situation as "complex" and stressing Mrs Miller had been rebuked for failing to co-operate with the investigation.

In the released audio tape Ms Hindley is heard telling the reporter that another journalist who called at Mrs Miller's home had spoken to the MP's father, who had recently been in hospital. Some details were omitted from the recording to protect his privacy.

"I should just flag up as well, whilst you're on it, that when she doorstepped him, she got Maria's father, who's just had a [omitted] and come out of [omitted]," Ms Hindley says.

"Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors' meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I'm just going to flag up that connection for you to think about,” she adds.

Read more: Labour minister accuses David Cameron of ‘double standards’
Why has the Prime Minister been so soft on Maria Miller?
Maria Miller expenses row: Cameron continues to back Culture Secretary

Mr Gallagher told BBC2's Newsnight that he regarded the reference to the inquiry a threat: "Bear in mind this was a time of what I would call anti-press hysteria.

"The press was feeling very vulnerable just after the publication of the Leveson Report and there was a great desire on the part of all media organisations not to fall foul of somebody raising the spectre of Leveson.

"We were in no doubt that threats were being made. Joanna Hindley was not even attempting to be sophisitcated about it - she menaced the reporter openly... The reporter took that as a very clear threat."

A Whitehall source said that it was clear from the recording, made without Ms Hindley's knowledge, that she had been voicing concerns about the doorstepping of Mrs Miller's father, who was ill, and had been making clear that the minister would raise the issue at an upcoming meeting with the editor, which happened to relate to the Leveson report.

The source said that Mrs Miller did in fact speak to Mr Gallagher about the treatment of her father, and received a written apology from him.

Mr Gallagher claimed that he later received a similar call from Downing Street director of communications Craig Oliver, adding: "When you get the Prime Minister's spokesman making a similar phone call to you a couple of days later, you add all three calls up and you can only conclude that they are trying to harass you and stop you from publishing the story."

But Mr Oliver told the BBC: "It is utterly false to suggest that I threatened Tony Gallagher over Leveson in any way. The conversation I had with him was about the inappropriate doorstepping of an old man."

Prime Minister David Cameron has offered his “warm support” to the Secretary, despite a 32-second apology she made to the Commons earlier in the week being ill-regarded by other MPs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

KS2 Teacher with SEN responsibilities

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS2 teacher with SEN responsibi...

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments