Maria Miller expenses row: Cameron continues to back Culture Secretary

The Prime Minister said the Culture Secretary had recognised her mistakes

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister David Cameron has again defended his embattled Culture Secretary after MPs overruled a damning independent report into her expenses.

Cameron insisted that the issue should be “left” after the cross-party Standards Committee ordered Maria Miller to apologise and hand back £5,800 in overclaimed accommodation allowances – nearly £40,000 less than that recommended by Parliament’s standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson.

Speaking on a visit to Devon, Mr Cameron said: “What happened yesterday is that Maria Miller was actually cleared of the original charge made against her.

"It was found she had made mistakes, she accepted that, repaid the money, she apologised unreservedly to the House of Commons so I think that we should leave it there."

Mrs Miller has been condemned for making a "contemptuous" 32-second personal apology for her "legalistic" approach to the inquiry into her expenses on the floor of the House on Thursday.

She is thought to be the first minister to make such a statement to the Commons without resigning.

Letters published with the committee's report have revealed that the MP repeatedly attempted to close the investigation down, arguing that Ms Hudson was going beyond her original remit by asking for details of mortgage arrangements.

Ms Hudson accused the culture secretary of “misrepresenting” her investigation in an attempt to discredit it.

The controversy centres on more than £90,000 of claims by Mrs Miller over four years for the London property which she designated as her second home and where her parents lived.

The committee cleared her of fiddling her expenses, but instructed her to repay £5,800 that she had inadvertently overclaimed because her invoices to the taxpayer failed to reflect cuts in interest rates.

The investigation began with the disclosure that Mrs Miller designated cottages which she rented in her constituency of Basingstoke, Hants, as her main residence and claimed expenses on her London property where her parents also lived.

The committee ruled that Mrs Miller should have nominated her house in the capital as her main home because she spent most nights there.

But it admitted that the judgement was “finely balanced” and considered she had acted reasonably in the light of the “guidance available at the time”.

It cleared her of breaking the rules on expenses by moving her parents into her family home, which had been the key charge against her.

In her statement to the Commons, Mrs Miller stressed the allegation that the taxpayer funded her parents' living costs had been “dismissed”.

She said: “The committee did recommend that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the commissioner's inquiry and I of course unreservedly apologise.

“I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end.”

But a number of MPs called for Ms Miller’s resignation. Labour MP John Mann said her apology showed a lack of respect to the public, MPs and the committee.

And a Conservative backbencher said: “Anyone close to Cameron or around him is given protection in a way that others aren't.

“Back in 2009 at the height of the expenses crisis, Cameron was only too happy to throw people to the wolves.”

Cameron had previosuly said that the matter was closed.

Additional reporting by Press Association