Maria Miller expenses row: Cameron insists Culture Secretary has nothing to resign over

But PM admits expenses rules need changing

Deputy Political Editor

David Cameron mounted a fresh defence of Maria Miller today as the embattled Culture Secretary faced fresh claims about her finances.

The Prime Minister has been confronted with calls from within the Conservative Party to fire her from the Cabinet after she was ordered to repay nearly £6,000 of taxpayer-funded mortgage claims.

Her plight has been worsened by anger over a perfunctory Commons apology last week lasting barely 30 seconds.

During a visit today to a south London supermarket, Mr Cameron was challenged over polling which showed most Tories believed she should be sacked.

He said: “What matters is doing the right thing. I think Maria has done the right thing by repaying the money, making an apology and now getting on with her job.

“We ought to remember she was found innocent of the claim that was levelled at her at the start of this process. I think that is important to bear in mind.”

Asked if she was still in her job because she was a state-educated woman, he replied: “Maria Miller is in her job because she is doing a good job as Culture Secretary.”

It was reported today that Mrs Miller stopped claiming a second home allowance just as officials asked her to confirm she would pay tax when the property was sold.

By re-designating the house she shared with her parents in south London as her main residence, she would not have to pay capital gains tax at 28 per cent when it was sold for a £1m profit.

The spokeswoman for Mrs Miller said: “It is well documented that Maria stopped claiming any accommodation allowance at all in April 2009.

”The sale of the Wimbledon property in February falls in a tax year that has not yet been assessed. She will of course deal with the matter in accordance with HM Revenue and Customs rules and pay any tax that is due.”

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron said he was “very open” to suggestions over ways in which the system of how MPs police themselves.

Calls for a fresh look at it came after the Common Standards Committee of MPs overruled the independent Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, who recommended Mrs Miller repaid £45,000 in expenses for her south London home.

It cut her repayment to £5,800, prompting accusations that MPs could not properly hold each other to account.

Mr Cameron said: “If there are further changes that people think are appropriate, I'm very open to suggestions.”

A Conservative ministerial aide, Nicola Blackwood, added to the pressure on Mrs Miller, saying she faced ““most serious” questions and her response could have been “clearer”.

Ms Blackwood said: “The questions which she is being faced with are of the most serious and I have to say when I deal with my expenses I am as transparent as I can be, it’s all up on my website.

“I have to say if I was faced with the kind of questions that she is faced with I would be really quite worried indeed.

“I only know what has been reported in the papers... but clearly it’s very unhelpful for this to drag on in the way that it is,” she told BBC Radio Oxford.

Labour has made a formal complaint to Kevin Barron, chairman of the standards committee, about the way Mrs Miller apologised for failing to cooperate fully with Ms Hudson's investigation.

The backbench MP Sheila Gilmore said: “This was inadequate to the point of being contemptuous of your Committee’s report and the Members’ Code of Conduct.”

 

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