Maria Miller fights back over expenses row

Labour MP who exposed Culture Secretary questions the validity of committee that reduced the amount she must repay

A fierce row over MPs’ ability to police themselves is set to reach the floor of the House of Commons in the wake of the Maria Miller expenses scandal.

John Mann, the Labour MP who sparked an investigation into the Culture Secretary’s mortgage expenses with a formal complaint in 2012, is furious that a cross-party committee has drastically reduced the amount she has to repay. Ms Miller was ordered to pay back more than £40,000 by the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, but the Committee on Standards concluded she owed only £5,800 after failing to reduce claims for mortgage repayments when interest rates fell. 

Pressure for action over Ms Miller increased yesterday when the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said that David Cameron must make a decision on the Culture Secretary’s future. He said:  “I think Maria Miller has explained herself. All the other issues to do with her position, the behaviour of her office, alleged or not, is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister.”

Mr Mann said there is “no precedent anywhere else in society” that would allow for MPs to overturn a penalty against one of their own, and he will demand parliamentary time to debate whether the committee should be scrapped. 

He added: “There have to be questions over how a committee on standards can go on. There needs to be a debate over the powers of that committee and self-regulation of MPs – and that debate needs to take place in Parliament.”

The issue of Miller’s expenses has mushroomed into a row between two professions resisting their right to self-regulate being curtailed. Ms Miller is held responsible by many journalists for the Government’s post-Leveson plan for newspapers, while she – and many MPs – has been resistant to the authority of the commissioner.

A former cabinet minister added: “The difficulty is that MPs have taken a different position from the commissioner and that has made the whole thing far more toxic and controversial.”

Committee members insist that they have acted properly and pointed out that they have been tough on other colleagues. Geoffrey Cox, a Tory MP who sits on the committee, accused Mr Mann of being “constitutionally illiterate”, as the decision to suspend or expel an MP should not be in the gift of one unelected commissioner. He argued that Mr Mann was “bandwagoning”.

He added: “This is just about the most astonishingly absurd claim I have heard made in years. There is simply no basis from the Maria Miller case to consider whether or not the committee is working satisfactorily.”

Last night, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Twitter feed was hacked, with tweets sent out mocking Ms Miller. The unknown hacker, whose messages were swiftly deleted, said the public should decide her fate. Yesterday, Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said Ms Miller’s attempt to frustrate the commissioner’s inquiry was “pretty shocking”.

Ms Miller allowed her parents to live in a south London property for which she claimed more than £90,000 in second-home allowances from 2005 to 2009. Rules state that second homes should be exclusively for the use of MPs.

The committee rejected arguments that Ms Miller’s parents had financially benefited from the arrangement: “There can be no criticism of [Ms Miller] in relation to her personal, caring responsibilities and her desire to combine these with the role of an elected representative.”

Although the committee disagreed with the commissioner’s findings over how much she owed, it did censure Ms Miller over her lack of co-operation with the inquiry.

Emails to the commissioner released on Friday show that Ms Miller warned Ms Hudson that she was unhappy over the way the investigation was being handled: “It may be that I shall need to refer this to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Standards Committee, but I hope this can be avoided,” Ms Miller wrote.

A recording of a telephone conversation between the Culture Secretary’s adviser and a journalist emerged this weekend, apparently suggesting pressure had been applied to downplay the story. The adviser warned the reporter that she should not have approached Ms Miller’s elderly father, and alluded to Ms Miller’s work on the Leveson inquiry. “I am just going to flag up that connection for you to think about,” Ms Miller’s adviser added. A senior MP argued that the adviser “was wrong to make that link by innuendo and it’s difficult to see Miller disentangling herself”.

Ms Miller expressed regret to the Commons for her “incomplete” evidence, and apologised, but briefly. A committee source said: “You should keep the apology short, as the more you go on the more it sounds like self-pity and you don’t mean it. But 32 seconds is too short.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game