Senior David Cameron aide accused of threatening newspaper over Maria Miller investigation

 

One of David Cameron’s most senior aides has been accused of threatening a national newspaper over an investigation it was conducting into the Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

Craig Oliver, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, is alleged to have implicitly warned the Daily Telegraph that its probe into Ms Miller’s expenses could have a bearing on the Government’s final response to Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press standards.

Mr Oliver’s intervention followed recorded comments by Ms Miller’s special advisor to a reporter on the paper in which she said she wanted to “flag up the connection” between the investigation and the editors’ meetings Ms Miller had been having “around Leveson”.

Tonight Downing Street angrily denied it had tried to put pressure on the Telegraph not to run the story pointing to Mr Cameron’s stated position that there should not be statutory regulation of the press.

“We don’t accept that threats have been made,” said Mr Cameron’s official spokesman. “The Prime Minister has set out his view (on the Leveson Report) in the House of Commons. That remains his view.”

However Labour demanded to know if Mr Cameron or Ms Miller had been aware of the calls made on their behalf suggesting they could be putting Ms Miller’s private interests ahead of their public responsibilities.

The campaign group Hacked Off, which represents the victims of press intrusion, called for Ms Miller to step aside from talks on the future of press regulation.

On Monday the Daily Telegraph claimed that Mrs Miller had claimed more than £90,000 in expenses for a second home that was used by her parents. She was said to have listed as her “main” home a more modest rented house in her Hampshire constituency.

While the story failed to attract much attention – and was disputed by Ms Miller - the paper subsequently claimed that pressure had been brought to bare upon them to by Downing Street.

It said that when a reporter approached Mrs Miller’s office about the story her special adviser pointed out that the Editor of The Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson.

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about,” she is alleged to have said.

The paper also quoted a conversation between the editor of The Telegraph Tony Gallagher and Mr Oliver in which he is said to have indicated that the article was poorly timed as “she [Maria Miller] is looking at Leveson at the moment.”

However Downing Street said it was simply raising concerns that Telegraph reporters had approached Ms Miller’s elderly father to ask him about the story before approaching her office.

“The Secretary of State had some concerns about the way that the (Telegraph) investigation was conducted and she set those out in a letter to the editor,” said a Downing Street spokesman. “Craig Oliver was simply reflecting those concerns. To suggest we are linking these things is absurd. They are not linked. Craig Oliver does not accept that he linked the two issues.”

But the Labour MP Simon Danczuk said the allegations called the “integrity and professionalism” of Mr Cameron’s aides into question.

“If Craig Oliver threatened the Telegraph without David Cameron’s authority, that looks like an open-and-shut breach of the special advisers' code.

“But if the Prime Minister authorised his special adviser to use the threat of Leveson Report discussions to discourage the publication of an embarrassing story, then that is potentially even more serious. The Ministerial Code is very clear: ministers must not allow any conflict between their public duties and their private interests. Neither ministers nor those working for them should let protecting their own personal reputation take precedence over the public interest.”

Professor Brian Cathcart, Executive Director of Hacked Off, said the incident illustrated why ministers should be kept at arm's length from the regulation of the press.

“It cannot be right that politicians who are subject to the scrutiny of the newspapers and who are constantly vulnerable to public challenge in this way are sitting down with editors and proprietors of those same newspapers to design a press regulation system,” he said.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
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

Science teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a languages...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past