Maria Miller: Under-fire Culture Secretary faces new questions over expenses

Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister David Cameron to sack Mrs Miller

Andrew Woodcock
Monday 07 April 2014 10:18 BST
Maria Miller MP the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Minister for Women and Equalities
Maria Miller MP the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Minister for Women and Equalities

Calls for Culture Secretary Maria Miller to resign have maintained pace, amid reports that she stopped claiming a second home allowance after she was asked to confirm that she would pay tax when the property was sold.

By re-designating the house she shared with her parents in Wimbledon, south London, as her main residence, she would not have to pay capital gains tax when it was sold for a reported £1 million profit earlier this year, the Telegraph reported. The tax is levied at 28 per cent on profits made on the sale of second homes.

A spokesman for Mrs Miller denied that she had changed her second home designation in order to avoid having to sign the declaration, pointing out that the first of three letters from parliamentary authorities was not sent until May 2009, and she stopped claiming all accommodation allowances in April that year.

Following the expenses scandal, Mrs Miller did not claim second home expenses on any property, said the spokesman.

"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," he said.

The comments came as members from parties including the Conservatives urged Prime Minister David Cameron to sack Mrs Miller, whose apology to the House of Commons last Thursday has failed to lessen the spotlight on the Minister and draw a line under the expenses issue.

Lord Tebbit, former Conservative chairman, became the most senior Conservative to call for her to resign or be fired.

In an piece for the Telegraph website, he branded the way she has handled the scandal “arrogant” and accused her of reviving anger over the MP’s expense scandal.

"The best way out of this is for Mrs Miller to resign," he wrote.

Meanwhile, a Conservative member of the Commons Standards Committee which told Mrs Miller to apologise, rejected calls for MPs to be stripped of the power to police their own behaviour.

The committee overruled independent standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson, finding that Mrs Miller should repay £5,800 in overclaimed expenses rather than the £45,000 recommended by the watchdog.

Expenses watchdog Sir Ian Kennedy, chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, said it was time for MPs to stop “marking their own homework” and give Ms Hudson the final say in standards investigations.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Standards Committee member Geoffrey Cox warned that handing the right to sanction MPs to an external regulator could raise constitutional issues, as the watchdog could have the power to change the shape of a government - particularly in times of a narrow majority - by handing down a lengthy suspension or even expulsion from the Commons.

Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggested on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that Mrs Miller was the victim of a backlash for being the Minister responsible for the same-sex marriage Bill, which was deeply unpopular with many grassroots Tories.

Despite being defended by the Prime Minister and the Work and Pensions Secretary, 78 per cent of voters believe Mrs Miller should forfeit her Cabinet post, while 68 per cent said she should be sacked as MP for Basingstoke, according to a poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday.

82 per cent of the 1,001 people questioned on 4 April identified as Tory supporters, but still thought she should be removed as Culture Secretary.

Additional reporting by PA

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