BASINGSTOKE MP Maria Miller has hit back at what she says are “misleading and inaccurate statements” after a national newspaper reported she claimed £90,718 in expenses for a second home where her parents live.
On Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph detailed the Culture Secretary’s expenses claims made between 2005 and 2009 for her home in Wimbledon, south London.
The article claimed that having her parents living there had put her “at odds with parliamentary rules”. It said the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner had ruled that second homes must be used “exclusively” by MPs in fulfilling their parliamentary duty, and housing a politician’s parents was “specifically prohibited”.
The story revealed that during the relevant time between 2005 and 2009, Mrs Miller said the Wimbledon property was her second home and she claimed expenses on mortgage interest payments, utilities, and council tax.
In response, the mother-of-three has said her parents lived with her, her husband, and their children before she was elected in 2005, and she added that both need care for medical matters, which is recognised by the current parliamentary rules.
In a statement to The Gazette, she said: “For a considerable time before I entered politics, my parents have lived with me, my husband and our children as part of our family. I have always been open about these arrangements.
“Prior to my election as an MP, my father’s health deteriorated, and shortly after I was elected in 2005, my mother suffered a severe stroke that has left her permanently incapacitated.
“Since 2005, my parents have continued to live as part of our family and I have ensured that they receive the support and care that they need.
“After I was first elected as an MP, I explained my family circumstances to the House of Commons fees office. They advised that I should designate my Basingstoke address as my main home as this is where I spent most time as a backbencher.
“The cost of maintaining each home was more than I claimed in relation to expenses. There was no financial advantage as to which home was designated.”
“The current IPSA rules ensure that MPs with caring responsibilities are recognised within the expenses system, including those with responsibilities for disabled and elderly family members.”
Mrs Miller, who has been at the heart of the debate over Press standards following the publication of the Leveson Report, has criticised The Daily Telegraph for speaking to her elderly father when they knew she was not at home. She said: “My father is ill-equipped to deal with such enquiries, and indeed the editor has apologised.”
Mrs Miller concluded her statement by saying: “It is deeply regrettable that The Telegraph considers that it is right to run this story, despite the fact that I have given them the information as to the true picture.
“My personal circumstances, as a mother with caring responsibilities for elderly and disabled parents, does not fit into the traditional stereotype of an MP.
“Newspapers should be supporting MPs who take their family responsibilities seriously, thereby encouraging more diverse representation in Parliament.”
Hours after the original story emerged, Labour MP John Mann urged John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate the claims. The Bassetlaw MP said Mrs Miller’s arrangement was ''identical'' to that of former Labour minister Tony McNulty, who in 2009 was required to pay back more than £13,000 in expenses claimed on a second home occupied by his parents.
However following her criticism of the broadsheet, a front-page follow-up article today said that Mrs Miller’s special advisor warned Telegraph reporters of her connection with the debate over potential press regulation. The paper said it published the private conversation as a warning “amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press”.
Mrs Miller made her last claim relating to the London property in April 2009. Since 2011, she has declared it as her main home, which means she cannot claim expenses for it.