A long week for Basingstoke MP Maria Miller

Culture Secretary Maria Miller

Culture Secretary Maria Miller

First published in News by

IT’S said that a week is a long time in politics, and for under-fire Basingstoke MP Maria Miller the last seven days have been a very long week.

Two weeks ago, the Culture Secretary was singled out by parliamentary colleagues as “the one to watch” when she scooped the rising star accolade in The House Awards.

But now there is much speculation about her future in the Coalition Cabinet, amid mounting scrutiny of her expenses and living arrangements in London and Basingstoke, and following claims that her special adviser “warned” The Daily Telegraph to consider Mrs Miller’s role in deciding the future of press regulation before running a story about her expenses.

Last Thursday, sleaze watchdog John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, opened an inquiry into the MP’s claims between 2005 and 2009.

Labour MP John Mann submitted a complaint on Wednesday – the day after The Daily Telegraph reported that Mrs Miller had claimed £90,718 in expenses relating to a second home in Wimbledon, where her parents also live.

The Telegraph story reignited scrutiny of the MP’s expenses, which were the focus of a detailed report in The Gazette on May 18, 2009. The Gazette report sparked criticism of Mrs Miller’s second home allowance claims from some constituents – and within a fortnight she had decided to forego any further allowances on her Wimbledon home.

Despite the standards inquiry announcement, and speculation over her future, Mrs Miller was relaxed as she met youngsters at Sony’s headquarters in Jay’s Close, Basingstoke, last Friday.

She looked delighted during the screening of two films, created by pupils celebrating the town, and praised their efforts in a speech.

But afterwards she declined to answer any questions when approached by The Gazette. She said: “I’m too busy” before being whisked away into a private meeting.

A further request for an interview, left on the voicemail of her mobile phone, was not returned. But on Friday evening, a spokeswoman for Mrs Miller said the launch of the expenses inquiry had prevented her from commenting.

“John Lyon is looking into these matters,” said the spokeswoman. “It would be wrong to have a running commentary at the moment until he has concluded his inquiry.”

The Daily Telegraph detailed how the mother-of-three had claimed more than £90,000 across four years including mortgage interest payments, utilities, and council tax on her Wimbledon family home.

The newspaper reported that having her parents living there was apparently at “odds with parliamentary rules”. In response, Mrs Miller stated that her expenses had been audited twice and were “wholly proper and above board”.

Further fuel was added to the fire when allegations surfaced that both Mrs Miller’s special adviser Joanna Hindley, and the Prime Minister’s director of communications Craig Oliver, had contacted the Telegraph during the course of the newspaper team’s investigation to “flag up” Mrs Miller’s role in press regulation following publication of the Leveson Report into press standards.

The Telegraph said the involvement of the pair was treated as a “threat”, and a “warning”. But a press spokesman at Number 10 said Mr Oliver was not seeking to influence the paper, and added that Miss Hindley had not broken any rules.

The scrutiny surrounding Mrs Miller intensified with a Telegraph report that her Basingstoke “main home” between 2005 and 2009 was rented from former chairman of the Basingstoke Conservative Assoc-iation Nigel McNair Scott at a £6,000-a-year discounted rate.

Ministers are under a duty to declare any “perceived” conflict of interest to Whitehall officials. Mr McNair Scott has been both treasurer and chairman of Mrs Miller’s local constituency party, and has donated money to her campaign. The property company he chairs, Helical Bar, is also a major supporter of the Tories.

In a statement to The Gazette last week, Mrs Miller said she had explained her living arrangements to the Government’s fees office, and stated that she had not gained a financial advantage from either home.

She said: “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 Basingstoke 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.”

A further statement to The Gazette from the Cabinet Office on Friday added that Prime Minister David Cameron was satisfied no rules had been broken in relation to the renting of the Basingstoke property.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “In the light of media allegations relating to Maria Miller, the Prime Minister, having consulted the Cabinet Secretary, is satisfied that there is no evidence of the property being rented on preferential terms, and therefore no breach of the Ministerial Code.”

Comments (9)

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2:23pm Tue 18 Dec 12

Opinions_opinions says...

Oh what joy !! So The Gazette attempted to question Maria Miller did they ? If that is true, then it's about time you started to act like a newspaper and get to the truth. As for the comments about the reduced £6000 per year rent, how can she state there was no financial advantage in this arrangement ? If she was paying the going rate, she would have paid £6000 more, but she didn't. So there was a financial benefit to her of £6000 !!! Does she really think we are stupid ? And for the Tories to say there is no evidence of the property being rented on preferential terms, Hello !! are you listening Cameron, she was getting a reduced rental of £6000 per year. Is that not preferential then ? I would also again argue that Maria Miller used Basingstoke as her primary home. She only ever visited Basingstoke on a Friday and if she stayed the night I would be amazed. Ask the people who live around the rental property in Old Basing if they have ever seen her there more than 3 days a week !! Maria Miller, you need to resign and give the electorate a chance to vote for a Tory that actually lives in Basingstoke and knows who we are and what our issues are. You have never lived here and clearly never will. Time to move on ......
Oh what joy !! So The Gazette attempted to question Maria Miller did they ? If that is true, then it's about time you started to act like a newspaper and get to the truth. As for the comments about the reduced £6000 per year rent, how can she state there was no financial advantage in this arrangement ? If she was paying the going rate, she would have paid £6000 more, but she didn't. So there was a financial benefit to her of £6000 !!! Does she really think we are stupid ? And for the Tories to say there is no evidence of the property being rented on preferential terms, Hello !! are you listening Cameron, she was getting a reduced rental of £6000 per year. Is that not preferential then ? I would also again argue that Maria Miller used Basingstoke as her primary home. She only ever visited Basingstoke on a Friday and if she stayed the night I would be amazed. Ask the people who live around the rental property in Old Basing if they have ever seen her there more than 3 days a week !! Maria Miller, you need to resign and give the electorate a chance to vote for a Tory that actually lives in Basingstoke and knows who we are and what our issues are. You have never lived here and clearly never will. Time to move on ...... Opinions_opinions
  • Score: 0

4:31pm Tue 18 Dec 12

jonone says...

"But afterwards she declined to answer any questions when approached by The Gazette."

Pfff, all they were going to ask is "ah, how are you, your poor little thing?"
"But afterwards she declined to answer any questions when approached by The Gazette." Pfff, all they were going to ask is "ah, how are you, your poor little thing?" jonone
  • Score: 0

7:11pm Tue 18 Dec 12

popleyrebel2 says...

It’s important local papers hold those in authority to account sadly however, the Gazette has failed to hold Maria Miller MP to account on many local issues, and failure to do so has created the charmed life the MP has enjoyed over the years.
That said, better late than never and long may it last.
Public opinion has play a major part in giving the Gazette a swift kick up the rear, none more so than the comments on each of the threads, all have been constructive, consistent and above all abuse free, and I hope it will encourage others to contribute.
It’s important local papers hold those in authority to account sadly however, the Gazette has failed to hold Maria Miller MP to account on many local issues, and failure to do so has created the charmed life the MP has enjoyed over the years. That said, better late than never and long may it last. Public opinion has play a major part in giving the Gazette a swift kick up the rear, none more so than the comments on each of the threads, all have been constructive, consistent and above all abuse free, and I hope it will encourage others to contribute. popleyrebel2
  • Score: 0

8:57am Wed 19 Dec 12

nothingchanges says...

I wonder why she needs two homes anyway when her constituency well inside the London commuter belt. Hundreds of decent, hard working people commute by train every single day into London and Waterloo station is a stones throw from Parliament. Where there are late votes or whatever it'd be cheaper to stay in an AFFORDABLE hotel or for Parliament to have it's own Travelodge built in! There has got to be changes to the rules so that people within an hour's commute of Parliament can't claim for a second home. I'm sure the MP for Sunderland has more need for a second home in London than Mrs Miller does!
I wonder why she needs two homes anyway when her constituency well inside the London commuter belt. Hundreds of decent, hard working people commute by train every single day into London and Waterloo station is a stones throw from Parliament. Where there are late votes or whatever it'd be cheaper to stay in an AFFORDABLE hotel or for Parliament to have it's own Travelodge built in! There has got to be changes to the rules so that people within an hour's commute of Parliament can't claim for a second home. I'm sure the MP for Sunderland has more need for a second home in London than Mrs Miller does! nothingchanges
  • Score: 0

11:47am Wed 19 Dec 12

jonone says...

nothingchanges wrote:
I wonder why she needs two homes anyway when her constituency well inside the London commuter belt. Hundreds of decent, hard working people commute by train every single day into London and Waterloo station is a stones throw from Parliament. Where there are late votes or whatever it'd be cheaper to stay in an AFFORDABLE hotel or for Parliament to have it's own Travelodge built in! There has got to be changes to the rules so that people within an hour's commute of Parliament can't claim for a second home. I'm sure the MP for Sunderland has more need for a second home in London than Mrs Miller does!
A very good point!! An annual season ticket would certainly be much less than mortgage and rental subsidy - enough for her to perhaps pay it herself (just as the very people you refer to do)
[quote][p][bold]nothingchanges[/bold] wrote: I wonder why she needs two homes anyway when her constituency well inside the London commuter belt. Hundreds of decent, hard working people commute by train every single day into London and Waterloo station is a stones throw from Parliament. Where there are late votes or whatever it'd be cheaper to stay in an AFFORDABLE hotel or for Parliament to have it's own Travelodge built in! There has got to be changes to the rules so that people within an hour's commute of Parliament can't claim for a second home. I'm sure the MP for Sunderland has more need for a second home in London than Mrs Miller does![/p][/quote]A very good point!! An annual season ticket would certainly be much less than mortgage and rental subsidy - enough for her to perhaps pay it herself (just as the very people you refer to do) jonone
  • Score: 0

1:48pm Wed 19 Dec 12

popleyrebel2 says...

Miller's expenses have been audited twice and found to be wholly proper and above board.
However, a spokeswoman for the Commissioner said "It has been accepted for inquiry, there is an inquiry. So what has changed from wholly proper and above board that has led to an inquiry?
What is also damming for the MP (in my opinion) has been the condemnation of the payout by the BCC to ex director general George Entwistle, (rightly so) at the same time however no comment from her on the £400,000+ that B&DBC wasted on the Mandown saga, furthermore no comment on the high court findings that B&DBC acted unlawfully.
Selective criticism?
As for Nothingchanges and jonone comments, it would take her long to travel across London than to travel (by rail) to Basingstoke.
Miller's expenses have been audited twice and found to be wholly proper and above board. However, a spokeswoman for the Commissioner said "It has been accepted for inquiry, there is an inquiry. So what has changed from wholly proper and above board that has led to an inquiry? What is also damming for the MP (in my opinion) has been the condemnation of the payout by the BCC to ex director general George Entwistle, (rightly so) at the same time however no comment from her on the £400,000+ that B&DBC wasted on the Mandown saga, furthermore no comment on the high court findings that B&DBC acted unlawfully. Selective criticism? As for Nothingchanges and jonone comments, it would take her long to travel across London than to travel (by rail) to Basingstoke. popleyrebel2
  • Score: 0

2:01pm Wed 19 Dec 12

nothingchanges says...

popleyrebel2 wrote:
Miller's expenses have been audited twice and found to be wholly proper and above board.
However, a spokeswoman for the Commissioner said "It has been accepted for inquiry, there is an inquiry. So what has changed from wholly proper and above board that has led to an inquiry?
What is also damming for the MP (in my opinion) has been the condemnation of the payout by the BCC to ex director general George Entwistle, (rightly so) at the same time however no comment from her on the £400,000+ that B&DBC wasted on the Mandown saga, furthermore no comment on the high court findings that B&DBC acted unlawfully.
Selective criticism?
As for Nothingchanges and jonone comments, it would take her long to travel across London than to travel (by rail) to Basingstoke.
What, 5 mins to walk over Westminster Bridge? Either way it's less than an hour in total from Basingstoke! And even if it did take just as long that's a 1hr 30 commute which a lot of people do on a daily basis rather than the part time parliament attendance!
[quote][p][bold]popleyrebel2[/bold] wrote: Miller's expenses have been audited twice and found to be wholly proper and above board. However, a spokeswoman for the Commissioner said "It has been accepted for inquiry, there is an inquiry. So what has changed from wholly proper and above board that has led to an inquiry? What is also damming for the MP (in my opinion) has been the condemnation of the payout by the BCC to ex director general George Entwistle, (rightly so) at the same time however no comment from her on the £400,000+ that B&DBC wasted on the Mandown saga, furthermore no comment on the high court findings that B&DBC acted unlawfully. Selective criticism? As for Nothingchanges and jonone comments, it would take her long to travel across London than to travel (by rail) to Basingstoke.[/p][/quote]What, 5 mins to walk over Westminster Bridge? Either way it's less than an hour in total from Basingstoke! And even if it did take just as long that's a 1hr 30 commute which a lot of people do on a daily basis rather than the part time parliament attendance! nothingchanges
  • Score: 0

2:19pm Wed 19 Dec 12

popleyrebel2 says...

Nothingchanges, agree 100%,
Nothingchanges, agree 100%, popleyrebel2
  • Score: 0

2:45pm Wed 19 Dec 12

robertspet8 says...

Even if it is eventually established that all her expenses were within the rules it will still seem immoral and insensitve to make such extravagant claims when so many people do not have enough to make ends meet. I agree with most of the previous comments and the underlying feeling that we need a change in our political system to insure our elected servants will serve us before themselves.
Even if it is eventually established that all her expenses were within the rules it will still seem immoral and insensitve to make such extravagant claims when so many people do not have enough to make ends meet. I agree with most of the previous comments and the underlying feeling that we need a change in our political system to insure our elected servants will serve us before themselves. robertspet8
  • Score: 0

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