BASINGSTOKE MP Maria Miller will have to repay £5,800 and has had to apologise to ministers in the House of Commons despite being cleared of wrongly claiming expenses on a second home.
The Culture Secretary has today been cleared of deliberately submitting expense claims that she was not entitled to for her Wimbledon second home but has been ordered to pay the amount to cover the costs of over-claiming mortgage expenses on the second home after she failed to cut her claims as interest rates fell.
However, the report has found that the MP’s attitude towards the inquiry breached the ministers’ code of conduct and that the investigation had been the result of “delay and difficulty”, arising from “incomplete documentation and fragmentary information”.
In a short statement to MPs in the House of Commons, Mrs Miller said: “The report resulted from an allegation made by the member for Bassetlaw. The committee has dismissed his allegation.
“The committee has recommended that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the Commissioner’s inquiries and I, of course, unreservedly apologise. I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end.”
In relation to her co-operation to the investigation, the report said: “If the Commissioner had been able swiftly to establish the facts relating to Mrs Miller’s mortgages, and had been able to gather the documentation which would have allowed her (and has allowed us) to judge the relationship between the changes in bank base rate and the interest charged to Mrs Miller, this might have been a relatively minor matter.”
It added: “Mrs Miller has to carry significant responsibility for that. Officials would press her for information and the information that was provided appears to have been the minimum necessary.”
The report did say that Mrs Miller “should have designated the London property rather than the Basingstoke one as her main home”, because her Wimbledon homes was bought in 1996, London was where her husband worked and where her children attended school.
However, the Culture Secretary argued the case, saying that her rented Basingstoke home should have been designated as her main home because it was where she spent most nights and it was the centre of her family life.The report said: “We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House as she should have done. That said, Mrs Miller did not subsidise her parents’ living costs from public funds.
“The main thrust of the original complaint, namely that Mrs Miller was providing an immediate benefit from public funds to her parents, has not been upheld.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the Basingstoke MP, telling the BBC: “Maria Miller is doing an excellent job as Culture Secretary and will continue to do that.
“If we look at this report, yes of course these issues do matter – but she was cleared of the original allegation made against her. An over-payment was found which she is going to pay back. She’ll make a full apology, and I think people should leave it at that.”
To read the full report, visit http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmstandards/1179/117902.htm.