“I AM devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down.”
That is the message from Basingstoke MP Maria Miller to readers of The Gazette as she continues to be engulfed in the raging controversy over her second home expenses claims, and her response to the investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Hudson.
The commissioner had recommended that Culture Secretary Mrs Miller should pay back £45,800 of the £90,000 in expenses she claimed for her second home in Wimbledon between 2005 and 2009.
But the 10 MPs and three lay people on the Conservative-dominated Parliamentary Standards Committee told Tory Mrs Miller that she should only pay back £5,800 that she overclaimed in mortgage interest.
Mrs Miller – who was cleared by the commissioner of deliberately submitting expense claims for her own benefit – was also told by the standards committee to apologise in the House of Commons for her attitude to the commissioner’s inquiries.
While she complied with this instruction last Thursday, the terse nature of her speech – it lasted a mere 32 seconds – only served to fuel the controversy, and some politicians, including Conservative peer Lord Norman Tebbit, have called for her to resign from the Cabinet.
While calls for Mrs Miller to resign or be sacked have mounted, yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron was still backing his beleagured colleague.
Writing in her weekly ‘How I See It’ column on page 2 of tomorrow’s edition of The Extra, Mrs Miller has, for the first time since last Thursday, publicly apologised to the people in her Basingstoke constituency.
She writes: “I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down.”
Her column in full:
"The last 16 months have been difficult. As you know, I have been working hard for Basingstoke and also doing my job as a Cabinet minister.
"During this time, I have been subject to an intense Parliamentary inquiry looking at extensive personal details of my family life, as a result of allegations made by a Labour MP.
"That committee has now published its report and I have accepted their findings in full.
"I have unreservedly apologised for the way I handled and apporached the inquiry.
"And I am pleased that the committee has fully dismissed all of the allegations made against me.
"Separately, I have already apologised and repaid an over-claim of my expenses, having myself drawn the committee's attention to the matter immediately I was aware of it.
"I have always sought to do the best job that I can in representing the people of Basingstoke in Westminster.
"I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down.
"I can only hope that over time the focus will once again be on Basingstoke."
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