THE MP for North West Hampshire has backed Basingstoke MP Maria Miller following her resignation as Culture Secretary.

Mrs Miller resigned from her position as Culture Secretary on Wednesday following the controversy over the findings of, and her reaction to, a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards concerning her second home expenses claims.

In a letter of resignation to Prime Minister David Cameron, the Basingstoke MP said the controversy – which had rumbled on for a week after Mrs Miller made a terse 32-second apology in the House of Commons – “has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing”.

Her decision to step down followed mounting pressure for Mrs Miller to be sacked by Mr Cameron, or resign, after she was criticised for her attitude to the inquiry conducted by Parliamentary Commissioner Kathryn Hudson.

Although Mrs Miller was cleared of deliberately claiming incorrect second home expenses for her home in Wimbledon, where her parents also lived, the Parliamentary Standards Committee ordered her to repay £5,800 to cover the cost of her over-claiming mortgage payments after she failed to cut her claims as interest rates fell.

The Parliamentary Commissioner actually recommended that Mrs Miller should repay £45,800, but this was over-ruled by the Conservative-dominated committee.

Now, North West Hampshire MP Sir George Young, who is also the Government’s Chief Whip, has defended his former Cabinet colleague, and neighbouring MP, in a statement released today.

He said: “Since Maria was elected to the seat next to mine in 2005, I have seen what a popular and hard-working constituency MP she has been. “She has built up her majority, securing the votes not just of those who traditionally support our Party, but of many others because of what she has done for Basingstoke.

“I have seen her at meetings of Hampshire MP’s fighting for a square deal for the county – be it for health, local government or police – and readers of The Gazette will have read of her support for the schools and voluntary organisation in her constituency.

“Maria has had a tough time while the recent enquiry was going on, but as a fellow member of the Cabinet, I know this did not distract her from her duties to the country as a key member of the Government. She has the qualities to return to high office in due course, as the Prime Minister has indicated.”

He added: “As Chief Whip, I know she has been a loyal member of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, playing her part in turning the country round and laying the foundation for a return to growth.

“Of course, the future of any MP rests in the hands of our voters. I will be urging Maria’s to support her, when we go to the polls in a year’s time.”

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