THE MP for North East 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 recommended she should 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 Standards Committee, on which the Conservatives have the largest single representation - five of the 13 members. The three lay members do not have voting rights.
This morning, North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot has defended the Basingstoke MP in a statement sent to The Gazette, becoming the second MP in Hampshire to defend his colleague, after North West Hampshire MP Sir George Young, defended Mrs Miller on Friday.
James Arbuthnot said: “I have known, liked, worked with and trusted Maria for many years. I have seen her fighting for her constituents at the highest level of Government as well as working phenomenally hard for them at a local level.
“Maria played a vital role in a Government that has done the right things to create more jobs, more apprenticeships and better schools for Basingstoke – I know that she is looking forward to continuing that work in the future.”
He added: “Her personal achievements in Government, whether through the roll-out of superfast broadband or ensuring a meaningful legacy from the Olympics, have been invaluable.
“It is because of that hard work that she has enjoyed support from both Conservative voters and others who recognise what she has done for Basingstoke.
“Although I am retiring at the next election, over the next year I will be out supporting Maria during the campaign to ensure we can continue the vital work of securing a better future for Hampshire, and the entire country.”