Minister faces inquiry over 90,000 expenses: After aide is accused of threatening newspaper, watchdog steps in
Cabinet minister claimed 90,718 for London home where parents also livedBasingstoke MP under pressure after her spin doctor 'tried to kill story'
Mrs Miller is the minister spearheading gay marriage plan
08:19 GMT, 14 December 2012
Culture Secretary Maria Miller is to have her expense claims investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Embattled Culture Secretary Maria Miller is to have her expenses investigated by the Commons watchdog.
The office of John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said he was opening an inquiry following a complaint that Mrs Miller had claimed more than 90,000 in second home allowances towards the cost of a house where her parents lived.
The complaint was lodged earlier this week by Labour MP John Mann, who claimed the arrangement was ‘identical’ to that of former Labour minister Tony McNulty, who in 2009 was required to repay more than 13,000 claimed on a second home occupied by his parents.
In that case, the Commissioner said Mr McNulty, who lost his seat in the 2010 general election, had effectively ‘subsidised’ his parents from the public purse by allowing them to live rent-free.
News of the investigation comes a day after Mrs Miller’s special adviser was accused of making veiled threats to a newspaper about tougher press regulation if they wrote about the expenses claims.
Despite the probe, David Cameron yesterday declared his full backing for his Culture Secretary, saying: ‘Maria Miller does an absolutely excellent job as Culture Secretary and she has my full support.
‘A newspaper has asked her a number of questions. So far as I can see, she has got excellent answers to all those questions.
'I am sure she will answer them and then get on with her job, which is what she should do.’
Mrs Miller claimed 90,718 between 2005 and 2009 for the mortgage and other expenses of a property in Wimbledon, which she told parliamentary authorities was a second home, but is where her parents also lived.
She declared a property in her Basingstoke constituency as her main home.
The minister defended her expenses in an interview with the London Evening Standard, saying: ‘Those expenses have been audited twice independently so I think everything’s in order.
'I obviously spoke to the Fees Office about my claims and they were happy that everything was in order.’
However, she admitted one of the ‘independent’ audits was carried out by the Conservative Party.
Asked why she suddenly stopped claiming on the Wimbledon home in 2009 as the wider expenses scandal erupted, she replied: ‘Because I think there was a lot of concern about the rules and, er, a lot of concern about, you know, the whole issue, and it’s something I felt that I didn’t want to be, sort of, mixed up in, the fact that I … I just made that decision.’
No 10 refused to confirm whether the Prime Minister and Culture Secretary had met or talked by telephone about the claims.
Mrs Miller’s special adviser Joanna Hindley is reported to have called the Daily Telegraph and, during discussions about Mrs Miller’s expenses, said she wanted to ‘flag up’ the Cabinet minister’s involvement with the Leveson report on Press regulation.
Downing Street’s top spin doctor Craig Oliver was also accused of mentioning the Leveson reforms in a call to the newspaper’s editor.
Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle highlighted the ‘antics’ of Miss Hindley in the Commons, claiming the intervention was an attempt to put pressure on the Telegraph.
The Government seems to want to threaten the Press with statutory underpinning to control the news agenda,’ she said.
No 10 insisted yesterday that Mr Oliver was simply highlighting concerns about the way the Telegraph carried out its investigation into Mrs Miller’s expense claims.
Mrs Miller said this rented barn near Basingstoke was her main home, while saying the Wimbledon house where her parents lived was her second home, on which she claimed expenses