Cameron defends handling of Maria Miller row


David Cameron has defended his support of Maria Miller over her expenses after Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of undermining trust in politics.

Mrs Miller was cleared of funding a home for her parents at taxpayers' expense, and was told to repay £5,800 and apologise to Parliament.

But she resigned as culture secretary on Wednesday following the row over her expenses. Mr Cameron said in a letter he hoped she would return to the cabinet in "due course".

Explaining his decision to MPs on 9 April 2014, Mr Cameron said Mrs Miller had been cleared of a "very serious offence" and added: "I thought it was right in those circumstances to allow her to make her apology and continue with her job. That is the way I think is the right way to handle it."

But Mr Miliband said the prime minister had made a "terrible error of judgement" by keeping her in the post for so long.

"She refused to cooperate with the inquiry, she breached the code of conduct for MPs, and she gave a perfunctory and inadequate apology to this House," he said, questioning why Mr Cameron "was the last person in the country to realise her position was untenable?".

Mr Cameron agreed Mrs Miller "did do some things wrong" but reiterated that she had apologised, and accused Mr Miliband of trying to jump on "a political band wagon".

But the Labour leader said the public were "appalled" by the conduct of Mr Cameron's government, and added: "His failure, even now, to recognise what went wrong has undermined politics."

The prime minister went on to list steps that had been taken to strengthen oversight of MPs' expenses, including the introduction of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and adding lay members on the Parliamentary Standards Committee.

But he conceded that more needed to be done, and said he was "very happy" to hold cross-party meetings on expenses reform "to show that this is a good and honest parliament with good and hard working people in it".

The independent parliamentary commissioner for standards had previously recommended Mrs Miller repay £45,000.

But the lower sum was approved by the Commons Standards Committee, sparking a backlash across the political spectrum and calls for changes in how complaints against MPs are investigated.

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.