Maria Miller row: Cameron faces questions, Labour says

  • 5 April 2014
  • From the section UK

David Cameron faces "serious questions" over a call made to a newspaper investigating Culture Secretary Maria Miller's expenses, Labour has said.

Mrs Miller has apologised to MPs after she was ordered to repay £5,800 for over-claiming mortgage expenses.

Labour said she and the PM should say "what they knew" about a call to a reporter from a government adviser who mentioned the Leveson press inquiry.

The Tories said Mrs Miller's apology had drawn a line under the issue.

'Straight answers'

The row originally erupted in December 2012 after the Daily Telegraph reported that Mrs Miller had claimed £90,718 in expenses towards mortgage payments on a house in south London that the MP shared with her parents.

A parliamentary commissioner, who conducted the initial investigation, ruled she should repay £45,800 but this was cut to £5,800 by the House of Commons Committee on Standards.

However, the newspaper has now released a taped telephone conversation between the culture secretary's special adviser Jo Hindley and a reporter investigating the expenses claims in which Ms Hindley refers to the Leveson Inquiry into press regulation.

It comes a day after the prime minister's official spokesman, Craig Oliver, said former Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher's claim that he had made a similar call was "utterly false".

In its leader column, the Telegraph said the reference to Mrs Miller's involvement in deciding press legislation was made in order to convince it to back away from getting "straight answers".

Image caption Maria Miller apologised to MPs for her attitude towards an inquiry into her expenses

In the tape Ms Hindley said another reporter from the paper had "doorstepped" Mrs Miller's father, who had just come out of hospital, at the south London house.

She added: "Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors' meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I'm just going to flag up that connection for you to think about.

Labour's shadow leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle said the release of the recording raised "serious questions" for Mrs Miller and the prime minister.

"They urgently need to make clear what they knew about these calls and what action they took about them. There is also the important question of whether there has been a breach of the code of conduct for special advisers or the ministerial code," she said.


Meanwhile, emails released by the Commons Standards Committee reveal Mrs Miller told the commissioner investigating her that she might go over her head to ask MPs to intervene.

In one email, Mrs Miller said: "It may be that I shall need to refer this to the supervisory jurisdiction of the standards committee but I hope this can be avoided."

In another, she said a decision to uphold the complaint would be "irrational", "perverse" and "unreasonable".

In its report on Tuesday, the committee said Mrs Miller's submission of "incomplete" evidence to the inquiry had breached the MPs' code of conduct and, in addition to ordering her to repay £5,800, said she should apologise to MPs "for her attitude to the commissioner's inquiries".

Mrs Miller made her apology on Thursday and, responding to the latest revelations, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps told the BBC: "She has made the apology, but not for the substantive point for which she was reported in the first place by a Labour MP, and it does rather draw a line under the whole thing."

However, Labour MP, John Mann, said no line could be drawn under the issue until Mrs Miller had resigned.

Mr Mann made the original complaint that Mrs Miller allowed her parents to live in the property on which she had claimed the £90,718 in second home allowances between 2005 and 2009.

The committee rejected the charge that she or her parents had benefited financially from the arrangements.

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