British minister Maria Miller resigns over expenses row

Culture secretary said situation on €7,000 claims had become ‘a distraction’

File photo of Maria Miller reading an apology statement in the House of Commons in London over her parliamentary expenses, she has now has resigned as the Culture Secretary. Photograph: PA Wire

File photo of Maria Miller reading an apology statement in the House of Commons in London over her parliamentary expenses, she has now has resigned as the Culture Secretary. Photograph: PA Wire

Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 09:16

British MP Maria Miller, who has come under fire after a report last week criticised her for hindering an inquiry into her expenses claims, resigned as culture secretary today.

“It has become clear to me that the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this government is doing to turn our country around,” Ms Miller wrote in a letter to prime minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron’s handling of the situation had already led to criticism from some of his own lawmakers after he rejected a growing media clamour to sack Miller, who was ordered to pay back £5,800 (€7,000) she had wrongly claimed and forced to apologise to parliament.

In her resignation letter, the Basingstoke MP told Mr Cameron she was “very grateful” for his personal support. “But it has become clear to me that the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing to turn our country around,” she added.

She defended her work on press regulation — which allies have suggested has resulted in a media “witch hunt” against her.

“Of course, implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson on the future of media regulation, following the phone hacking scandals, would always be controversial for the press,” she wrote.

“Working together with you, I believe we struck the right balance between protecting the freedom of the press and ensuring fairness, particularly for victims of press intrusion, to have a clear right of redress.”

Mr Cameron told her it was “important to be clear that the Committee on Standards cleared you of the unfounded allegations made against you, a point which has been lost in much of the comment in recent days”.

The standards committee ordered her to repay £5,800 in overclaimed mortgage interest and say sorry on the floor of the House — an apology which has been widely criticised for its tone and brevity.

“As you leave the Government, you should be proud of your service on the Frontbench and in Opposition,” Mr Cameron said — including steering through gay marriage and press regulation.

“I am personally very grateful for the support you have always given me, and which I am sure that you will continue to give. “I hope that you will be able to return to serving the Government on the Frontbench in due course, and am only sad that you are leaving the Government in these circumstances.”

Newspapers had said polls indicated the issue could be damaging for Mr Cameron’s Conservatives ahead of next month’s European Parliament elections, with surveys already suggesting the party could be beaten into third place by the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP).

PA/Reuters