UK Minister Dodges Expenses Scandal after Threatening Newspapers with Regulation for Reporting Her Offences

UK Minister Dodges Expenses Scandal after Threatening Newspapers with Regulation for Reporting Her Offences

Britain’s minister responsible for heaping extra regulation on the press has escaped serious trouble for over-claimed expenses after MPs overruled the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Maria Miller, the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was described as having “got off lightly” by Sir Alistair Graham, the ex-chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life Throughout the process which lasted 14 months. Miller used delay tactics including “lengthy procedural challenges” and inadequate responses to Hudson’s questions. 

Whilst the Culture Secretary has benefited from self-regulation in the Commons, she is still determined to push for stronger regulation of the press. John Mann MP demanded that her role in press regulation should be removed: “Given the way she has acted, it is not appropriate for her continue with this portfolio. She cannot be the person responsible for the future of press freedom in this country.” he said. 

Miller’s staff stands accused of threatening the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Tony Gallagher. The ex-newspaper boss said that he had been pressured into dropping stories about Miller’s expenses, or risk even tougher press relegation. 

Mann said: “She had her special adviser threaten the Telegraph on this issue before the inquiry, then she has been found to have acted improperly in relation to an independent inquiry into her behaviour as an MP, and then she is forced to pay back money.”

Kathryn Hudson, the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, had wanted Miller to repay £45,000 for claims she made related to a home she shared with her parents, but the Standards and Privileges Committee, which is the self-regulator of MPs, set aside Hudson’s recommendation and declared Miller would pay back a mere £5,800. 

John Mann MP, who made the original complaint against Miller, demanded that she should resign as she was “unfit to be a minister”. But Prime Minister David Cameron backed his ally in the Cabinet and tried to shut down further dissent saying “people should leave it at that”. She is said to enjoy his “warm support”. 

Within an hour of the report being published the Downing Street machine swung into again and announced three major policy U-turns on: plain packaging of tobacco, the badger cull and a new register of companies who are sold NHS data. It is unclear whether they were trying to bury bad news or take heat off Miller. 

Miller looks set to keep her post, having paid back a fraction of what Hudson had demanded, and after making a breathtakingly short 32-second apology in the House of Commons chamber.Mrs Hudson accused Mrs Miller of “misrepresenting” her investigation in an attempt to “discredit” her.