Culture Secretary Maria Miller Resigns Following Expenses Scandal

A week of negative headlines regarding the cabinet minister’s expenses was just too much. Update: Savid Javid will replace her.

1. Updated — Apr 9, 10.55 a.m. BST

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Culture Secretary Maria Miller this morning resigned following a week of heavy criticism over her handling of an expenses scandal that involved designating her family residence as her second home.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Miller said continued criticism of her expenses “has become a distraction from the vital work this government is doing”.

The minister lasted just 20 months in the job.

Following a lengthy investigation the independent parliamentary standards commissioner concluded that Miller had broke rules in the process of designating a Wimbledon house as her second home for expenses purposes, despite sharing it with her parents, husband and children.

Between 2005 and 2009 she claimed over £90,000 from the taxpayer to help fund this house. The independent standards commissioner said that while Miller’s parents had not benefitted from the arrangement and cleared Miller of making false expenses claims the minister should still repay £45,000.

But last week a committee of MPs watered down this judgement and said Miller only need repay £5,800 and issue an apology to the House of Commons. This half-hearted apology to parliament lasted just 31 seconds, infuriating members of the press and the public.

Miller was also criticised by the commissioner for trying to obstruct the investigation.

Downing Street spent a week defending Miller and even late last night fellow ministers were being sent to do television and radio interviews in a bid to defend her.

But rising public anger at her conduct, even among Conservative MPs and party supporters, eventually made her position untenable.

3. In her resignation letter, dated this morning, Miller paid tribute to her family and said she was proud to have guided same-sex marriage legislation through parliament.


Dear Prime Minister,

It is with great regret that I have decided that I should tender my resignation as a member of the Cabinet.

I am very grateful to you for your 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.

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for more than 30 years. As a working mother, educated at a South Wales comprehensive school, I know that it is our party that understands the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they come from.

I am immensely proud of what my team have been able to achieve during my time in Government: ensuring that our arts and cultural institutions receive the rightful recognition that they deserve in making Britain Great; putting women front and centre of every aspect of DCMS’s work; putting in place the legislation to enable all couples to have the opportunity to marry regardless of their sexuality.

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. 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.

I will continue to support you and the work of the Government as you move forward.

Ensuring the best future for the people of Basingstoke has been my priority throughout the last nine years. Whether on the front or back benches of the House of Commons I will continue this work.

The only reason I was able to become an MP and indeed a government minister and cabinet minister is because of the unstinting support of my husband, my mother, my father and my three children. I owe them all a great deal.

Maria Miller

4. David Cameron accepted her resignation.


Dear Maria,

Thank you for your letter. I was very sorry to receive it.

I think it is 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.

You can be extremely proud of your work in Government - as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, as Minister for Women and as Minister for Disabled People.

You have been responsible for successfully handling two of the most controversial issues with which this Government has dealt.

As Culture Secretary, you have played a critical role in advancing Britain’s proud record of respect and equality in piloting the Equal Marriage Act through Parliament and onto the Statute Book. There are many people in our country today, and there will be many in the future, who will always be grateful for this very important change, which you did so much to bring about. You have also handled the sensitive subject of press regulation with skill and dedication.

You can be very proud as well that you have led one of the most important infrastructure projects: many more premises are now able to access super-fast broadband . You have also ensured a lasting legacy for the Olympic Games.

As you leave the Government, you should be proud of your service on the Frontbench and in Opposition.

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.

David Cameron

5. A week of incessantly negative headlines, especially from the Conservative-supporting Telegraph, helped make Miller’s position untenable.

 
 

8. In recent days even MPs from Miller’s own party had called for her to resign. This morning some Conservative politicians celebrated her departure.

10. While other Conservative MPs have openly said that Miller had mishandled the apology.


Last night Brooks Newmark MP told Radio 4’s World Tonight that “politics is about politics, it’s not necessarily about the legality of what’s right and what’s wrong.”

11. Maria Miller was one of only four women in the cabinet and the only working mother to run a government department.


In the meantime just 14% of Britain’s serving cabinet ministers are women.

The Prime Minister, who had been expected to reshuffle his cabinet in June, will now have to find a replacement for Miller. He is expected to appoint someone from outside the cabinet to avoid forcing substantial changes.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes has priced up the likely candidate to replace Miller for BuzzFeed:

6/4 Liz Truss
2/1 Esther McVey
3/1 Any man
6/1 Anna Soubry
6/1 Nicky Morgan
10/1 Priti Patel
20/1 Claire Perry
100/1 Nadine Dorries

12. Update - Feb. 9, 10.55 a.m. BST Treasury secretary Sajid Javid has been appointed to replace Miller and will join the cabinet as secretary of state for culture, media, sport and equalities.

Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters / Reuters

Javid, 44, is a former banker and a key ally of chancellor George Osborne.

One of the Conservatives’ few MPs from a minority background, he was only elected to parliament for the first time in May 2010.

Anyone who took Ladbrokes’ offer of 3/1 on “any man” will be cashing in.

14. He will be replaced at the Treasury by Nicky Morgan, who will attend cabinet in her capacity as minister for women.

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