UNDER-FIRE Culture Secretary Maria Miller has “most serious” questions to answer about her expenses, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said yesterday.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Blackwood said she would be worried if she was in her fellow Conservative’s position as pressure ramped up on Mrs Miller over her expenses scandal.
The rest of Oxfordshire’s Tory MPs steered clear of joining the mounting criticism amid calls for Mrs Miller to resign.
Ms Blackwood said: “The questions which she is being faced with are of the most serious and I have to say when I deal with my expenses, I am as transparent as I can be.
“It’s all up on my website.
“I have to say if I was faced with the kind of questions that she is faced with, I would be really quite worried indeed.
“I only know what has been reported in the papers... but clearly it’s very unhelpful for this to drag on in the way that it is.”
She said Mrs Miller’s response to the controversy could have been “clearer”.
Last week the cross-party Commons Standards Committee ordered Mrs Miller to say sorry and repay £5,800 in overclaimed mortgage expenses – £40,000 less than an independent report had recommended.
Mrs Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was then condemned for giving a 32-second apology on the floor of the House of Commons.
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “A complaint was made to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
“That complaint was investigated and Maria Miller was cleared of any wrong-doing on the original complaint.
“The committee did, however, feel that Maria Miller hadn’t co-operated sufficiently promptly with the Parliamentary Commissioner and asked her to apologise for that matter which she has done.
“That should be an end to this matter.”
Henley MP John Howell refused to comment on the issue, while Wantage MP Ed Vaizey did not return the Oxford Mail’s call.
Yesterday, during a visit to Asda in Clapham, south London, Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron was asked about polling which showed most Conservatives believed Mrs Miller should be out of a job.
“What matters is doing the right thing,” he said. “I think Maria has done the right thing by repaying the money, making an apology and now getting on with her job.”
Pressed on whether Mrs Miller was still in her post because she was a state-educated woman, he replied: “Maria Miller is in her job because she is doing a good job as Culture Secretary.”
Labour’s Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said Mrs Miller’s credibility was “exhausted”.
He said: “I think she should resign and it is clear that that is the overwhelming view of the public as well.
“From all the reports of what has happened it doesn’t look like she has co-operated with the inquiry and her apology to the House was the absolute minimum that she could get away with saying.
“The public sees this as one rule for MPs and another rule for them. I think her credibility is exhausted.”
How the drama unfolded
Between 2005 and 2009 Maria Miller, who has been a secretary of state since 2012, declared a house in Wimbledon as her second home for expenses purposes and claimed around £90,000 in mortgage and running costs – almost the maximum allowed.
She sold the property in February for just under £1.5m, having purchased it in 1996 for £234,000. Parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson concluded that she should instead have designated it as her primary residence, and received expenses in her Basingstoke constituency.
This came to light following a report in the Daily Telegraph – which claims it was threatened by Mrs Miller’s adviser, who “flagged up” her role in implementing press controls following the Leveson report – while investigating the story.
It was found by the Parliamentary standards commissioner that Mrs Miller over-claimed by £45,000 for expenses but the House of Commons Committee on Standards decided she only needed to pay back £5,800.
She was told to apologise to the House of Commons – an address that lasted 32 seconds.