Miller Time: Labour Write to the Fuzz

Labour have written to the coppers:

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley
Metropolitan Police Special Crime Directorate
New Scotland Yard
8-10 Broadway
Westminster
London SW1H 0BG

Dear Commissioner Rowley,

Re House of Commons Committee on Standards Report into Maria Miller

The Standards Committee Report published today, 3 April 2014, finds that Maria Miller overclaimed £5800 of mortgage payments and required her to make a personal statement on the floor of the House of Commons.

The key conclusions are as follows:

The House of Commons Code of Conduct from 2002 stipulated that: “No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes”. We have seen no evidence to suggest that Mrs Miller failed to abide by this part of the Code.

The 2002 rule had a second part stipulating that “the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed”. Mrs Miller failed to observe this.

We have already recommended that Mrs Miller repay the £5,800 which she has identified as an over-claim. She should also apologise by personal statement on the floor of the House for her attitude to the Commissioner’s inquiries.

I believe the widely differing conclusions of the Commissioner and the Committee detailed in the Report are important to note and, in my view, warrant further investigation.

On the issue Mrs Miller’s decision to designate her constituency home in Basingstoke as her main home, the Commissioner states:

In my view Mrs Miller’s London home would have been maintained in any case, even had she not been an MP.The statement provided by Mrs Miller’s legal advisersaid that she had to have a second home”exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary duties”. It cannot be said that her London home was established or maintained”exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary duties”.

I consider it more likely than not that Mrs Miller’s London home was her main home, as a matter of fact, and that the expenses which she incurred on staying away from her main home in order to perform her parliamentary duties were those associated with the Basingstoke properties.

The Commissioner also states that the Committee might take a different view and, indeed, it does. This Committee states:

We agree with the Commissioner that Mrs Miller should properly have designated London as her main home rather than Basingstoke.

Nonetheless, we consider that Mrs Miller’s designation was reasonable in the light of the guidance available at the time, given that the matter was finely balanced. Accordingly we make no criticism of Mrs Miller for her error.

On the issue of by how much Mrs Miller overclaimed there is also some disagreement between the Commissioner and the Committee.

The commissioner states that Miller over-claimed by more than £40,000.

In particular I find it difficult to believe that Mrs Miller genuinely thought she was entitled to make the additional claim for her extended mortgage in 2007 without any consultation with the House authorities or agreement from them.

If the Committee agrees with my interpretation of the rules, the total amount by which Mrs Miller has over-claimed in relation to her mortgage interest would be around £44,000, to which should be added a further £1,000 to take account of the reduction which she should have made to her claims for council tax to take account of her parents’ presence in the home.

Her apparent misuse of the allowances system continued for four years from May 2005 to the end of April 2009 and seems to have been brought to an end only by the expenses scandal of 2009-10 when she abruptly ceased to claim.

However the Committee does not accept this figure, for technical reasons, that it explains as follows:

As Mrs Miller pointed out, no attempt was made to ensure that newly elected Members only made claims against the original purchase price of the property. In these circumstances, imposing a strict interpretation of the rule would not be appropriate.

Whatever the strict construction of the rule, it was reasonable for Mrs Miller to claim the interest on her mortgage as it was when she entered the House, rather than as it was when she first purchased the property

Mrs Miller considers that she overclaimed on her mortgage by £5,800 in 2008-09. We have examined the figures carefully and accept that that is a reasonable assessment of the amount that she overclaimed. We recommend this sum should be repaid.

I note that the Committee’s report also states that Mrs Miller did not co-operate with the investigation:

Mrs Miller has also breached the current Code of Conduct by her attitude to this inquiry.

Given the widely differing conclusions of the Commission and the Committee regarding the serious allegations made about Mrs Miller and the fact that both the Commission and Committee feel that Mrs Miller did not cooperate with the inquiry, I believe this matter warrants further investigation and I believe the Metropolitan Police are the appropriate body to carry out such an investigation.

I have enclosed a copy of the report and await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Docherty

Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife

This is how it started for Denis MacShane, although the Police tend to take their guidance from the Standards Committee…

Vid via Neil Hepburn.

UPDATE: Miller sources re the letter: “There was a 16 month long inquiry into an allegation made by a Labour MP, at the end of which, the committee dismissed the allegation. Maria accepted the committee’s recommendations in full, apologised unreservedly and will of course repay the overclaim that she brought to the committee’s attention and which they accept was an administrative error.”



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