There are 1.2 million reasons why she didn’t really mean it…
The Standards Committee report finds “We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House”. Contrary to the rules Miller “increased the facility on her mortgage on at least two occasions without consulting the House”, and she is also found to have “not only claimed for the entire mortgage interest charged, but appears to have claimed slightly more than that interest.”
The report noted that “Miller’s interactions with House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information”, Miller offered minimal information herself. Tellingly “most of Mrs Miller’s mortgage claims were justified”, but not all. “If the Commissioner had been able swiftly to establish the facts … this might have been a relatively minor matter” – Miller blocked it. Most damningly the Committee found “Mrs Miller has also breached the current Code of Conduct by her attitude to this inquiry.”
They warn that the “system relies” on MPs “responding to Commissioner’s inquiries fully and frankly, rather than trying to argue a case in a legalistic way… It should not have required our intervention to produce the material and explanations required to complete the investigation.”
She will make a personal statement to the House at midday…
The Standards Committee report into Maria Miller is out at 11am, with the Culture Secretary expected to be ordered to repay £5,000 of the £90,000 she claimed in mortgage payments for a second home lived in by her parents. Labour minister Tony McNulty resigned in 2009 over a similar arrangement and Miller has so far offered no explanation for why she suddenly stopped claiming when the MPs expenses scandal broke. If it was legit at the time why stop?
Oh and she is briefing that she simply ‘forgot’ to change the morgage claims when there was a change in rates. Whoopsy daisy.
It’s the cover-up that makes this the real issue: Miller used her role in charge of press regulation to threaten journalists reporting the story. If as a Secretary of State she is also found to have failed to cooperate with the inquiry into her expenses, how does that not cross the line? And how clever to put out the Plain Packaging statement at the same time as the report.
Yesterday the Plain Packaging review people called to say it was definitely not coming this week. Turns out it's coming this morning.
— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) April 3, 2014
What time was the decision made to rush out the plain packaging announcement to coincide with the Maria Miller report, and why?
Expenses watchdog IPSA has today announced the appointment of an interim chief executive following the retirement of Andrew McDonald on grounds of ill health. Former South East London Probation Service boss Paul Hayes is taking over for six months.
Putting his experience at dealing with lying, cheating, thieving criminals to good use…
Last month Guido revealed that Maria Miller was making a potential six figure profit on the second home – lived in by her parents – that she had claimed mortgage payments for on expenses, in clear breach of expenses rules. The Telegraph today reports she has sold the home which she bought in 1996 for £234,000 for £1.47 million, trousering a taxpayer-subsidised profit of over £1 million. Despite claiming £90,000 for the second home on expenses she will only have to repay £5,000. This was a case of a Cabinet minister blatantly breaching expenses rules, resulting in significant personal gain, yet the impotent Standards Commissioner is giving her a mere slap on the wrist…
UPDATE: A DCMS source gets in touch:
“Maria has co-operated fully with the inquiry, asked for by the Labour Party, which has now been going on for a year and a half amidst constant unfounded speculation. We hope it will conclude soon. It is not surprising that London houses go up in value well over a decade after they are first bought . It is also not unusual for people to move house.”
What about releasing the report into her dodgy expenses claims on Budget Day? The Standards and Privileges Committee has taken a very long time to reprimand Miller over those £90,000 second home expenses claims that landed her with a potential six figure profit. A source familiar with the investigation suggests that the delay has been due to gathering more evidence, but why are they taking such a long time to publish a decision? Could it be that Tories on the Committee are looking for a good time to bury bad news? A cynic might think Budget Day might be a good time to get it out…
IPSA has today announced its latest proposals for reform of the MPs’ expenses scheme. Some of them are not bad ideas, such as publishing MPs’ landlords’ names and addresses each year, publishing details of contingency payments and further scrutiny of MPs’ mortgage interest subsidy and capital gains repayments. Most of these reforms would not be implemented until after the election however. Even then they do not go far enough.
Guido has said it before that a House of Commons debit card is the best way to regulate legitimate expenses. The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. The idea was proposed in Disinfecting Parliament, a 2009 report from the Sunlight Centre that recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector that could easily be transferred to IPSA. MPs have called for a fairer and simpler system, what could be easier than the debit card plan?
Following Guido’s story about Stella Creasy’s £31 junk food bill on expenses, the posh Labour MP suggested that the Jammie Dodgers, chocolate fingers and Starburst sweeties were for non-partisan community volunteers in her Walthamstow constituency. It turns out St. Ella wasn’t being entirely truthful…
Creasy’s #7Days4Stow campaign is advertised on her party website with Labour Party branding, uses Labour Party slogans and is backed by her local Labour Party, the campaign group Movement for Change set up originally by David Miliband – which describes itself as “the home of community organising in the Labour Movement” – is at the centre of Stella’s community volunteering. As if that didn’t make it clear enough that this is a party political operation it is backed by the General Secretary of the Labour Party. After seeing Guido’s report about #Biscuitgate the chairman of the Walthamstow Conservative Association has today written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking her to determine whether taxpayers’ money is being used to support community campaigning at the behest of the Labour Party:
To those who say it isn’t much money, this is just the tip of the iceberg in how political parties abuse taxpayer funding and an important principle is at stake – partisan political campaigning should be paid for out of party funds – not out of funds earmarked for the benefit of all constituents. If only Stella had just ‘fessed up at the beginning and said, “yeah, that probably isn’t a proper use of taxpayers’ money” and straight away paid the money back when it was drawn to her attention she would have avoided a full investigation from the authorities…
IPSA have forced a trough-full of greedy MPs to repay £40,000 worth of expenses for claims that were in breach of the rules. New figures for October and November last year show 50 MPs were made to pay back cash. Some of the weirder repayments include £1,300 from Jack Straw for a year-long sublet of his constituency office for the Blackburn Labour Party and £1,250 from Vince Cable for subletting his office. Eric Joyce tried to get away with claiming hundreds of pounds for hotels which were not allowed under the IPSA scheme. Cheapskate Jamie Reed was told nine of his £3 claims for petrol would not be granted. Several MPs blew their expenses budget allowance and had to pay back the overspend, including £4,010 from Mike Crockart, £4,551 from Daniel Kawczynski and £933 from Debbie Abrahams. Still, who can blame a greedy expenses trougher for trying…
Her jealous Labour colleagues call power hungry Stella Creasy “St. Ella”, however when it comes to expenses Stella is no saint. Guido has come across this recent Tesco expenses claim submitted by the Labour MP:
How does she keep her slim figure?
UPDATE: Stella would like to make clear the snacks were for her volunteers. She has generously invited Guido to Walthamstow for a biscuit. Though the taxpayer will be paying.
What We Learned From the Referendum | FT
Scottish Crisis Moves South | Nick Wood
English Democrats Accidentally Celebrate Yes Victory | Pink News
Union In Its Current Form is Dead | Janan Ganesh
Labour Could Be Split in Two | Sun
Ashcroft Poll: Why Scotland Voted No | Buzzfeed
Boris: Change Barnett Formula | Sun
Cameron is Back | Dan Hodges
What Happens Now | James Kirkup
Cairo of the North | Quentin Letts
Labour are the Biggest Losers | Phil Collins
Diane Abbott on the Daily Politics:
“Labour MPs will unite behind Ed Miliband, once we find out what our policies are.”