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April 9, 2014 5:58 pm
Maria Miller’s resignation as culture secretary came 16 months after the first allegations were made about the claims she made for the mortgage on her London home.
But while the initial claims focused on whether or not the former culture secretary funnelled taxpayer money to her parents, it was a simpler mistake that finally cost Ms Miller her job – one that has been made by other high-profile MPs as well.
The article that first appeared in the Telegraph in December 2012 revealed that she had claimed over £90,000 for a mortgage on her London home in which her parents lived. This prompted comparisons with Tony McNulty, who stood down as Labour home office minister after it was revealed he had claimed expenses on a home occupied by his parents just eight miles from his primary residence.
In the end, the parliamentary standards commissioner cleared Ms Miller of having done what Mr McNulty had, ruling that her parents were part of her direct family and that she had been within her rights to claim expenses on that home.
But during the commissioner’s investigation, the former culture secretary admitted having over-claimed on that mortgage by neglecting to reduce her claims as interest rates fell.
The commissioner said this had resulted in nearly £45,000 of overpayments, but the MP-led standards committee reduced that figure to £5,800 after ruling she did not have to pay back claims made against her second mortgage, taken out before she was an MP to renovate the property.
Ms Miller is not alone in having overclaimed on a mortgage, however. George Osborne, the chancellor, for example, had to repay £1,936 for overclaiming on a mortgage on his Cheshire property.
The parallels are not direct – Mr Osborne’s arrangements were more complex and had been signed off by the parliamentary authorities. But the similarities between Ms Miller’s arrangements and those of others who have already repaid money may worry others across the Commons.
The concerns over expense claims made five years ago and more would not be so deep if it were not for the rise of the UK Independence party, with its band of anti-Westminster politics.
Many of the former culture secretary’s colleagues already feel under pressure from Ukip, whose popularity has been boosted by several days’ coverage of another MP’s expenses scandal.
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