Maria Miller expenses: Rows 'eating away at credibility'


Iain Duncan Smith: "I'm supportive of Maria, because I feel if we're not careful we end up in a witch-hunt"

Related Stories

MPs should do "whatever it takes" to stop rows over their expenses "eating away at the credibility of Parliament", a cabinet minister has said.

Iain Duncan Smith was speaking after the independent parliamentary watchdog said MPs should "no longer mark their own homework" on ethics.

It comes after a committee of MPs overruled investigators probing Culture Secretary Maria Miller's expenses.

Former Conservative chairman Lord Tebbit has called on her to resign.

Asked whether Mrs Miller had his full support, current Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said it was not a matter for him and he was "satisfied" that she had complied with Parliament's wishes.

The row over the culture secretary's expenses dates back to December 2012 when the Daily Telegraph reported she had claimed £90,718 in expenses towards mortgage payments on a house in south London that the MP shared with her parents.

Who does what on MPs' expenses and standards

  • The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority sets MPs' pay, pensions and expenses and authorises claims
  • The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards investigates complaints against MPs and recommends action
  • The Commons Standards Committee decides sanctions to be taken against MPs

The parliamentary commissioner for standards, who conducted an investigation into the culture secretary's expenses, ruled she should repay £45,800 but the House of Commons Committee on Standards, which has the final say on issues on ethics and disciplinary matters, cut this to £5,800.

The 13-strong committee is mostly made up of MPs and its three independent members are not allowed to vote.

'Reasonable and honest'

Mr Duncan Smith, who is work and pensions secretary, told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that MPs' expenses and the wider issue of standards was corrosive.

Asked whether he backed an independent system, he said: "I am very happy for that to be debated. I am among a number of those who feels this goes on and on eating away at the credibility of Parliament.

"Whatever it takes to restore the credibility of Parliament is right. I am very open to independent people looking at this. Personally the sooner we can get rid of this nonsense the better."

Maria Miller Maria Miller apologised to MPs for her attitude towards an inquiry into her expenses

Mr Duncan Smith said he believed that Mrs Miller was an "reasonable and honest" person and had apologised.

He said there was a "lot of antipathy" towards Mrs Miller because of her role in drawing up tougher regulation of the press in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry recommendations.

Asked whether she should stay in the cabinet, he said it was a "matter that the prime minister has to take consideration of and she herself".

"I am supportive of Maria because if we are not careful, we can end up in a witch-hunt of somebody".

However, writing in a blog for the Daily Telegraph, Lord Tebbit accused Mrs Miller of "arrogance" in her response to the affair.

He is the most senior Conservative to call for the culture secretary to resign, saying the row had undermined the government's message that "we're all in it together".

He added that the prime minister, having "staked his authority and reputation" on defending Mrs Miller, would be "damned if he now fires her and damned if he doesn't".

"The best way out of this is for Mrs Miller to resign," he said.


The authorisation of MPs' expenses was transferred to an outside body after a public outcry in 2009 about revelations of inappropriate claims made in the past.

However, complaints about MPs conduct - including allegations they have abused the expenses system - are investigated by the parliamentary commissioner, who is overseen by the Committee for Standards.

Start Quote

We need a system which commands public confidence, and what we have at the moment clearly doesn't do that”

End Quote Angela Eagle Labour

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Sir Ian Kennedy - chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - said an end to the current system of self-regulation of standards was now "the only way forward".

MPs "marking their own homework always ends in scandal", he said.

Mrs Miller's mortgage claims, which relate to the period between 2005 and 2009, "couldn't happen under Ipsa", he said, adding that "great progress" had been made under the new regime.

But he went on: "There is a lesson from Ipsa which ought to be learnt with the commissioner for standards too.

"She should be given the freedom to carry out her work and not have her wings clipped by MPs.

"To avoid further damage to Parliament in the future, it should have the confidence to give away powers in regulating itself and see that independent regulation is the best, most transparent way forward."


Former independent MP Martin Bell said he believed the Commons standards committee should be abolished.

"I think the commissioner should make a report and there has to be justice for the MP complained against, then... the whole House can consider it," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

And Labour's Angela Eagle also backed changes to the remit of the committee.

"We need a system which commands public confidence, and what we have at the moment clearly doesn't do that," the shadow leader of the House of Commons said.

In addition to ordering the culture secretary to repay £5,800, the committee said Mrs Miller's submission of "incomplete" evidence to the inquiry had breached the MPs' code of conduct and said she should apologise to MPs "for her attitude to the commissioner's inquiries".

Emails released by the committee revealed Mrs Miller told the commissioner investigating her that she might go over her head to ask MPs to intervene.

A number of newspapers have called for her resignation.

A poll carried out by Survation for the Mail on Sunday suggested 78% of the public think that Mrs Miller should resign as a cabinet minister.

The survey was conducted online on Friday among 1,001 people.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    MPs are becoming an embarrassment and affecting the credibility of our democracy. If a child was to misbehave the parent would set a suitable punishment. We need an independent arbitrator and strict penalties in place - and ensure these are implemented. I have no idea why we need to have this in place- they are adults and should 'know better'. But I suspect their greedy nature prevents it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    As for those suggesting a block of flats or similar, I asked my MP about this and the reply was for security reasons. MI5 would not allow all the MP's to be in one place at the same, but I agree something along those lines would be a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    It disgusts me when people are having to use foodbanks because they don't have enough to eat, living in real poverty- we are short of healthcare staff in the hospitals- and the MPs are still wasting our money like this. If cutting public spending is such a concern, they should start by tightening their own belts first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    It is time for MP's to more in line with ordinary people. £50,000 salary plus enough money to pay one member of staff and rent a small office should be plenty. But the worker should be a civil servant and the rented accommodation should be obtained by an independent process and audited as such.

    MP's are costing us a fortune as they can employ many people and this is simply not right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Is there anything left to damage? As we elect these so called servants of the people maybe it is time we sat on an overseeing body to investigate them when their actions fall to question. Certainly better than them looking into their own actions.


Comments 5 of 11


More UK Politics stories


Politics Live

    07:28: Universities & extremism

    Should universities be obliged by law to prevent people being drawn into terrorism - for example by reporting extremist activity?

    That is part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill which is continuing to be debated during its committee stage in the House of Lords today. But a group of vice chancellors has written to the Times arguing that universities should be exempt.

    07:21: Pensioner payments BBC Radio 4
    david cameron

    David Cameron's hint yesterday that pensioner benefits may continue to be protected despite the welfare cuts mooted for after the election also features in the newspapers. The prime minister told the BBC there were no "huge savings" to be made from restricting access to payments like the winter fuel allowance.

    07:11: Councils hit by cuts
    council bin collection

    Elsewhere today, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are warning that councils in the most deprived areas of England are being hit the hardest by funding cuts. They say in a report that government cuts have not been applied equally since 2010 - with local authorities in the poorest areas seeing the biggest reductions.

    07:09: Burnham interview
    Andy Burnham

    As we've seen, Labour and the NHS are making some of this morning's headlines. The party's health spokesman Andy Burnham was on the BBC's Newsnight last night, setting out his plans for the service.

    06:54: Key dates

    The parties have been ramping up their campaigns - with 99 days until people go to the polls. The BBC's Jo Coburn highlights some key dates between now and then.

    06:42: Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: A couple of broadsheet front pages Labour would rather not see--following up #wato's Alan Milburn interview

    06:37: Making the headlines

    Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn's comments yesterday - in which he called for Ed Miliband to promise NHS reforms and compared Labour's campaign to the 1992 general election - feature on the front of the Times and the Daily Telegraph this morning.

    06:29: Poll tracker

    The polls will be coming thick and fast in the coming months - keep up to date with the BBC's new interactive poll tracker, which lets you see the results of polls conducted by a range of organisations.

    The tracker also includes a timeline of key events, so you can see how public opinion might have shifted at important junctures in the past five years.

    06:17: The day ahead
    David Cameron

    The big event today, as it is on most Wednesdays, is Prime Minister's Questions, which begins at noon in the House of Commons. There are, at most, only eight of these sessions left before the election so David Cameron and Ed Miliband will be more eager than ever to come out on top.

    06:10: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 99 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.



Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ElvisSecret cinema

    Get off the beaten track and explore cinematic history in the Santa Monica Mountains


  • A computer generated model of a lift shaftClick Watch

    The future of elevator technology - lifts that can climb up to 1km in the air and even travel sideways

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.