Maria Miller quits as culture secretary after expenses row

Maria Miller: "I wish I could have stayed"

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Maria Miller has insisted it was her decision to resign as culture secretary amid claims she was forced out by No 10 after a row over her expenses.

She said the row had been an "enormous distraction" from "the incredible achievements of this government".

In the Commons, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused PM David Cameron of having "undermined trust in politics" with his handling of the row.

Conservative MP Sajid Javid has been named as the new culture secretary.

The MP for Bromsgrove has been promoted from his current role as Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Sajid Javid Mr Javid, a former banker, was elected to the Commons in 2010

But Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped Mrs Miller would return to the cabinet "in due course".

Mrs Miller was cleared of funding a home for her parents at taxpayers' expense, but was told to repay £5,800 of the expenses she claimed.

The independent parliamentary commissioner for standards had previously recommended she repay £45,000.

But the lower sum was approved by the Commons Standards Committee, which has the final say on whether to accept the commissioner's recommendations - a decision which sparked a backlash across the political spectrum and calls for changes in how complaints against MPs are investigated.

'Enormous distraction'

The committee also criticised her "attitude" during the investigation, which it ruled was a breach of the parliamentary code of conduct.

Start Quote

This decision is a defeat for a minister who believes she has been found not guilty on the central charge of asking the taxpayer to pay for a home for her elderly parents”

End Quote Nick Robinson BBC political editor

Mrs Miller apologised in the Commons, but was criticised for the brevity of the statement she made.

David Cameron's official spokesman said the PM and Mrs Miller discussed her future on Tuesday night and her resignation was confirmed on Wednesday morning.

In a TV interview, she dismissed speculation that she had been pushed into resigning by Downing Street, saying: "I take full responsibility for my decision to resign. I think it's the right thing to do."

She continued: "I was cleared of the central allegation made about me by a Labour MP.

"I hoped that I could stay, but it has become clear to me over the last few days that this has become an enormous distraction, and it's not right that I'm detracting from the incredible achievements of this government.

"I continue to support, obviously, my colleagues here in Parliament, the government, and above all the prime minister."

Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of a "terrible error of judgment"

At Mr Cameron's weekly Commons question session, Mr Miliband said: "The reason the public was so appalled was that if it had happened in any other business, there would have been no question of them staying in their job."

He asked of the PM: "Why was he the last person in the country to realise her position was untenable?"

The Labour leader concluded: "His failure, even now, to recognise what went wrong has undermined trust not only in his government but in politics."

But Mr Cameron accused him of "playing politics" and "jumping on a bandwagon," asking why he had not called for Mrs Miller's resignation when she was still in her job.

The prime minister invited the opposition leader to join him and other party leaders and work out "what can we do to put beyond doubt that this is a good and honest Parliament, with hardworking people" in it.

Michael Gove Mr Gove said politicians still needed to reflect on the level of public anger about expenses

Education Secretary Michael Gove said he was "saddened" by Mrs Miller's resignation.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "She has done some brave and right things, not least that equal marriage is now on the statute book."

Mr Gove, a former journalist, said he "would not criticise the press", but said: "Over the course of the a last couple of days the pressure on Maria Miller grew more intense.

"Some of the criticism directed at her had been very personal, and it must have been hurtful," he continued.

He also commended Mr Cameron's defence of Mrs Miller, arguing that his "loyalty, that desire to think the best of those who work with him, is a virtue".

"I don't think his judgement has been flawed," he said.

"The prime minister's attitude throughout has been governed by the basic human decency that is his hallmark."

'Incandescent'

Labour MP John Mann, whose complaint sparked the investigation into Mrs Miller's expenses, welcomed her resignation.

"My reaction is it's about time too... Maria Miller should have resigned immediately and when she didn't resign, David Cameron should have shown a bit of leadership and he should have sacked her," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There is a difference between loyalty and blind loyalty," he continued later.

Labour MP John Mann said Maria Miller should have resigned "days ago"

Voters were "incandescent" about Mrs Miller's expenses claims and Mr Cameron's "failure to act" had been "incomprehensible to most people", Mr Mann said.

"There's a word missing in British politics these days and that's honour, and I would define honour as: if you've done something wrong, as a cabinet minister, you resign - and if you don't resign you get sacked."

Maria Miller on Thursday: "I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end"

In her resignation letter to the prime minister, Mrs Miller said she was "immensely proud" of her work in cabinet, including "putting in place the legislation to enable all couples to have the opportunity to marry regardless of their sexuality".

She also acknowledged that her role in "implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson on the future of media regulation, following the phone hacking scandals, would always be controversial for the press".

The prime minister said he was sorry to receive Mrs Miller's resignation but accepted her decision.

"I think it is important to be clear that the Committee on Standards cleared you of the unfounded allegations made against you, a point which has been lost in much of the comment in recent days," he wrote.

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  76.  
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  77.  
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    So the IFS tells us average household incomes are back to the same level they were in 2007-08. But the recovery has been slow and poorer people aren't that much better off. Chancellor George Osborne tells Today the country has reached a milestone but "we have got to reach a truly national recovery and that can't be risked by abandoning the [long term economic?] plan".

     
  78.  
    @LSEge2015 London School of Economics, 2015 general election coverage

    tweets: "After #GE2010 we had 3 different 2-party systems: after #GE2015 we may have a much more complex electoral geography" Read more.

     
  79.  
    08:03: UKIP manifesto The Guardian

    Quick hat tip to the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow. He points out that Nigel Farage was wrong to say UKIP never said it would publish its manifesto at the spring conference during his Today interview. Suzanne Evans, UKIPs deputy chairman, said this in January, when she took over responsibility for the manifesto.

    "I relish the task of putting together the final details and presenting a sensible, radical and fully-costed manifesto at our spring conference in Margate."

     
  80.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian

    tweets: The UKIP migration target of 20,000 to 50,000 is billed by Farage as "Back to Normality", a fine broader election slogan for UKIP.

     
  81.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: How would quitting EU allow migration control as Ukip claims? Free trade would have to include free movement. Switz has migrant pop of 23%

     
  82.  
    07:54: After the riots BBC Radio 4 Today

    BBC Radio 4's Tom Bateman is in Tottenham for the Today programme. He's looking at how much - if anything - has changed in the area since the 2011 London riots.

    Despite a number of high-profile initiatives there are still not enough funds available to help young people into jobs in Haringey, Chris Hall, the head of a local school for children expelled from the mainstream system, says.

    He adds that lack of jobs remains the biggest problem in the borough, with unemployment levels well above the national average, At the same time the council has to find £70m of spending cuts.

     
  83.  
    07:50: UKIP manifesto BBC Radio 4 Today

    When will your manifesto come out Mr Farage? "It'll be coming out in April. I suspect it'll come out later than the other parties... Later so that what we say will have some impact." He says he would "never have contemplated" releasing it last week despite it being reported that, in fact, that was what was originally planned.

     
  84.  
    @sundersays Sunder Katwala, director of @britishfuture on identity and integration

    tweets: Ukip 5 year "immigration ban" was actually a moratorium on integration (settlement & citizenship). Glad if thats gone

     
  85.  
    07:44: Outside the EU BBC Radio 4 Today

    Pressed on the suggestion of a 50,000 limit made very recently by his immigration spokesman, Mr Farage replies, his ire rising a bit: "We're not having caps, we're getting rid of caps." He goes on: "I do not believe we would need up to 50,000 people a year. I think the figure would be substantially lower." He says the UK is currently discriminating against better skilled people from outside the EU in favour of low-skilled European workers.

     
  86.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator

    tweets: Chris Leslie's r4 slot showed programming your frontbenchers to chant "out of touch" isn't quite enough to deal with good economic news

     
  87.  
    07:36: Immigration 'normality' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "Back to normality - what we had from Windrush to the year 2000" - that's what Nigel Farage tells Today he wants to return the level of net migration to.

     
  88.  
    07:34: 'More flexibility' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "I'm not putting caps or targets," Mr Farage continues. "You need to have more flexibility than that." "What I want to talk about is how we'd be better off with an Australian-style points system."

     
  89.  
    @Peston Robert Peston BBC economics editor

    tweets: Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS

     
  90.  
    07:28: Eurostar sale
    Eurostar train

    In case you're wondering what Barry Sheerman was tweeting about, the government announced overnight it had sold its stake in Eurostar. The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager, who will buy shares for £585m. Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The government's stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  91.  
    'Who benefits?' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie is sure that people aren't feeling richer. "I don't think we can dispute there is a recovery, but the question is who benefits from that recovery," he tells Today. He certainly doesn't accept that the IFS report blows any holes in Labour's arguments about a cost of living crisis.

     
  92.  
    07:24: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One one measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     
  93.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent for the Financial Times

    tweets: Household incomes returning to pre-crisis levels, more or less. Labour's campaign theme for March? Cost of living crisis.

     
  94.  
    07:15: 'Sounds a lot' BBC Breakfast

    Mr Farage says his new immigration system would cost "a few hundred million pounds" which "sounds a lot" but would bring huge savings in the long run.

     
  95.  
    07:14: 'Some exceptions' BBC Breakfast

    UKIP suggests someone coming in to Britain should earn £27,000 or more. But when it's put to Mr Farage that a nurse's starting salary is much less than that, he admits: "I do accept that with the health service there will be some exceptions."

     
  96.  
    07:12: Skilled workers BBC Breakfast

    Nigel Farage has moved on to BBC Breakfast. He says last year 27,000 people came into the UK who would have passed UKIP's points system. He seems happy with that as long as all of that number don't claim benefits for five years and have health insurance.

     
  97.  
    07:06: 'Wages have struggled' BBC Radio 4

    Over on Today - which you can listen to via the live tab above - Paul Johnson, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says incomes have "taken an awfully long time to recover", but the government has made a "reasonably significant effort at reducing the deficit". More on the IFS's view of wages in our story here.

     
  98.  
    07:01: 'Back to normality'

    Nigel Farage has done his first interview of the day on Good Morning Britain. He was pressed about his immigration policy. He said the 50,000 mentioned by Steven Wolfe wasn't about net migration it was "about the number of foreign workers" arriving in Britain. He says the British public are "bored of targets", and he wants to get immigration "back to normality", which traditionally "varied between about 20 and 50,000 a year". He sounds slightly exasperated when it's put to him that, actually, that still sounds like a target.

     
  99.  
    @BarrySheerman Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield

    tweets: Selling off the family silver in a panic as Election approaches Royal Mail East Coast & now Eurostar! What a Govt!

     
  100.  
    Gawain Towler, UKIP communications officer

    tweets: @Nigel_Farage waiting to go on Good Morning Britain @ukip

    Nigel Farage

     

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