The culture Secretary Maria Miller has resigned. She said she is “devastated” that she has let her constituents down. Amid growing pressure on her to resign, her position as a high profile minister became untenable. Yesterday, she told her local newspaper that the 16-month inquiry into her expenses had been “difficult” but she accepted its findings in full and had apologised.
Her 35 second apology last week was clearly not enough to stop pressure from the public and Parliament in calling for her resignation. The contoversary was festering over the weekend with pressure from the media. Despite David Cameron’s backing, Mrs Miller’s not stepping down was damaging to the Tory party as a whole. Several back benchers called for her resignation including former Tory Party Chairman Norman Tebbit. Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd has said Mrs Miller should resign as a matter of “honour”.
In December 2012, Mrs Miller claimed £90,718 in expenses over a four-year period. This was applied towards mortgage payments on a house in south London that she shared with her immediate family and her parents. This, one would think was a breach of the 2010 rules on parliamentary allowances which allows MPs to claim back mortgage interest and other costs associated with having a second home. Was this her primary residance? Questions have also been raised about whether Ms Miller who bought the home herself with an offset mortgage, should have reduced her mortgage claims, as interest rates fell.
Miller has not been a friend to the arts in general. The appointment of two consecutively weak Culture Secretaries under the Tories has been bad for growth in the sector. It will be curious to speculate if the government will now appoint a Culture Minister who has a background in the arts.