Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, has been ordered to apologise to MPs and repay £5,800 in expenses, after an investigation into expenses claims she made between 2005 and 2009. However, she has been cleared of deliberately abusing the rules regarding most of the £90,000 she claimed over a four-year period.
David Cameron has backed the Minister to stay, but is this fair?
InvestigationThe results of the investigation were released in a report today: they centered on claims she made for a property. She is the MP for Basingstoke, and said that her main home was a rented property in the area. She then designated the house she owns in Wimbledon as her second home, and claimed £90,718 in expenses for it. The problem was that she shared this house with her parents - raising questions over whether it was a fair interpretation of the expenses rules.
The investigation concluded that it was fair, and the only issue it found was that she had claimed £5,800 too much on her mortgage payments. This came about because her mortgage rate fell and she forgot to make adjustments in her claim.
Should she stay?However, there have been those who have called for her to leave her ministerial post.
On the one hand, she has been cleared by the report. At the time she made the claims - between 2005 and 2009 - were no rules specifically banning MPs from claiming expenses on a home they shared with a parent. Those rules were only introduced when Tony McNulty, the former Labour MP, resigned after it emerged that he had let his parents live in his second home.
In addition, Miller has made it clear that she has lived with her parents for the last 20 years in order to care for them - because they are both disabled - and she didn't benefit financially from them living with her. She also stopped claiming expenses on the home when the expenses scandal broke.
However, the committee has ordered her to apologise to MPs over her attitude to the investigation. According to the BBC, the investigating committee said that the report had been mired in "delay and difficulty", arising from "incomplete documentation and fragmentary information. Mrs Miller has to carry significant responsibility for that."
In a statement, Mrs Miller told MPs "The committee has recommended that I apologise to the House for my attitude to the commissioner's inquiries, and I of course unreservedly apologise. I fully accept the recommendations of the committee and thank them for bringing this matter to an end."
In addition, there are those who argue that while she largely stuck with the rules, there is something here that smacks of unfairness. There will be those who argue it's unusual to own one property and for that not to be your main home.
The Daily Mail has already highlighted that when she sold her Wimbledon home in February she made a £1.2 million profit on it - selling the home for £1.47 million. For some it may seem unfair that she can make such a profit when the taxpayer was paying the mortgage for four years.
But what do you think? Is it fair?