CONSERVATIVE back-bench MPs were last night quoted as calling for Culture Secretary Maria Miller to be sacked following the scandal over her parliamentary expenses and claims she attempted to suppress a newspaper’s coverage of the revelations.
Senior members of the 1922 committee – who have the ear of the Prime Minister – said they expect David Cameron to remove Miller from her post soon. It followed the publication of a recording in which her special adviser, Joanna Hindley, mentions the Leveson Inquiry in an allegedly threatening manner while being questioned by a Daily Telegraph journalist looking into Miller’s expenses.
But a Whitehall source said it was clear from the recording, made without Hindley’s knowledge, that she had been voicing concerns about the doorstepping of Miller’s father, who was ill, and had been making clear that the minister would raise the issue at an upcoming meeting with the editor, which happened to relate to the Leveson report.
Miller made a curt, 31-second apology to the Commons after being ordered to pay back £5,800 in overclaimed allowances. One MP told a Sunday newspaper: “It was very unwise to give the short, perfunctory apology she did. I suspect she may be sacked, demoted or moved in June.” Cameron is expected to reshuffle the Cabinet after the European Parliament elections next month.
However, Tory chairman Grant Shapps said the MP for Basingstoke had been cleared on the substantive charges and that it was time to “draw a line” under the matter.
But in a further blow to Miller, last night the official Twitter account of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was hacked. Three tweets were sent to around 55,000 followers: “Is Maria @Maria_MillerMP guilty? We will let the public decide”; “@Maria_MillerMP is like Robin Hood, she robs the poor to help the rich”; and “Seriously though guys, which one of us hasn’t embezzled and cheated the taxpayer?”
Meanwhile, details of letters sent by Miller to the parliamentary commissioner investigating her expenses claims led to allegations that the MP may have bullied the watchdog.
Commissioner Kathryn Hudson recommended that Miller should repay £45,000 in expenses for a house that she shared with her parents, but the cross-party House of Commons standards committee decided she need only hand back £5,800.