Villiers rejects calls for Miller to quit Cabinet over expenses

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has spoken out in defence of Cabinet colleague Maria Miller, amid growing calls for the Culture Secretary’s resignation.

Theresa Villiers praised Mrs Miller — who last week was ordered by fellow MPs to repay £5,800 in expenses; a figure much smaller than the £45,000 recommended by an independent report — as an “excellent minister”.

And, against a backdrop of Tory unease at the furore around the Culture Secretary, including a call from Lord Tebbit for the “arrogant” minister to quit, Ms Villiers said there was a need to “move on” from the issue.

The Commons’ Standards Committee ordered Mrs Miller to repay the money after she claimed around £90,000 over four years — almost the maximum allowed — for her London home which was designated her second home. The investigation published last week concluded that she should have instead designated it as her first home and received expenses in her Basingstoke constituency.

It has since emerged that Mrs Miller’s ministerial adviser told a reporter at The Daily Telegraph — the paper which broke the initial story — that she should consider Mrs Miller’s role in considering the future of Press regulation, something the paper interpreted as a threat.

Last week Mrs Miller delivered a 32-second apology in the House of Commons “for my attitude to the commissioner’s inquiries”.

At the weekend, a poll for The Mail on Sunday found that almost 80 per cent of respondents believed Mrs Miller should be sacked as a minister and almost 70 percent believed she should be sacked as an MP.

Asked if she was concerned about the results of that poll, Ms Villiers told the News Letter: “I think Maria has done a great job as Secretary of State for Culture and I’m fully in support of Maria.

“I think that these matters have now been resolved; I think we should now move on and we should let Maria get on with the very effective job that she has been doing.”

Asked if she thought Mrs Miller had been treated badly by the Press, she said: “I think these matters have been thoroughly investigated and a resolution has been reached by the Commons authorities.

“I think Maria Miller is an excellent minister for Culture, Media and Sport and we should now move on and I don’t think continued focus on this issue is very productive. These matters have been properly and fully determined by the appropriate authorities.”