LOCAL MPs have spoken out about the scandal over culture secretary Maria Miller’s fiddled expenses.
The MP for Basingstoke has seen a backlash on public opinion in the national media over questions about her expenses claims made by the Daily Telegraph in December 2012.
It was alleged that Mrs Miller assigned a £1.47m south London house as her second home, and claimed £90,718 in expenses over a four-year period towards mortgage payments, while she rented her first home in her constituency in Basingstoke, but rarely occupied it. This was then investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, which concluded that Mrs Miller had over-claimed £45,000 in expenses, and recommended that she pay back the sum in full.
But the final decision was taken by the Commons Committee for Standards, made up of 10 MPs who have a vote and three lay members who do not, which determined that Mrs Miller should only pay back £5,800.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson levelled criticisms at the policy where MPs had the ultimate say in their own standards.
He said: “It is absolutely clear that MPs should not be in a position to be judge and jury on any expenses issue, which is why it is absolutely right to set up the independent parliamentary standards authority and to ban any MP from being able to profit from a second home.
“Thankfully we will never see a scenario like this again, which was not only the case with Maria Miller but also huge swathes of MPs of all parties from 2010.”
But South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, a member of the Commons Committee for Standards, said that the lay members of the standards committee ought to have more of an influence on ultimate decisions.
He said: “The Standards Committee now has lay members on it, which is extremely welcome and which is already generating further work on reviewing the committee’s role.
“Working with the commissioner, the committee has produced a number of reports that resulted in police investigations and successful prosecution of wrongdoers. “I think that lay members should and will play an increasingly important part in monitoring and enforcing standards in Parliament. “As someone who takes a keen interest in standards procedures locally and nationally, I will be doing my part to help improve things.”
A petition asking Mrs Miller to pay back the £45,000 to tax payers or resign has been launched.