Free Speech Watch: Maria Miller, Leveson And State Bullying To Keep The Facts Secret
MARIA Miller is the Tory MP and Culture Secretary. She is involved in discussions over the future of press regulation. She wants more of it. She is just one of the cross-party elite (and you can include artists in this illiberal group) who like free speech but want to insert a “but” after it. She wants limits on freedom.
Mrs Miller’s in trouble over her expense.
Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner looked at Miller’s expenses. She did the sums and found that Mrs Miller’s claims for mortgage interest payments exceeded her allowance by £44,000. Mrs Hudson made her report. Mrs Miller issued a 75-word apology. Miller agreed to repay £5,800 in over-claimed allowances and apologised for her “attitude” to the official inquiry.
Mrs Miller claimed £90,718 w in mortgage interest and other housing costs for her taxpayer funded second home in Wimbledon, south London, just £115 less than the maximum allowed.
The Telegraph reports:
The house was also home to her parents in apparent contravention of expenses rules which stated that second homes must be “exclusively” for the use of MPs and that the housing of parents was “specifically prohibited”. She rented a smaller property in Basingstoke which she said was her main home.
And the best bit is that Miller thought you had no right to know about her bad maths.
Maria Miller issued a series of threats to Parliament’s independent standards Commissioner in an attempt to block the “irrational and perverse” investigation into her expenses claims, emails have disclosed. Maria Miller issued a series of threats to Parliament’s independent standards Commissioner in an attempt to block the “irrational and perverse” investigation into her expenses claims, emails have disclosed.
A Parliamentary committee on Friday released a cache of emails sent by the Culture Secretary to Kathryn Hudson in which she threatened to make a formal complaint about the independent Commissioner.
She also employed a lawyer to respond to requests for information and refused to provide documents to justify her expense claims. The Commissioner later found Mrs Miller to have broken the rules and recommended that she repay more than £40,000 — but the decision was overruled by a secretive committee of MPs.
Mrs Hudson also recommended that Miller declare her Wimbledon property as her main home.
And then things got murky. The eight MPs on the Parliamentary Standard’s committee sided with Mrs Miller that she should repay £5,800, rather than the far higher sum. They said Mrs Hudson’s report was too “strict” an interpretation of the rules. They also said that Mrs Miller’s decision to claim against her London property rather than her Basingstoke address was “reasonable”.
In one email to Mr Hudson, Mrs Miller said: “It may be that I shall need to refer this to the supervisory jurisdiction of the standards committee but I hope this can be avoided.”
The standards committee has the power to recommend the Commissioner’s sacking.
“In light of the evidence that is before you … to continue to regard this spurious complaint as a serious matter would give it credence it does not deserve and undermine the inquiry process in comparison to issues that really are serious matters.”
Despite the emails, Mrs Hudson decided to recommend that Mrs Miller should hand back £45,000 in over-claimed allowances and concluded that the minister should have declared her Wimbledon property as her main home.
But the most worrying part is the Culture Secretary’s role in the repotting of events:
The Telegraph can also discloses how Mrs Miller’s adviser tried to thwart its publication of the initial investigation into her expense claims. In December 2012, Joanna Hindley called Ed Taylor, the head of public affairs at Telegraph Media Group despite the fact that he did not have any role in editorial decisions at The Telegraph.
In a phone call, Miss Hindley then spoke to a Telegraph reporter and said: “Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to flag up that connection for you to think about.”
The Telegraph as now published details of a conversation between its reporter, Golly Watt, and Joanna Hindley, special adviser to Secretary of State Maria Miller:
Holly Watt: We’re also looking at [Maria Miller’s] expenses. That is also in the email. Because there is a house that she lives in or lived in in Wimbledon that she declared as her second home from 2005 to 2010, but I understand that her parents lived there throughout that period.
Joanna Hindley: With her.
JH: Have you spoken to Ed Taylor [head of public affairs at Telegraph Media Group]?
JH: Oh right, OK. I think he is trying to get hold of Claire [Newell, co-reporter] as well. So I will … When will she be back around?
HW: Fairly shortly, I imagine. But we are working on this story together.
JH: I should just flag up as well, while you’re on it that when she doorstepped him, she got Maria’s father, who’s just had a [removed] and come out of [removed]. And Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to flag up that connection for you to think about.
HW: I’m not meant to knock on people’s doors?
JH: Knock on the doors of people when they’ve just come out of [removed] and had [removed]. Yeah. I would suggest that was probably a good thing.
HW: You can’t possibly know that until you’ve knocked on someone’s door.
JH: Well no, Holly, but you could possibly know that had you spoken to people a little higher up your organisation, who do know that. Anyway, we’ll leave it there. But please forward me the email.
John Mann, the Labour MP whose complaint led to the investigation, says: “People reading these letters will see that the Culture Secretary was trying to use political influence to affect the outcome of this investigation and, for this reason, is no longer fit to have responsibility to ensure a free press.”
Tony Gallagher, a former Editor of The Daily Telegraph, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “The special adviser, Joanna Hindley, rang a senior executive at The Telegraph to make precisely that point. I then got a third call from Craig Oliver [Mr Cameron’s spokesman] pointing out that she’s looking at Leveson and implying the call was badly timed.”
Mr Oliver, a former BBC executive who began working for No 10 in 2011, said: “It is utterly false for Tony Gallagher to suggest he was threatened over Leveson by me in any way.”
Heather Brooke comments on the story:
Such are the facts.
Photo: it’s getting to be like a dictatorship: Lebanese journalist holds a placard, to show her solidarity with detained journalists by Egyptian authorities during a sit-in, at the Martyrs square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Journalists and their supporters across the globe are protesting the detention of four Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt. From LondonÂs Trafalgar Square and LebanonÂs MartyrsÂ Square, media workers and free speech advocates gathered with masking tape stuck across their mouths. Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Abdullah Al Shamy, are among 20 defendants being tried on charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization for their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)