Advertisement

Key questions in the Maria Miller expenses controversy

Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Photo: PA

So where are we today on the Maria Miller expenses controversy?

Did she owe £5,800 or £45,000?

The Standards Commissioner thought it should be the higher amount. Why? Because Kathryn Hudson concluded that Maria Miller could only claim the interest on the purchase price of her "second home" in 1996.

The MPs on the Committee on Standards (which reviews the ruling above) disagree. They say Mrs Miller was entitled to claim interest on the value of the mortgage as it was in 2005 - when Mrs Miller was elected to Parliament as an MP. The Chair of that Committee, Kevin Barron (a Labour MP) firmly stands by that conclusion.

Did she 'flip' her second home to avoid paying Capital Gains Tax?

More complex.

From 1996-2005 the house in question (in Wimbledon, in south-west London) was owned by Mrs Miller in her private capacity (as a non-MP). From her election in 2005 and until 2009, it was designated her second home - and thus she was entitled to claim for the mortgage interest on it - as the rules were then on MPs expenses.

In April 2009, she stopped claiming for the London house. But neither did she claim for her constituency home in Basingstoke. So she made no second home claims from that date.

Her office says she stopped making those claims before she received a letter informing all MPs that they would now be liable for Capital Gains Tax (currently 28%) should they sell a house on which they have claimed as a second home. The letter arrived at the end of May 2009, her office claims.

This means from 2009 to 2014 - Maria Miller made no claims for either her London home or her Basingstoke home. She currently rents a property in London (as the new expenses regime recommends). In February 2014 - the London home is sold - at a profit.

Any Capital Gains Tax due (and it's not clear if there is) would fall in the tax year 2013/14 and so would not need to be paid until January 2015.

Was her apology too short?

It was short - of that there can be no doubt. The 32-second long statement was described by Labour MP Sheila Gilmore today as "inadequate to the point of being contemptuous".

It reinforces the perception that she didn't care and further damages her after the Committee and Commissioner claimed Mrs Miller has breached the code of conduct by her "attitude" to the investigation. That may in the end do the most damage.

The public like to see their public servants acting in a contrite way when they have made a mistake. It would be safe to say Mrs Miller's apology did not satisfy the public demands on a level of length, contrition or detail.

Her office says MPs apologies have historically been short. Although I am not sure comparing her apology to the one made by Nadine Dorries (23 seonds) is a particularly wise move

More on this story