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Downing Street and Telegraph battle over Miller claims

Culture Secretary Maria Miller
An aide for Maria Miller aide and No 10's top spin doctor both reportedly contacted the Telegraph. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Questions about Maria Miller's expenses have drawn the Culture Secretary into a further row about her office's dealings with the Daily Telegraph, whose investigation led to the commissioner's inquiry.

An aide to Mrs Miller was reported to have called the newspaper and said she wanted to "flag up" the Cabinet minister's connection to press regulation during discussions about a story on the Cabinet minister's expenses.

Downing Street's top spin doctor, Craig Oliver, also mentioned the Leveson press reforms in a telephone call to the Telegraph's editor.

No 10 insisted yesterday that Mr Oliver was highlighting concerns about the way the Telegraph carried out its investigation into Mrs Miller's expenses claims, rather than attempting to threaten the newspaper.

PM has 'full confidence' in Miller amid expenses claims

Maria Miller
Maria Miller was named Culture Secretary by the PM in September's reshuffle. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

David Cameron gave his backing to Culture Secretary Maria Miller amid the expenses claims.

Asked earlier today at a regular Westminster briefing if the Prime Minister had full confidence in Mrs Miller, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Yes, indeed he does."

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Miller accused of claiming £90,000 on home for her parents

Maria Miller
Maria Miller has said her expenses are "absolutely as they should be". Credit: PA Wire

The expenses investigation facing Maria Miller follows a complaint that she claimed more than £90,000 in second home allowances towards the cost of a house where her parents lived.

The complaint was lodged earlier this week by Labour MP John Mann, who claimed the arrangement was "identical" to that of former Labour minister Tony McNulty.

Mr McNulty was required to pay back more than £13,000 in expenses two years ago, after being found to have effectively "subsidised" his parents from the public purse by allowing them to live rent free in a second home.

Earlier this week Mrs Miller insisted that all of her expenses were "absolutely as they should be" in response to an article in The Daily Telegraph that reported the claims.

Labour: If claims are true, 'rules have been broken'

Labour MP Simon Danczuk said the Telegraph report about Craig Oliver and Maria Miller contained "serious allegations":

These are serious allegations about two special advisers which call their integrity and professionalism into question.

If Craig Oliver threatened the Telegraph without David Cameron’s authority, that looks like an open-and-shut breach of the special advisers' code.

But if the Prime Minister authorised his special adviser to use the threat of Leveson Report discussions to discourage the publication of an embarrassing story, then that is potentially even more serious.

And the same applies to Maria Miller and her special adviser Joanna Hindley – if these allegations are true then one of them has broken the rules.

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No 10 denies Craig Oliver 'made threats' to newspaper

Downing Street Director of Communications Craig Oliver pictured last year. Credit: PA

Downing Street defended its communications director Craig Oliver after he raised the issue of Leveson press reforms in a telephone call to the editor of the Daily Telegraph about a story it was planning to run on the Culture Secretary's expense claims.

Mr Oliver reportedly told editor Tony Gallagher "she (Maria Miller) is looking at Leveson at the moment" during the call last Friday.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "The Secretary of State had some concerns about the way that investigation was conducted. She set those out in a letter to the editor.

"Craig Oliver was simply reflecting those concerns."

Asked why the issues were brought up together, he said: "I think the point was being made that she had been spending some time in dealing with those issues in recent days.

"But what we were doing was raising some concerns about the investigation on that particular story."

Aides defend Maria Miller after Telegraph report

by - Deputy Political Editor

Maria Miller's aides have defended the Culture Secretary from the Daily Telegraph's claims over her use of taxpayer funds for a second home, with some questioning the timing of the newspaper report.

The aides said the minister's expenses have been audited twice and cleared both times.

Some noted the report from the Telegraph, which is far from supportive of legalising gay marriage, comes in advance of Ms Miller's statement to the Commons today on plans to legislate the same-sex union.

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