Coffee House

Will reforms to self-regulation of MPs be enough to distract from Miller row?

7 April 2014

The Prime Minister’s position on Maria Miller has shifted a little in the past few days – but only on the wider issue of self-regulation. At this afternoon’s lobby briefing, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said:

‘There are I’m sure a number of ways in which Parliament can consider this, I’m not going to try and pre-empt what they may be but as you’ve heard the PM himself say in the clip earlier, he is, he’s very open to considering changes that Parliament may consider.

‘He’s very much open to looking at particularly sort of how Parliament may want, what changes Parliament may want to make, how that may happen, I’m not going to try and pre-empt that.’

The spokesman said this was a matter for the House of Commons. But when it came to questions on whether this was bad for politics, or good for politics, or a shift from the PM’s pledge to make politics whiter than white, or a sign that the man who tasked his chief whip with a ‘smell test‘ for MPs’ expenses has since lost his sense of smell, the spokesman continually directed journalists to the comments that David Cameron made on Friday and earlier today. Cameron gave a televised interview as part of his visit to Asda this morning in which he said:

‘Maria Miller is in her job because she’s doing a good job as Culture Secretary. Obviously she went through this process and the committee found she had made a mistake in her mortgage claims so she repaid money, she made an apology and I think that’s the right thing to do.’

Claim your gift

The spokesman also said that while Cameron and Miller had spoken before her apology in the Commons on Thursday, they have not, ‘to my recollection’, spoken since. He refused to say whether they had discussed the content of that apology, saying:

‘I do not propose to go into any of the private conversations that the Prime Minister has had.’

Arguably Miller’s non-apology apology was a catalyst for the kind of feeding frenzy taking place at present. So if the Prime Minister agreed the form of the apology with her, he has made a mistake. He is fortunate that few MPs want to stick their heads over the top on expenses. Most of them want this row to go away as it does such terrible harm to politics in general. But it is early days as to what the best way to make this go away is. Having clearly concluded that she did not deserve a public dressing down, the Prime Minister may feel that the best way to move it on is to get some reforms to the self-regulation system on the table.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Monkey_Bach


  • Smithersjones2013

    This episode proves that MPs have learnt nothing since 2009 and Cameron is just as rotten as Brown and Blair before him. Changing the regulations is pointless whilst we still have the same corrupt politicians

  • Lady Magdalene

    It’s almost like Cameron WANTS the Conservative Party to get the kicking of a lifetime on 22 May..

  • Frank

    This is basically a battle between MPs and the plebs. As always the plebs will win and the prime minister is utterly deluded to think that he can do anything to avoid the certain outcome that Miller will be sacked as a minister and eventually as an MP.
    If the prime minister wants to regain control, he should state that all expense claims from both houses will now be entirely externally assessed, and that new rules on what types and levels of expenses claims are acceptable will be externally agreed. I also think that a forensic audit of all expense claims going back to 2009 should be carried out to ensure that there are no other Miller type claims that have been whitewashed by the Standards Committee.
    If Miliband and Clegg have any sense they will join the prime minister in agreeing their full support to the above.
    If there is any delay, then constituency parties have just got to start booting MPs.

    • ButcombeMan

      Cameron MUST lose this one. This is too important.

      We cannot have people like Miller treating the public purse like this.

      We cannot have Prime Minsters and MPs ducking and diving to support this sort of behaviour.

  • saffrin

    Cameron is as bad as rest, claiming Parliamentary expenses on his interest only mortgage is criminal, or if not, it should be.
    Claiming expenses for constituency homes should be outlawed.
    The man is just another Parliamentary crook, another compliant Brussels trougher.

  • swatnan

    We need more censorship of the Press Google Facebookbook and Twitter, and get filth off our streets.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Cameron will try to keep Miller in her post until the European elections are over and then help her quietly to shuffle off this political coil. The shrew will be gone soon.

  • Des Demona

    I always find it fascinating when politicians take an indisputable moral certainty and say ”and I think that’s the right thing to do.’” as if they were giving it their blessing or there was some other way out.

  • ryeatley


    A bit like saying “Will the police stop the investigation due to a possible change in the law”.

    I hope not. We need a very full and preferably independent investigation.

  • Hello

    “But it is early days as to what the best way to make this go away is”

    Yeh, I think what will happen in the end is that the press will follow the Alastair Campbell ten day rule to the letter, and then be terribly disappointed when Miller remains in her post. Then, having lost face and desperate for some victory or other, they will accept some small concession from Cameron.

    • ButcombeMan

      There are those in Basingstoke, now talking about de-selection.

      • Alexsandr

        we can always post on newspaper comments sections about miller when the papers dont run a story. keep it alive.

        • Hello

          The only reason you’re commenting on this in the first place is because the press have decided to kick up a storm. They’ll keep running the story until they think nothing will come of it.

          • Alexsandr

            the press are doing their job then. bringing public servants to account.

            • Hello

              Personally, I’m a little suspicious about what’s driving them to “do their job” in this particular case, regardless of Miller’s guilt or innocence.

              • Alexsandr

                £40000 not enough reason?

                • Hello

                  Nope, not under the circumstances.

  • Colin

    The expenses scandal has been simmering beneath the surface, all along. It never really went away. The rest of us really do consider that there is unfinished business. I’m glad it’s back in the headlines.

    There’s no way that any reform that doesn’t mean external, objective scrutiny, backed up by the law, in the form of HMRC and the Police, will suffice. It’s clear that if there is any room for interpretation, the political class will egregiously exploit it, for personal gain. These creatures will never change, unless they know that if they transgress, they’ll get caught and they’ll be properly punished, in all cases.

    • telemachus

      Problem is Colin that Cameron has gifted the Telegraph ammunition in their war against imposition of long needed press regulation

    • kyalami

      It never went away because it was never dealt with properly. Anyone from any party who had been required to pay money back should not have been allowed to stand again.

    • GnosticBrian

      HMRC is a toothless Tiger – they have special rules (more generous than for us mere mortals) for MPs and a dedicated office in Cardiff to ensure that MPs get the kid glove treatment. In recent years HMRC has purged anyone with tax expertise and replaced them with “pink and fluffy” types who are fluent in Management speak. Check out the track record of persistent failure achieved by their Chairperson – Lin Homer.

      • telemachus

        And of course Osborne is the ultimate head of HMRC

        • GnosticBrian

          Oh no – you are mistaken. HMRC is NOT a Department of the Treasury, it is a separate entity under its own Board. Osborne cannot, for example, ask to see tax files for any UK taxpayer.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here