Maria Miller

Maria Frances Lewis Miller[1] (born 26 March 1964) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Basingstoke since 2005. She served as Minister for Disabled People from 2010 to 2012 and served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities from 2012 to 2014.[2] She resigned from the Cabinet in April 2014 after she had over-claimed expenses.[3] Miller also chaired the Women and Equalities Select Committee from 2015 to 2020.[4]

The daughter of John Lewis, she was born in Wolverhampton, but was brought up in Bridgend, South Wales.[5] She was educated at the Brynteg Comprehensive School before reading Economics at the London School of Economics from where she graduated in 1985.[1] She joined Grey Advertising Ltd as an advertising executive, leaving in 1990 to become a marketing manager with Texaco. She rejoined Greys in 1994 and served for five years as a director, before becoming a director for the Rowland Group in 1999 for four years.[1]

Miller joined the Conservative Party in 1983 and contested Wolverhampton North East at the 2001 general election but was defeated by the sitting Labour MP, Ken Purchase. She retained formal links with the local Conservative Association for some time thereafter; she also chaired the Wimbledon Association for a year from 2002.[1]

Miller was first elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election, for the Basingstoke constituency, following the retirement of its former MP, the Conservative Andrew Hunter, who had defected to the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party before he stepped down. In Parliament she served for a year from 2005 as a member of the Trade and Industry Select Committee. Later in 2005, David Cameron appointed her a spokesperson for the Shadow Education and Skills team. She was appointed Shadow Minister for Families in 2007.[1] Following the 2010 general election she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions.

In May 2012 she urged the Prime Minister to continue with proposals to introduce same-sex marriage in England and Wales, despite either voting against or being absent for "all major LGBT rights votes" since becoming an MP.[6] >

On 4 September 2012, Miller was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equality in David Cameron's first major Cabinet reshuffle.[7] >

In February 2013 she was assessed as the 17th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[8] >

She has chaired the Women and Equalities Select Committee since it was established in June 2015. She was unopposed for the role.[4] >

Miller was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum, yet continues to toe the party line in all matters since.[9]

In December 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported that, between 2005 and 2009, Miller had claimed over £90,000 in parliamentary expenses for the mortgage and upkeep of a house in south London where her parents lived.[10] She was subsequently reported to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon by MP John Mann,[11] and an inquiry was launched into the claims.[12][13] Lyon's term as commissioner finished at the end of the December,[14] thus it would essentially be his successor, Kathryn Hudson, who undertook the investigation.

Alistair Graham, who chaired the Committee on Standards in Public Life during 2003–07, said Miller's position as Culture Secretary would be "untenable" if Hudson found her guilty, recalling the "very similar" 2009 case of Tony McNulty, who resigned his ministerial positions.[15] He also noted how Miller "struggled" in an interview with the Evening Standard to explain why she stopped claiming in 2009, just as the parliamentary expenses scandal exploded.[16]

Miller responded to the reports by stating that her "financial arrangements" had been audited on two occasions since she became an MP and no issues had been found with them,[10][17] and that her parents lived with her as "dependents" under Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority rules.[18] Prime Minister David Cameron was satisfied with her "excellent" explanation.[12]

Shortly after the Telegraph broke the story on Miller's expenses, it emerged that both Cameron's spokesman, Craig Oliver, and Miller's special advisor, Joanna Hindley, had phoned the newspaper prior to publication in an attempt to warn it off. According to the paper, the pair issued a veiled threat by reminding it of Miller's role in enacting proposals in the Leveson report on press regulation.[19] Downing Street denied that any threats were made.[20] The newspaper later released the recording they had made of Hindley's call.[21]

Hudson's investigation lasted more than a year, and was handed in to the Commons Select Committee on Standards in February 2014.[22] In it, the standards commissioner had concluded Miller had been in the wrong, and recommended she pay back £45,000.[23][24] On 3 April 2014, however, the MPs of the Standards Committee decided their commissioner had been too strict,[25] overruling her and ordering Miller to repay instead £5,800 of wrongly claimed expenses and make a statement in the House of Commons to apologise for her "legalistic" lack of co-operation with the committee.[26] She made her Commons statement the same day; the apology lasted just 32 seconds.[27][28]

Miller was believed to be the first serving minister to be forced to apologise for their misuse of expenses.[29] David Cameron expressed his "full, strong, very warm support" for her.[30]

The row did not die down for Miller, and her case was referred to the police by MP Thomas Docherty;[31] Cameron expressed his wish for the press to leave the matter alone.[32] On 4 April it was reported that Miller had even attempted to intervene in the investigation into her, telling Kathryn Hudson "that she was acting outside the law and threatening to refer her to a Commons committee".[33] Alistair Graham described Miller's intervention and threats as "fairly exceptional", "pretty shocking".[34]

The continuing saga and the perfunctory nature of her apology led to Miller haemorrhaging support from her own party.[35] On 6 April, Labour's John Mann said, "It is quite astonishing that Maria Miller remains in the Cabinet".[36] Many within her own party, including senior figures, also publicly criticised her.[37][38][39][40][41][42] The Sunday Telegraph found no grassroots Tory support for Miller either,[43] something forcefully underlined by Ben Harris-Quinney, director of Conservative Grassroots.[44] According to The Guardian, some Conservative Party criticism was revenge by the less socially-liberal elements within it for her helping drive through the legalisation of gay marriage.[45] Some senior figures were less hostile,[46][47] and Miller also found support among the more liberal "One Nation" grouping of Tory MPs, of which she is a member.[48]

Documents later emerged suggesting Miller had stopped claiming expenses on her second home in Wimbledon to avoid paying capital gains tax in the event of its sale. When she did sell it, in February 2014, it was at a profit of £1 million; capital gains tax at the time was 28%. Miller refused to confirm that she would pay capital gains tax on the sale.[49]

On 8 April 2014, in her weekly column for her local newspaper, Miller declared to her constituents that she was "devastated" to have let them down.[50] However, Betty Boothroyd, Commons Speaker between 1992 and 2000, accused Miller of "bringing Parliament into disrepute" and said that in her view the Prime Minister should have sought Miller's resignation.[51]

On 9 April 2014, Miller resigned from the cabinet,[52] but did not apologise in her resignation letter. David Cameron, who had a meeting planned that day in which he was again going to tell Conservative MPs that he would not be forced into sacking Miller,[48] expressed "sadness" over her stepping down, and said he hoped she would be able to return to the front bench "in due course".[53] The prime minister's decisive support appeared to have remained steadfast throughout,[44][54] something for which he was criticised.[55] Miller's successor, Sajid Javid, said that "the public were right to judge her on how she responded, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that", and it was important for Miller to "accept she did wrong".[56]

Miller disclosed her experience in being harassed many times. An article published in The Guardian in 2017 mentioned Miller as saying that harassment happens frequently in industries and companies dominated by males.[57]

She supports a campaign to expose incidents of sexual harassment on women which gained the support of other MPs like Labour Party MP Jess Phillips and Conservative MP George Freeman. Miller also encouraged teachers to become more stringent on harassment that takes place in schools instead of treating such behaviour as something marginal. According to the former Culture Secretary, head teachers must review existing school policies and treat sexual exploitation as a crime.[58]

Miller and her husband Iain, a solicitor, were married in 1990. They have two sons and a daughter.[1][59]