UK & World News

  • 5 April 2014, 4:53

Miller Aide 'Flagged Up' Leveson To Journalist

A transcript of a conversation in which Maria Miller's aide highlights her role in the Leveson inquiry to a journalist investigating the Culture Secretary's expenses has been released.

In the phone call from 2012, Joanna Hindley, Mrs Miller's special advisor, told Holly Watt: "Maria is 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 Culture Secretary has paid back £5,800 of expenses she had wrongly claimed for a second home and made a 32-second apology for her "unhelpful" attitude towards the investigation in the House of Commons.

But she remains under pressure after it emerged the 10-member standards committee overruled the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards' findings that she should return £45,000.

Mrs Miller was reported to the commissioner in December 2012 over concerns she had improperly claimed around £90,000 on a southwest London property between 2005 and 2009.

Ms Hindley criticised journalists for knocking on the door of the property, which was answered by Mrs Miller's father.

"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]," she said in the phone call to Ms Watt. 

Ms Watt replied: "You can't possibly know that until you've knocked on someone's door." 

Ms Hindley answered: "Well no, Holly, but you could possibly know that had you spoken to people a little higher up your organisation, who do know that."

In a statement to Sky News, Ms Hindley defended her remarks, saying: "This conversation must be seen in context that this reporter had tried to door step Maria's elderly dad and she was calling to complain.  

"In regards the Leveson comment, this was simply stating fact that Maria Miller was meeting lots of newspaper editors about Leveson and she would raise reporters behaviour with Tony Gallagher, then the Telegraph's editor.

"She did and Tony Gallagher apologised, apparently in written form."

The Prime Minister has stood by Mrs Miller but on Friday he was accused of misleading the public over the situation.

In an interview with Sky News, David Cameron said MPs had not been allowed to "police themselves" as independent members on Parliament's Standards Committee had made the "casting vote" on how the Culture Secretary should be dealt with after an expenses investigation.

However, it is clear from the rules governing the committee that independent committee members do not get a vote on how MPs are dealt with.

Downing Street later admitted Mr Cameron had made a mistake in suggesting lay members had made the decision on Mrs Miller's treatment.