David Cameron has opened the door to tougher regulation of MPs as he was again forced to defend his Culture Secretary over her expenses.
With the row over Maria Miller’s mortage claims showing little sign of dying down, the Prime Minister said he was ready to look at reforming the policing of politicians’ behaviour.
The Commons Standards Committee has come in for fierce criticism since overruling an independent report that recommended Mrs Miller repay £45,000. Instead, the cross-party body ordered her to say sorry and hand back just £5,800 – sparking accusations that MPs were still “marking their own homework”.
Anxiety has been increasing among Tories over the fallout from the affair, while Labour has upped its pressure by making a formal complaint about Mrs Miller’s “contemptuous” 32-second apology to the House last week.
The Cabinet Minister has also been forced to deny that she will seek to dodge a capital gains tax (CGT) bill potentially running into tens of thousands of pounds after making a £1.2m profit on the sale of her part-taxpayer-funded London home.
Mrs Miller bought the five-bedroom terrace property for £234,000 in 1996, and claimed around £90,000 in running costs over four years – almost the maximum allowed – after being elected to Parliament in 2005.
Parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson concluded that she should instead have designated it as her main home, and received expenses in her Basingstoke constituency.
A spokeswoman for the MP made clear she would tell HM Revenue and Customs that the London home – sold for just under £1.5m in February – was not her primary residence between 2005 and 2009.
“HMRC will present her with a bill,” the spokeswoman said.
Profits on the sale of a main home are generally exempt from CGT, but the taxman will calculate a liability based on any periods in which the property was used as a second residence.