Former Conservative chairman Lord Tebbit has become the most senior Tory to call for Maria Miller to resign as Culture Secretary, amid controversy over her response to an investigation into her expenses claims.
Lord Tebbit said the Culture Secretary’s “arrogant” handling of the scandal had revived voter anger over MPs’ expenses and undermined the Government’s message that “we’re all in it together”, adding: “The best way out of this is for Mrs Miller to resign.”
His call came as Labour promised to reform Parliament’s standards system in the wake of controversy over the decision of a panel of MPs to overrule a watchdog’s judgment on Mrs Miller.
Pressure on the Culture Secretary has been heightened by a poll suggesting that a large majority of voters think she should be dropped from the Cabinet and thrown out of the House of Commons.
But there have also been calls for an overhaul of the system for dealing with complaints against MPs, which gives responsibility for investigating alleged lapses to independent commissioner Kathryn Hudson, but allows the Commons Standards Committee – made up of 10 MPs and three non-voting lay members – the final say on adjudication and setting a penalty.
The committee last week overruled Ms Hudson’s recommendation that Mrs Miller should repay £45,000 of expenses claimed on a house shared with her parents, and instead told her to hand back £5,800 and say sorry for failing to co-operate fully with the 14-month inquiry.
But Mrs Miller was accused by a Labour MP of bullying the watchdog, after it was revealed she told Ms Hudson it would be “irrational, perverse and unreasonable” to uphold the complaint against her and warned that she might go over the commissioner’s head to ask the Standards Committee to intervene.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggested that Mrs Miller was suffering a backlash for being the minister responsible for the same-sex marriage Bill, which was deeply unpopular with many Tories.