Culture secretary Maria Miller has resigned from her position in the cabinet following a week of intense media, parliamentary and public pressure over her expenses.
In a letter to David Cameron, she said the situation had ‘become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing’.
Sajid Javid has been announced by the prime minister as the new secretary of state for culture, media, sport and equalities, with Nicky Morgan taking over Miller’s responsibilities as minister for women, in which capacity she will attend cabinet.
Miller was appointed culture secretary in September 2012. Her time in the role has been characterised by a difficult relationship with the arts world, exacerbated by a government-wide cuts agenda which has seen the spending budget of Arts Council England given successive cuts and its administration slashed by 50%.
Her first main speech in the role, in April 2013, was widely condemned for stating that arts organisations should ‘hammer home the value of culture to our economy’ without highlighting the intrinsic value of the arts sector.
Miller was found to have overclaimed expenses after failing to adjust, when her mortgage rate fell, the amount claimed against a mortgage on the Wimbledon property which she designated her second home. The independent parliamentary commissioner for standards had recommended she repay £45,000, an amount which was subsequently adjusted down by MPs on the Commons Standards Committee to £5,800.
The committee also recommended she apologise for her ‘attitude’ during the commissioner’s investigation, with Miller accused of using legalese and prevarication. She apologised for this in a 32-second apology to the House of Commons last week which was itself widely criticised for both its manner and length.
Intense speculation had surrounded her future for the last week. Replying to her resignation letter, the prime minister said that he hoped Miller would be able to return to government ‘in due course’.
Maria Miller: letter of resignation
9 April 2014
Dear Prime Minister
It is with great regret that I have decided that I should tender my resignation as a member of the Cabinet.
I am very grateful to you for your personal support but it has become clear to me that the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing to turn our country around.
I have been a member of the Conservative Party for more than 30 years. As a working mother, educated at a South Wales comprehensive school, I know that it is our party that understands the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they come from.
I am immensely proud of what my team have been able to achieve during my time in Government: ensuring that our arts and cultural institutions receive the rightful recognition that they deserve in making Britain Great; putting women front and centre of every aspect of DCMS’s work; putting in place the legislation to enable all couples to have the opportunity to marry regardless of their sexuality.
Of course, implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson on the future of media regulation, following the phone hacking scandals, would always be controversial for the press. Working together with you, I believe we struck the right balance between protecting the freedom of the press and ensuring fairness, particularly for victims of press intrusion to have a clear right of redress.
I will continue to support you and the work of the Government as you move forward. Ensuring the best future for the people of Basingstoke has been my priority throughout the last nine years. Whether on the front or back benches of the House of Commons I will continue this work.
The only reason I was able to become an MP and indeed a government minister and cabinet minister is because of the unstinting support of my husband, my mother, my father and my three children. I owe them all a great deal.
David Cameron: reply to Maria Miller
9 April 2014
Thank you for your letter. I was very sorry to receive it.
I think it is important to be clear that the Committee on Standards cleared you of the unfounded allegations made against you, a point which has been lost in much of the comment in recent days.
You can be extremely proud of your work in Government – as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, as Minister for Women and as Minister for Disabled People.
You have been responsible for successfully handling two of the most controversial issues with which this Government has dealt.
As Culture Secretary, you have played a critical role in advancing Britain’s proud record of respect and equality in piloting the Equal Marriage Act through Parliament and onto the Statute Book. There are many people in our country today, and there will be many in the future, who will always be grateful for this very important change, which you did so much to bring about. You have also handled the sensitive subject of press regulation with skill and dedication.
You can be very proud as well that you have led one of the most important infrastructure projects: many more premises are now able to access super-fast broadband . You have also ensured a lasting legacy for the Olympic Games.
As you leave the Government, you should be proud of your service on the Frontbench and in Opposition.
I am personally very grateful for the support you have always given me, and which I am sure that you will continue to give. I hope that you will be able to return to serving the Government on the Frontbench in due course, and am only sad that you are leaving the Government in these circumstances.