|A.K.A.||Maria Frances Lewis Miller|
|Birth||26 March 1964, Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, West Midlands|
Maria Frances Lewis Miller (born 26 March 1964) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Basingstoke since 2005. She is the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
She was the Minister for Disabled People from 2010 to 2012, and from 2012 to 2014 a member of the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities. Miller was forced to resign from the cabinet in April 2014 because she had over-claimed expenses.
The daughter of John Lewis, she was born in Wolverhampton, but was brought up in Bridgend, South Wales. She was educated at the Brynteg Comprehensive School before reading Economics at the London School of Economics from where she graduated in 1985. She joined Greys 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.
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 has served as the chairman of Wolverhampton North East Conservative Association since 2001. She was chair of the Wimbledon Conservative Association for a year from 2002.
Miller was first elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election following the retirement of the former Conservative MP, 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. 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.
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.
In February 2013 she was assessed as the 17th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.
On 19 June 2015, she was returned unopposed to the chairmanship of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
Miller was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum.
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. She was subsequently reported to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon by MP John Mann, and an inquiry was launched into the claims. Lyon's term as commissioner finished at the end of the December, 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. 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.
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, and that her parents lived with her as "dependents" under Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority rules. Prime Minister David Cameron was satisfied with her "excellent" explanation.
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. Downing Street denied that any threats were made. The newspaper later released the recording they had made of Hindley's call.
Hudson's investigation lasted more than a year, and was handed in to the Commons Select Committee on Standards in February 2014. In it, the standards commissioner had concluded Miller had been in the wrong, and recommended she pay back £45,000. On 3 April 2014, however, the MPs of the Standards Committee decided their commissioner had been too strict, 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. She made her Commons statement the same day; the apology lasted just 32 seconds.
Miller was believed to be the first serving minister to be forced to apologise for their misuse of expenses. David Cameron expressed his "full, strong, very warm support" for her.
Unfortunately for Miller, the row did not die down, and her case was referred to the police by MP Thomas Docherty; Cameron expressed his wish for the press to leave the matter alone. 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". Alistair Graham described Miller's intervention and threats as "fairly exceptional", "pretty shocking".
The continuing saga and the perfunctory nature of her apology led to Miller haemorrhaging support from her own party. On 6 April, Labour's John Mann said, "It is quite astonishing that Maria Miller remains in the Cabinet". Many within her own party, including senior figures, also publicly criticised her. The Sunday Telegraph found no grassroots Tory support for Miller either, something forcefully underlined by Ben Harris-Quinney, director of Conservative Grassroots. Some Conservative Party criticism was reputedly revenge by the less socially-liberal elements within it for her helping drive through the legalisation of gay marriage. Some senior figures were less hostile, and Miller also found support among the more liberal "One Nation" grouping of Tory MPs, of which she is a member.
In a further twist, documents 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.
On 8 April, in her weekly column for her local newspaper, Miller declared to her constituents that she was "devastated" to have let them down. 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.
On 9 April 2014, Miller resigned from the cabinet, 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 Tory MPs that he would not be forced into sacking Miller, expressed "sadness" over her stepping down, and said he hoped she would be able to return to the front bench "in due course". Indeed, the prime minister's decisive support appeared to have remained steadfast throughout, something for which he was criticised. However, 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".
Miller and her husband Iain, a solicitor, were married in 1990. They have two sons and a daughter.