Cabinet minister’s expense abuse is 105 times average benefits fraud

  • Miller given “warm support” from Cameron after  £5,800 overclaim
  • As minister for disabled people Miller was silent on ‘scroungers’ rhetoric from colleagues
  • Abuse is more than 100 times value of benefit fraud per claimant

Maria Miller expenses

UPDATE: Given the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards originally recommended she repay £45,000 (this was overruled by a committee of MPs) her abuse is arguably 800 times the average benefit fraud per claimant.

A cabinet minister has received the “warm support”of David Cameron after overclaiming nearly £5,800 on her expenses. Culture secretary Maria Miller made the most transparently insincere 30-second apology to MPs after abusing her mortgage expenses.

Scrapbook has previously highlighted the hypocritical gulf between the ‘scroungers’ hate language encouraged by the government against benefits claimants and expenses overclaims by MPs themselves. While the vast majority of claimants are law abiding, the £1.2bn cost of fraud averages out at £55 across 22 million claimants. Contrast this with the £1.2m paid back from the Commons — an average of £1,858 per MP.

Miller’s case is compounded by her previous role as DWP minister for disabled people, where she ignored calls to address “outrageous and outlandish comments” from her senior colleagues — despite strong evidence that rhetoric on fraud and scroungers was leading to hate crime against disabled people.

The report (PDF) from the Standards Commissioner absolutely damning:

“The documentation that is available of Mrs Miller’s interactions with the House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information and the information that was provided appears to have been the minimum necessary. This pattern was repeated in both the Commissioner’s inquiry, and our own investigation.”

“The system relies on Members responding to the Commissioner’s inquiries fully and frankly, rather than trying to argue a case in a legalistic way. It should not have required our intervention to produce the material and explanations required to complete the investigation.”

What would happen to a benefit claimant who ‘overclaimed’ nearly £6,000 and then tried to block an investigation by DWP officials?

26 Comments

  1. Dougie says:

    You seem to have a very weak understanding of the meaning of the word “average”. The average benefits fraud is the total sum involved divided by the number of fraudulent claims, not the total number of claimants.

    While I’m at it, don’t you think it is very alarming that over 40% of the adult population is a benefits claimant? That can’t be healthy.

    I realise you only publish stories you consider to be detrimental to politicians from parties other than Labour – that is your right – but allow me to take this opportunity to remind readers of Labour MPs’ expenses abuses. My favourite is the way Tam Dalyell claimed £18,000 for bookcases to be installed in his ancestral stately home, the House of the Binns, weeks before he retired from Parliament in 2005.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are right dougie all abus3s should be shown but that still diesn excuse any of them for there imorale and simetimes illegal expences …as for 40% thats figures massaarged by sucsesive goverment not creating new jobs…sry for spelling on mobile

  3. Ceiliog says:

    Yes, Dougie, in an indirect way through housing benefit etc., the Government is subsidising employers who pay crap wages.

  4. Laurence says:

    @Dougie: It’s PER CLAIMANT not per instance of fraud. This piece was inspired by our previous coverage. Comparison of MPs (expenses) as whole vs benefits claimants (fraud) as whole needs average of abuse across whole cohort.
    http://politicalscrapbook.net/2011/05/mps-expenses-vs-benefit-fraud/

  5. McRobbie says:

    I am very much a tory, however the matter of parliamentary expenses / scams should be apolitical. It is an abuse of privilege and unacceptable from which side of the house it occurs. But I hold no hope that the vested interests will allow changes to be made.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @Dougie
    “While I’m at it, don’t you think it is very alarming that over 40% of the adult population is a benefits claimant? That can’t be healthy. ”

    Why so? Just say Child Benefit to yourself as you go off to sleep, then tomorrow State Pension Credit, after that Child Tax Credit.

  7. Paul W says:

    @Dougie No, we live in an age of increasing automation and it is pointless to support the dying link between work and income. Consider Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a way of unifying benefits while simultaneously removing the cost of verifying eligibility and doing quantitative easing.

  8. tee westran says:

    This woman is a criminal. Can I repeat that ‘Criminal’ and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  9. HROD says:

    At least Eliot Morley went to jail for his overt feeding at the trough.

  10. Kevin smith says:

    She should be in a court as any other member of the public would be if they behaved similarly.
    Instead she has been given a smack on the wrist by a committee of part-time elected crooks.

  11. Dave Webb says:

    Lets not pull any punches here. There is more money lost to the Treasury via Tax Fraud & Tax Evasion.
    What she screwed the Country for, is just a small drop in the Ocean, BUT should be further looked into. In fact,the whole crooked “Expenses Fraud” should be investigated by the Fraud Squad, with NO ONE exempt. If caught, they should be named, shamed & Jailed, just like you or I would in similar circumstances, end off!

  12. LESTER says:

    This woman’s arrogant 31second “apology”, her arrogant demeanour, Cameron’s “warm support” for an expenses fiddler, the closing of ranks of the political class, all speak volumes about the corruption endemic in our political system. It’s time for change, big change, and no politicians are going to deliver it without being cajoled to do so by campaigns garnering support from the disenfranchised people. I’m a member of Republic for that very reason. I urge everyone to get involved in campaigns to end this hegemony we are suffering, because if we don’t get massive change we’re going to get the same old same old.

  13. Christopher Morris says:

    Dougie, next time you cross the road, don’t bother looking.

  14. Jeremy says:

    how the Telegraph saw the real issues Parliament is an enemy of the people

    There were several key differences between the conclusions of MPs on the Commons Committee on Standards and the report by Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, earlier this year:
    Commissioner Mrs Miller over-claimed on her parliamentary expenses by around £45,000.
    MPs Mrs Miller should repay £5,800.
    “Mrs Miller considers that she over-claimed on her mortgage by £5,800 in 2008-09. We have examined the figures carefully and accept that that is a reasonable assessment of the amount that she over-claimed.”
    Related Articles
    MPs conspired to save Culture Secretary 03 Apr 2014
    Sketch: A sorry excuse for an apology 03 Apr 2014
    Cigarettes, badgers, NHS… a good day to bury bad news 03 Apr 2014
    Maria Miller expenses report: Culture Secretary role in press regulation now untenable 04 Apr 2014
    Maria Miller expenses: timeline 04 Apr 2014
    Commissioner Mrs Miller should not have claimed that the rental property in Basingstoke was her main home and the Wimbledon house her second home.
    “It cannot be said that her London home was established or maintained ‘exclusively and necessarily for her parliamentary duties’,” wrote Mrs Hudson.
    “I consider it more likely than not that Mrs Miller’s London home was her main home, as a matter of fact, and that the expenses which she incurred on staying away from her main home in order to perform her parliamentary duties were those associated with the Basingstoke properties.”
    MPs It was reasonable for Mrs Miller to designate Basingstoke as her main home.
    They concluded that although Mrs Miller “should have designated London as her main home rather than Basingstoke”, it was “reasonable in the light of the guidance available at the time, given that the matter was finely balanced.”
    Commissioner Critical of Mrs Miller’s response to the inquiry. In a letter to the standards committee, Mrs Hudson wrote that Mrs Miller wanted to respond “at some length to most of the misrepresentations of my inquiry and my memorandum [her report], by which Mrs Miller has attempted to discredit both the memorandum and myself. I remain of the view that my inquiry and the memorandum are robust and that the conclusions are sound”.
    MPs Sided with Mrs Miller over the scope of the inquiry.
    Even if the commissioner was strictly right about the rules, it was “inappropriate” to apply them, they said.
    “When the rules were formulated the intention was to prevent MPs withdrawing equity from their property for non-housing purposes,” their report states. They add: “Whatever the strict construction of the rule, it was reasonable for Mrs Miller to claim the interest on her mortgage as it was when she entered the House, rather than as it was when she first purchased the property.”

  15. Neil says:

    She should certainly go to court and leave the front-bench!

  16. Jim says:

    What is the requirement for parliamentary matters being referred to the police? Is it not the “duty” of the leader of the party? Something stinks here and why is Cameron being so dismissive. Surely if she is not on the fiddle she has absolutely nothing to worry about. However, her attitude is the usual Tory holier than thou. I made a mistake, don’t worry then providing thats all the cops find you will be on the clear. On the other hand if you have been in the cookie jar you had better tell them everything, if you don’t they will find out any way.

  17. Oz says:

    Fraud is fraud, call the police. …

  18. Topcat says:

    Why is this woman still holding office? She has either committed fraud or shown a serious lapse of good judgement, both of which should render her unsuitable for high office!

  19. HulaMoo says:

    Dougie, I would just like to remind you that the 40% of adults claiming benefits includes all those claiming in-work benefits such as Working Tax Credit. That a a lot of people working their butts off to provide for their families, but being paid poverty wages.
    That concerns me.
    Tax Credits subsidise exploitative employers, allowing them to have their profits increased from the public purse.
    That concerns me.
    Benefit claimants being demonised as scroungers that are unworthy of support from society.
    That concerns me.
    Benefit fraud and DWP error accounts for less than 1% of the budget, but hell, don’t let facts get in the way of your prejudice. If all benefits were correctly claimed by all those eligible it would cost an additional £12.7billion As for Maria Miller and all the other expenses thieves, they disgust me. I am concerned that those elected to represent us in Government see it as a chance to rip us off and line their Savile Row pockets, while simultaneously demonising and abusing the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. That doesn’t concern me, it incenses me, it disgusts me.

  20. This woman did fraud for greed !! Yes we all know that the state are being screwed by some folk. But in a lot of the caese it is need that make some perhaps earn £20 a week in the hand.. help to buy kids food ot the electric bill,not as the above !!!. The toffy nose breed that make the laws also break them 100 times more than the poor.They make loop holes that they can walk out with 1,000. s And then they still take more !!!! And do you know what. If they are stopped from doing it, they hit the poorest of the country, just wait and see !!!!

  21. Emma says:

    Mp’s should not be entitled to claim such large expenses. They are paid far more than minimum wage as it is. They choose their profession. Surely every MP should be given the same budget annually and be told to make the best of it…. an even playing field is required accross the board! Are they so much more important that the average constituent that they cannot stay at a B+B when in London… and taxi share, cycle to work?

  22. david says:

    Icannot understand why a benifits fraud is any different to morgage fraud, it seems its the person commiting the fraud is the common denominater here ,if your an MP or a person in authority of some kind it does not apply to you ,typical isnt it ,the people peeping behind thier curtains in the mornings have to pay the price of fraud by appearing in court and facing prison sentences, and have to repay the money falsely claimed,what hypocrits they are it all boils down to them and us ,and until us rise up and say enough is enough then this system will continue on and on ,come on someone out there the press or whoever you maybe please stand up and help to change the status quo, we the underdogs need someone to stand up for just equal treatment for everyone whoever and whatever their background or status.

  23. Andrew Clifton says:

    Time for the govt to construct a MP warehouse somewhere in London. Every MP whose constituency is more than (say) 20 miles from Westminster gets a nice one BR flat with all mod cons, and a bus leaves every 15 minutes for the House. It’s his or her flat for the duration and is essentially a tied cottage. Not one penny extra in expenses. The main house should be in or at least near to the constituency.

  24. J Prewett says:

    Its NOT -”we are all in this together”. It is-Cameron and Co are IN it together !.

  25. Gary says:

    So she has finally resigned……………..Cameron, hopes she will come back very soon. Didn’t Stephen Laws, get a similar thing said to him by Nick Clegg?
    If so the Lib Dems do share common ground with the Tories!

  26. Alpha 1 Legal says:

    Totally agree, she has de-frauded the system and should be punished as a criminal, the ordinary ‘Joe’ on the street would be, would they not?

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