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We’re in this apart: Maria Miller and benefits claimants

Here’s a précis of some key facts in the expenses scandal surrounding Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

It is charged that she designated what looked an awful lot like her first home as her second home, claimed taxpayer support for its upkeep, and made an enormous profit on its sale. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner concluded she had over-claimed, and we now know that Mrs Miller sent a staggering quantity of emails to the commissioner in an attempt to make her drop these accusations.

And here’s a reminder of a further reason for concern:

Labour said Mrs Miller and the PM should say “what they knew” about a call to a Telegraph reporter from the culture secretary’s special adviser Jo Hindley in December 2012, in which she referred to Mrs Miller’s involvement in deciding press legislation.

The Daily Telegraph said the reference to the Leveson inquiry into press regulation had been made to persuade it to back away from getting “straight answers” about Mrs Miller’s expenses.

In the tape, Ms Hindley said another reporter had “doorstepped” Mrs Miller’s father, who had just come out of hospital, at the south London house.

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment,” she added.

“So I’m just going to flag up that connection for you to think about.”

Maria Miller made a substantial profit on her property, with the help of public money.  The initial recommendation by independent standard commissioner Kathryn Hudson that she pay back over £40,000 was overturned by the Commons standards committee who reduced the sum to just £5,800.

By contrast, many people on benefits are being unfairly penalised due to circumstances completely beyond their control.

A man was sanctioned for four weeks because he had not known about an appointment as the letter had been sent to an address that he had left a year ago, even though Jobcentre Plus was aware of his current address.

A woman claiming employment and support allowance had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and had given the back-to-work scheme provider a list of her hospital appointments. She was sanctioned for failing to attend an appointment on the middle day of her three-day hospital stay. The woman had two daughters but her ESA was reduced to £28 a week. She asked for reconsideration, but had heard nothing five weeks later.

A woman was sanctioned for failing to attend provider-led training when the receptionist had rung to tell her not to come in because the trainer was ill. She was subsequently told that she should have attended to sign the attendance register.

A woman whose ESA was sanctioned had her benefit reduced from £195 to less than £50 per fortnight because she missed a back-to-work scheme appointment owing to illness. Her sister had rung two days beforehand to say that she could not attend and arranged another date, when she did attend.

Maria Miller obviously had a spare room or two in this ’second home’ (her parents lived with her) – but councils are running out of money to help those affected by the bedroom tax.

The apparent indulgence shown to Maria Miller may also be contrasted with IDS’s recent announcement that fraudsters may have to sell their homes to pay back wrongfully claimed benefits.