John Halewood-Dodd column

Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

At the very outset of studying law we are taught that the law is a great leveller as we are all “equal before the law.”

It would seem, from recent events, that this does not apply if you are a Cabinet Minister.

I am of course referring to Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, who, as I write, has resigned from her post.

Even when resigning from the Cabinet she remains defiant as to whether she has actually done anything wrong as she claimed, and that she was resigning as the controversy was a “distraction from the vital work this government is doing.”

She maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing when making the claim which led to the taxpayer paying for a home for her elderly parents.

An independent watchdog when investigating the case seems to have a contrary view.

It demanded that Mrs Miller repay £45,000, but the Conservative-dominated Commons Committee on Standards suggested that a much reduced figure of £5,800 would be appropriate, an amount that she paid, one would imagine quite happily.

All of this begs the question as to why she should make any repayment if the claims were legitimate and correct?

Of more concern to me is the fact that this has all been dealt with ‘in-house.’ Our politicians appear to be unaccountable to the electorate.

Those not in privileged positions are not so lucky, as for example, those who are overpaid benefits are invariably prosecuted.

I have represented many clients, who often in desperate situations, find themselves before the courts for much smaller amounts than the £45,000 the minister was overpaid.

Is this another example of one set of rules for one, with another set of rules for others?