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UK Broadband Minister Maria Miller Resigns amid Expenses Row
Source: totaltele.com
Source Date: Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Focus: Health
Country: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Created: Apr 15, 2014

U.K. culture secretary Maria Miller on Wednesday announced her resignation following controversy surrounding her expenses claims.

In addition to overseeing same-sex marriage legislation and press regulation, Miller was responsible for the U.K.'s rural broadband deployment, which aims to provide high-speed connectivity to 95% of premises by 2017.

"It is with great regret that I have decided that I should tender my resignation as a member of the cabinet," she said, in a letter to prime minister David Cameron. "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."

Miller was named head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in September 2012, replacing Jeremy Hunt as part of a broader government reshuffle.

During her tenure, the DCMS succeeded in distributing £530 million of central government money to 44 local authorities for procuring rural broadband infrastructure. However, with only one telco, BT, bidding for and subsequently winning all 44 tenders, Miller's department was strongly criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for failing to facilitate a competitive procurement process.

It was her expense claims relating to mortgage and upkeep payments on a second home bought for her parents that was her undoing though.

The independent parliamentary commissioner for standards recommended Miller repay £45,000, but the Commons Standards Committee, which has the ultimate power over these decisions, ordered her to pay just £5,800, prompting public outcry.

Cameron initially defended Miller amid the backlash, but clearly the government has concluded that her position in untenable.

In reply to Miller's resignation letter, Cameron said he was "very sorry to receive it", and praised the work she had done at the DCMS, including for rural broadband.

"You have led one of the most important infrastructure projects: many more premises are now able to access super-fast broadband," he said.

(By Nick Wood)

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