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UK Culture Secretary resigns after expenses row

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LONDON (AP) — British Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who was in charge of legislation on press regulation and gay marriage, resigned Wednesday after an embarrassing row over her parliamentary expense account.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who had publicly backed Miller over the past week despite mounting concerns of a number of people in his Conservative Party, accepted her decision and said he hoped she could return to the Cabinet at some point in the future.

He told Parliament that Miller had been cleared of the “very serious” offense of housing her parents at taxpayers’ expense but had still made some mistakes, including failing to cooperate fully with an inquiry.

Cameron conceded that public concern about parliamentary expense abuses has not subsided despite reforms to the system that have added more public oversight.

“The anger is still very raw,” he said.

In her letter to Cameron, Miller said the controversy over her housing expenses had become a “distraction” from the government’s work. Though Miller apologized to constituents and to Parliament after questions were raised about her expense claims, she said the storm around her position had made it impossible for her to remain in the Cabinet.

Miller has repaid 5,800 pounds ($9,700), a figure which had been reduced by a parliamentary panel from an initial recommendation of 45,000 pounds. She said she had hoped to remain in her position after a parliamentary review committee cleared her of more serious financial abuse allegations.

Some of her defenders claimed Miller was attacked because of her role in pushing for press regulation in response to the phone hacking scandal and in guiding passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriages.

The controversy over her expenses comes as Cameron’s Conservatives faces tough a tough battle in May elections for the European Parliament.

Parliament has been hit by a series of expense account scandals in recent years, leading to calls for further reform of the reimbursement system.