Key British minister quits over expenses

Another Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, will take over from David Laws.

Updated: May 30, 2010, 09:11 AM IST

London: The new British coalition government suffered a blow on Saturday when a key finance minister, David Laws, announced he was resigning following revelations over his expenses claims.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported yesterday that Laws, the chief treasury secretary, had channelled more than GBP 40,000 (USD 57,800 dollars) of taxpayers` money to his long-time male partner.

"I do not see how I can carry out my crucial work on the budget and spending review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent allegations," Laws said in a brief press conference.

Laws, a millionaire former banker who is a member of the Liberal Democrat junior coalition partners, said his problems were caused by his "desire to keep my sexuality secret".

In a letter responding to Laws` resignation, Prime Minister David Cameron described him as a "good and honourable man".

Another Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, will take over from Laws as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne`s deputy at the Treasury, Downing Street said.

The Telegraph reported that Laws claimed up to GBP 950 a month for five years to rent a room in two properties owned by his partner James Lundie, a lobbyist.

Laws had one of the highest profile roles in the new government whose priority is to reduce Britain`s record deficit of GBP 156.1 billion in 2009-2010.

He and Osborne this week unveiled spending cuts worth GBP 6.25 billion.

Britain`s first coalition government since World War II emerged from the indecisive May 06 general election. Chancellor George Osborne expressed his sadness at Laws`s resignation, saying it was "as if he had been put on Earth" to do the job of Chief Secretary, while Clegg said Laws had made a "very painful decision" to resign after his privacy had been "cruelly shattered".

Laws was left in turmoil after it was revealed that for eight years since 2001 he had claimed up to GBP 950 a month to rent a single room in properties owned by his partner, lobbyist James Lundie.

Since 2006, MPs have been banned from claiming back the cost of renting a property from partners.

Laws initially attempted to explain the arrangement on the grounds that though he and Lundie were living together, "we did not treat each other as spouses -- for example, we do not share bank accounts and have separate social lives".

He admitted the couple had been in a serious relationship for nine years but said he had wanted to disguise the fact because his situation was "unknown to both family and friends”.

Laws issued an immediate apology for his actions on Friday evening, promising to pay back the money and referring himself to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.