London: Britain's new coalition
government suffered its first embarrassment on Saturday with
revelations that powerful Chief Treasury Secretary David Laws
wrongfully claimed MP's expenses to rent rooms in homes owned
by his male partner.
Laws, the number two in the Treasury after Chancellor
George Osborne, is a key figure in the government's economic
policies, particularly in its plans to reduce Britain's
mounting budget deficit.
Laws apologised after the revelations were published
in the media and said he would immediately pay back about
40,000 pounds that he had wrongfully claimed between 2004 and
2007 in properties owned by his partner, James Lundie.
Since 2006 parliamentary rules have banned MPs from
"leasing accommodation from a partner".
He said his motivation was to keep the relationship
with the man private and not to reveal his own sexuality.
In a statement, Laws admitted claiming back the costs
of sharing a home with Lundie from 2001 to June 2007.
Laws said, "At no point did I consider myself to be in
breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as 'one of a
couple? who although not married to each other or civil
partners are living together and treat each other as spouses'.
"Although we were living together we did not treat
each other as spouses - for example we do not share bank
accounts and indeed have separate social lives. However, I now
accept that this was open to interpretation and will
immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing
costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August
"My motivation throughout has not been to maximise
profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to
reveal my sexuality. I regret this situation deeply, accept
that I should not have claimed my expenses in this way and
apologise fully," he added.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said,
"The prime minister has been made aware of this situation and
he agrees with David Laws' decision to self-refer to the
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner."
Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee
on Standards in Public Life, told the BBC: "I'm a genuinely
shocked that somebody who is now Chief Secretary to the
Treasury is faced with disclosure of this nature where he
clearly hasn't told the full truth to the people dealing with
expenses in the House of Commons.
"Given all the expenses farrago that has gone on
over the past two or three years, the fact that it has come to
light now when he is a key part of a coalition government is
First Published: Saturday, May 29, 2010, 20:03