David Laws Must Resign 81


I am among those who has been very impressed by David Laws’ performance in his brief ministerial career. And I have read carefully the Lib Dems blogs – which seem universally to be defending him, like this.

http://markreckons.blogspot.com/2010/05/david-laws-should-not-resign.html

http://www.libdemvoice.org/david-laws-issues-statement-on-his-expenses-and-sexuality-19728.html

The difficulty is that the Commons rules stated quite unequivocally that an MP could not claim to rent a room in a home owned by their partner. In 2006 a specific amendment was made to make that crystal clear. Laws does not deny he broke the rules, and is paying the money back.

The point made by Lib Dems throughout the blogosphere is that, if Laws and his partner had owned the homes jointly, he could have claimed the mortgage payments. That is of course true. But Laws did not do that, and the rules are explicit that the alternative of paying rent to your partner is not allowed.

Laws’ explanation for his behaviour is that he did not wish to come out as gay. That is his right. Had he therefore not made any second home expenses claims, he would have forfeited £40,000 and deserved great sympathy for the sacrifice made to his domestic privacy. Nobody would have launched an investigation into why the very wealthy David Laws did not make a second home claim.

To “protect your privacy” by making taxpayer funded rent payments to your partner against the rules, was always going to be counter-productive. It also involved what I presume (and I do not know) is a further little lie to the Commons that he was renting a bedroom in his partner’s house, when it is surely more likely that they share one.

It is, to say the least, extremely unfortunate that this revelation about David Laws should come out at this moment – and the Telegraph’s timing opens a whole raft of other questions. And what Laws has done is less bad, for example, than Michael Gove’s second home flipping. But there is no point to the Liberal Democrats if we do not aspire to higher standards than Labour and the Conservatives, and it is deeply disappointing to see the LibDem blogs’ tribal rally around Laws.

Laws has just announced a public sector pay freeze. He is the man who would have to announce cuts next year that will inflict very real pain upon public sector workers, benefit recipients and public service users. Having a millionaire to do that is already difficult. Having a millionaire, who broke the rules on expenses claims and trousered £40,000 he had to pay back, to do that is simply untenable.

Laws should do the decent thing now.


81 thoughts on “David Laws Must Resign

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  • Justine

    I live with my partner (in fact husband as of recently), in a house that is in my name only because it was my house when I lived as a single parent following an earlier divorce.

    If I claimed working tax credit as a single parent, saying that my partner was in fact not my partner, but just living in my house, I would be committing fraud!

    This would be no different really from the sort of thing Laws has done. He says he wanted to keep the relationship, and his sexuality secret. For one thing he has NO RIGHT to take tax payers’ money to keep a relationship secret. But secondly, by saying this he is admitting that it is a relationship, and therefore that the other man is in fact his “partner”. Going against any argument that they weren’t living together as partners! He will be making a big fool of himself if he tries to push the “not living together” argument. And the fact that he has apologised and agreed to pay the money back shows that he knew it was wrong.

    And the government talk about “benefit fraud”.

    He must go.

  • Thomas Metcalf

    As I’ve said on other blogs, I don’t understand the entire “expenses fiddling” part of this story.

    Didn’t David Cameron claim £20,000 a year in expenses on a house owned by himself and his wife? How is this different from David Laws claiming £11,000 a year in rent, paid to his partner?

    How many other cabinet ministers claimed similar amounts? Someone mentioned Michael Gove flipping his home for Capital Gains Tax.

    Are people upset just because he kept his relationship secret? What exactly is the resigning issue here?

  • Jonathan Marriott

    The “Resigning Issue” here is that he knowingly broke the law in claiming expenses, from 2006, by living in his partner’s property and claiming rent for doing so.

  • craig

    horatio nelson

    I see no criminal wrongdoing either. But the bar for a ministerial resignation must be a good deal lower than that.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Indeed Thomas, a cleverly pointed comment that reflects the obsequious nature of Cameron in his speeches.

    The stage has been prepared for a savage cut in government help to the poor and disabled of Britain, while our Prime-Minister has skirted the pointing finger on use of public money to bolster his own lavish life-style.

    I repeat your implication Thomas:

    What exactly is the resigning issue here?

  • Parky

    I suppose it depends to an extent by what’s meant in the rules by the term “spouse”. Does a legal contract, wedding vow, legal partnership etc have to be in place for that term to apply?

    Would independent impartial observers regard these two as a couple, an item or partners or just two guys who share a residence?

    This incident is unfortunate and highlights the stigma of homosexuality even in these apparently liberated times.

    I am gleefully reminded of the exploits of “Jack-Boot” Jackie Smith and her claim for living at her sisters gaff with an armed police guard stationed outside 24/7. (and of course the two porno films but…) There was obviously a culture of doing no-wrong in the Commons and this seems to have been common to all parties to greater and lesser extents.

    I expect like Mandy he will have to go for now only to emerge for brighter things in future years when the dust has settled.

  • brian

    the resigning issue is he claimed thousands from the taxpayer for a room in his partner’s house

  • mrjohn

    I’m afraid I don’t believe this “hide his sexuality” line, though the people in question have probably convinced themselves of this.

    The people handling the expenses are duty bound to treat personal information with discretion, and who would note an MP not claiming ?

    Had he wished to hide his sexuality he could have bought or rented a place himself claimed for it but still visited his partner. He must have known that if the press were going to out him they would, whatever he did, I doubt it would be via the rather obscure route of the details of his expenses.

    To be brutally frank he should not be ashamed of his sexuality, if other people have a problem with it they have a problem, not him, and as a public figure he has a duty to take a stand if he believes in equality. He has to accept there are some things you give up when you seek power and influence, and some things you acquire.

    I think this is an example of a convenient blind spot when it comes to balancing basic principles against personal gain.

  • Thomas Metcalf

    Posted by brian, “the resigning issue is he claimed thousands from the taxpayer for a room in his partner’s house”

    David Cameron claimed almost twice as much money to pay off the mortgage on a house he lived in with his wife.

    Should David Cameron resign as well?

  • Chudleigh Bitmad

    So the end justifies the means – I don’t think so. Time to go Mr L

  • brian

    Thomas – If cameron claimed the money on the basis he was paying sam cameron to rent a room from her, and that they weren’t partners, then yes.

    Whatever, the argument would be that cameron should resign, not laws shouldn’t resign because cameron got away with it.

  • Abe Rene

    I am uneasy about the whole expenses witch-hunt. Maybe it would be better if as a society we were more easy-going about this sort of thing. There is too much self-righteousness around for my liking. I say, let Laws apologise and pay back what he owes. then change the rules back to what they used to be.

  • Thomas Metcalf

    Posted by Craig, “I don’t think David Cameron made the payments to his wife.”

    Given that they’re married, that’s exactly what he did do. And, what are you trying to say with this point anyway?

    You seem to be implying that what David Laws did was “bad” because the money went to his partner, but what David Cameron (and many other MPs) did was “fine” because they personally profited. Eh?

    David Cameron claimed twice as much money as David Laws, benefited from it personally, and hasn’t paid the money back.

    But don’t take my point in the wrong way, I’m not saying David Cameron should resign. Here’s my original point:

    “As I’ve said on other blogs, I don’t understand the entire expenses fiddling part of this story.

    Didn’t David Cameron claim £20,000 a year in expenses on a house owned by himself and his wife? How is this different from David Laws claiming £11,000 a year in rent, paid to his partner?

    How many other cabinet ministers claimed similar amounts? Someone mentioned Michael Gove flipping his home for Capital Gains Tax.

    Are people upset just because he kept his relationship secret? What exactly is the resigning issue here?”

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    In the Social Security Act section IV the definition of a ‘partner’ is clearly defined in ‘member of a couple’ N.B. ALL of the conditions need to be met.

    In most cases lengthy, costly investigations by surveillance to obtain evidence have been made, usually mitigated by separated parent’s rights to share in their children’s upbringing but obviously NOT applicable to Law’s accusations.

  • brian

    Thomas – he paid his partner rent at taxpayers’ expense. If the authorities had known the rent he was claiming would go to his partner, he would not have got it.

    If I told the social I was renting a room in my girlfriend’s house and that we were not partners in order to get housing benefit to pay to my girlfriend I would be liable for prosecution for fraud.

  • Parky

    The daft thing is that he didn’t actually need the money! Retired at 28 as a multi-millionaire from the City. This whole expenses debacle came from Mrs. Thatcher’s government not wanting to increase MP salaries as it wasn’t a good idea at the time but allow them to claim reasonable expenses as a top-up. The problem with such an open scheme as that is it’s likelihood for abuse. Hopefully the whole issue of MPs pay is finally being sorted out properly.

    Reading between the lines Mr Laws bent the rules to provide himself with some compensation for his London living expenses. Although technically it may be wrong it was within the culture that operated at the time. Many other MPs got away with far more and didn’t pay it back or faced prosecution.

  • Thomas Metcalf

    brian posted, “If I told the social I was renting a room in my girlfriend’s house and that we were not partners in order to get housing benefit to pay to my girlfriend I would be liable for prosecution for fraud.”

    That’s entirely true.

    But it’s also true that if you applied for social benefits to pay for a mortgage on a very expensive London property, they’d also tell you where to go.

    By saying what David Laws did was wrong, you also say that any MP who claimed for mortgage payments on second homes was also wrong.

  • brian

    No, it would not have been wrong for Laws to claim for funding for his mortgage. It would not have been wrong to claim for renting a room in one of thousands of properties in London. It was wrong to claim rent for a room in his partner’s house.

  • Tenny

    This was posted on New Statesman comments.

    Devious buggers, the lot of them.

    “jeremiah

    29 May 2010 at 13:54

    This must have been why he did not appear on QT.

    Downing Street must have known this was going to break. They used Campbell as an excuse to get Laws out of it!”

  • Nigel Quinton

    Craig – you write: “The difficulty is that the Commons rules stated quite unequivocally that an MP could not claim to rent a room in a home owned by their partner. In 2006 a specific amendment was made to make that crystal clear. Laws does not deny he broke the rules, and is paying the money back.”

    What you are glossing over, in common with many today, is that from what we know, and due to the circumstances we know very little, it appears that Laws’ relationship is not so clearly that of a partner. Basically he is having a relationship with his landlord. It has lasted a long time, but it does not seem like they are partners. He states that they have separate social lives, and clearly, if they have kept their relationship quiet for so long, it is hardly a normal spousal relationship.

    As far as I can see David Laws has done nothing wrong apart from his apology and his offer to pay back the money. He has actually saved the taxpayer thousands of pounds, not ripped us off. He needs a London home as a Somerset MP, and the rules are that the taxpayer will fund this. He has claimed for a below market rate of rent (it appears) so what harm has he done.

    No, this case is all about the prurience of the press and nothing whatever to do with financial misdoings.

  • Anonymous

    David Laws is just one/small element of a very diseased system of government here in the UK.

  • Craig

    Nigel,

    But that is part of the story I just don’t buy at all.

    Millionaire MP needs second home in London (where he already worked for years). Does millionaire MP get his own self-contained flat? No, he rents a room in the home of some bloke. Unbelievable.

    Then he later starts sleeping with the bloke, to whom he was not close when he started to live in a room of his house. He then contributes very many thousands of quid for the guy to buy himself a bigger house, but the guy is still only his landlord, except they have the odd shag. Unbelievable.

    Frankly Nigel the man in the street will not believe that bollocks and neither will I.

  • George Laird

    Dear All

    What has happened is unfortunate but Laws broke the rules, Craig is right to speak out and I have blogged on this point.

    He knew what he was doing, to rally round the flag and attempt to keep him would be a severe misjudgement for him, the Lib Dems and the coalition.

    His position is untenable.

    He should resign off his own bat, either that or Cameron should sack him.

    The argument fronted by him is bullshit.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Anonymous

    This despicable man should go, he won’t but he should. He is an abomination!

  • Doug Scorgie

    Craig, what irritates me about this discussion is that intelligent people, like yourself, try to defend the indefensible to support your bias views. Read the Fraud Act 2006 but with your eyes open. Forget the Green Book Rules they are irrelevant when a crime is suspected. This is a matter for the police, a judge and a jury. As for contributors to this site who admit they don’t understand the issues; they should make the effort to find out before spouting their unresearched opinions. The label- Horatio Nelson – may apply to you and many others.

    As I have said before: there are none so blind as those that refuse to see.

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