David Laws: Expenses Scandal, Resignation and Suspension

Just in case people have forgotten:

On 28 May 2010, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that David Laws had claimed more than £40,000 on his expenses in the form of second home costs, from 2004 to late 2009, during which time he had been renting rooms at properties owned by what the newspaper claimed to be his “secret lover” and “long-term partner”, James Lundie. They were not in a civil partnership. The Daily Telegraph had not intended to reveal his sexuality, but David Laws himself did so, in a public statement shortly before the newspaper’s publication of the story. Lundie is a former Liberal Democrat Press officer and now works for the Political Affairs team of public relations and lobbying firm, Edelman.

David Laws

David Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month rent between 2004 and 2007, plus typically £100 to £200 a month for maintenance, to rent a room in a flat owned and lived in by Lundie in Kennington, South London. After the flat was sold for a profit of £193,000 in 2007, Lundie bought a nearby house for £510,000. David Laws then began claiming rent for the “second bedroom” in this property, at a cost of £920 a month, until September 2009. David Laws then began renting another flat. This flat was not owned by Lundie, who remained at the Kennington house. Since 2006, parliamentary rules have banned MPs from “leasing accommodation from… a partner.” David Laws also maintained his main home in Chard in his Yeovil constituency, as well as a holiday home he owned in Provence, France.

David Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 29 May 2010, stating that he could not carry on working on the Comprehensive Spending Review while dealing with the private and public implications of the revelations. He claimed that his reason for the way he had claimed expenses had been to keep private details of his sexuality and that he had not benefited financially from this misdirection.

In May 2011 the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards reported to the Standards and Privileges Committee on his investigation into the conduct of David Laws. The Committee concluded that David Laws was guilty of breaking six rules with regard to MPs’ expenses. The Commissioner reported that none of David Laws’s claims for the London properties was acceptable under the rules. but that he had not intended to benefit himself or Lundie directly. In addition to finding against David Laws with regard to the payment of rent to his boyfriend, the investigation had also found irregularities in payments for phone bills and building work. The Standards and Privileges Committee concluded that “… the rental agreements submitted [by David Laws] between 2003 and 2008 were misleading and designed to conceal the nature of the relationship. They prevented any examination of the arrangements that in fact pertained over the entire period”. Further, his claims for rent were in excess of market levels for a lodging agreement, and a market level agreement would not have included contributions from the lodger towards building repairs and maintenance, which David Laws also claimed.

After being found guilty David Laws was suspended from the House of Commons for 7 days by MPs in a House of Commons vote on 16 May 2011.

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