Friday, 28 May 2010

David Laws - the best of times, the worst of times

Yesterday, Lib Dem Chief Secretary of the Treasury David Laws was winning rave reviews for his poise at the dispatch box. Tonight he is in hot water after the Daily Telegraph revealed that he had been using his expenses to rent property from his long-term partner.

David Laws has been a revelation to people both in and outside the Lib Dems since his appointment to the Cabinet. He is no longer the obscure Orange booker but a supremely talented minister fully on top of his brief and more than justifying the decision of Nick Clegg to nominate him to a top job.

The full story about the expense claims will come out over the next day or so, but the Telegraph claims:

"David Laws, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, claimed up to £950 a month for eight years to rent rooms in two properties owned by his partner. The claims could be against parliamentary rules governing MPs’ second home expenses.

On Friday night, Mr Laws apologised and announced that he would “immediately” pay back tens of thousands of pounds claimed for rent and other housing costs between 2006 and 2009. He also referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner"

According to BBC News, David Laws did not comply with rules prohibiting financial dealings between family and partners in part because he did not want to disclose his sexuality.

David has apologised, pledged to repay the money claimed and referred himself to the Standards Commissioner.

My take on this is as follows:

David Laws, as anyone, has a right to keep his sexuality to himself. Those of us within the Party who have known he is gay for some time have not made it public out of respect for him. The Parliamentary rules put him in an invidious position. On documents that would be made public, David would have to disclose the nature of the relationship.

Of course David was wrong if he broke the rules and is right to repay the money and offer himself up to the Standards Commissioner, but the rules themselves would appear to be prejudicial in this respect.

There will, of course, be those who demand resignations over this and I assume that Labour's John Mann will be on our TV screens soon. But I think we have seen over the last few days why David Laws needs to stay in the Cabinet for the good of the Party, the coalition and, dare I say it, the country.

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