12 May 2011

Laws suspended over expenses breach

Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws will be suspended from the Commons for seven days over a breach of parliamentary expenses rules.


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Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws is suspended from the Commons for breaching expenses rules.

“I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.

“However, from the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.

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“I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the committee.

“The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.

“This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding.”

The Standards Committee says there must be consequences for breaching the rules, regardless of Mr Laws’ “motives and subsequent behaviour”.

‘Motives cannot justify breach’

Standards Commissioner John Lyon also said the MP had misled the Commons authorities since he was elected to parliament in 2001 by filing lodging agreements that gave a “false impression” of his relationship with Mr Lundie.

Mr Laws’ wish to maintain his personal privacy cannot, in my view, justify – although it may explain – such conduct. Standards Commissioner John Lyon

“I conclude, therefore, that Mr Laws’ conduct was not above reproach because he submitted to the fees office from 2001 lodging agreements which gave a false impression of his relationship with his landlord and their shared use of the landlord’s successive London properties.

“Mr Laws’ wish to maintain his personal privacy cannot, in my view, justify – although it may explain – such conduct.”

The committee agreed with the findings, saying the rental agreements submitted between 2003 and 2008 were misleading.

The MPs accepted that Mr Laws could have made higher claims had he been open about his living arrangements, and used expenses to run his substantial Somerset home.

But they added: “While it is clear that Mr Laws could have arranged his affairs in a way which was less good value for money, we do not agree that the criterion of value for money should be established by comparing his potential claims with his actual claims.”

David Laws’ suspension will start on June 7.