David Laws issues statement on his expenses and sexuality

by Stephen Tall on May 28, 2010

David Laws has apologised, promised to pay back up to £40,000, and referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner after the Telegraph published expenses claims showing he rented a room from his partner.

The paper’s story shows that David:

  • David claimed between £700 and £950 a month between 2004 and 2007 to sub-let a room in a flat in Kennington, south London, owned by his partner who was also registered as living at the property;
  • from 2007, David then began claiming of £920 a month to rent the second bedroom from a new house bought by his partner, who also lived there.

David has issued a statement, published by the paper, as follows:

I’ve been involved in a relationship with James Lundie since around 2001 — about two years after first moving in with him. Our relationship has been unknown to both family and friends throughout that time. James and I are intensely private people. We made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right. Clearly that cannot now remain the case.

“My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality.

“I claimed back the costs of sharing a home in Kennington with James from 2001 to June 2007. In June 2007, James bought a new home in London and I continued to claim back my share of the costs. I extended the mortgage on my Somerset property, for which I do not claim any allowances or expenses, to help James purchase the new property.

“In 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prohibit payments to partners. 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 2009.”

I think many people will have a fair amount of sympathy for David’s position. Clearly in an effort to maintain his privacy, he has kept secret his domestic arrangements; and any form of secrecy will lead some to place the worst possible interpretation on it.

However his explanation seems not only reasonable – he was justified in claiming for a place to stay in London, and did so – but also entirely human. The furore last year over some Labour and Tory MPs’ expenses was driven by the fact that many were claiming for accommodation they didn’t live in (at least not much), a clear abuse of the system. No-one seems to be suggesting that David didn’t use this room as his place to stay in London when working in Parliament. And as has been pointed out, if David and his partner had been registered officially as “partners” on the deeds, he would have been perfectly entitled to claim the expenses he claimed as his second home allowance.

For an intensely private man, the publicity that results from the Telegraph’s revelations will be deeply painful. I hope he and Jamie emerge the other side stronger, and able to live their lives openly without fear of newspaper intrusion.