Laws resigns following expenses allegations

The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition suffered a major blow tonight as David Laws was forced to resign over expenses abuse allegations.

The Treasury Chief Secretary became the new Government's first casualty after it emerged he had channelled tens of thousands of pounds in public money to his long-term partner.

In a statement at the Treasury, Mr Laws said: "I do not see how I can carry out my crucial work on the Budget and spending review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent revelations."

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Laws wrote: "The last 24 hours have been very difficult and distressing for me, and I have been thinking carefully about what action I should take in the interests of the Government, my constituents and - most important of all - those whom I love.



"I am grateful for the strong support which I have received from my friends, family, and from you, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor.



"This support has been incredibly important, but nonetheless, I have decided that it is right to tender my resignation as Chief Secretary to the Treasury."



Responding to the resignation letter, Mr Cameron wrote: "The last 24 hours must have been extraordinarily difficult and painful for you.



"You are a good and honourable man. I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else. Your decision to resign from the Government demonstrates the importance you attach to your integrity.



"In your short lime at the Treasury, you have made a real difference, setting the Government on the right path to tackle the deficit which poses such a risk to our economy."



Lib Dem Danny Alexander will take over from Mr Laws as George Osborne's deputy at the Treasury, while Michael Moore will replace Mr Alexander as Scottish Secretary, Downing Street announced.

In his statement, Mr Laws insisted resigning had been "my decision alone", saying he was "extremely grateful" for strong support from Mr Cameron, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, and Chancellor George Osborne.



He also expressed heartfelt regret for putting his political career ahead of "those I love most".



"Most importantly, I have an overriding responsibility to those I love most, and who I feel I have exposed to scrutiny in this way," he said.



"I have pursued a political career because of my sense of public duty, but I have too often put this before the interests of those I love most. It is time to redress the balance.



"I want to apologise to my constituents for falling below the standards that they are entitled to expect from me."



The announcement came after a day of fevered speculation in the wake of the Daily Telegraph's revelations about Mr Laws' expenses claims.



According to the newspaper, between 2004 and 2007, Mr Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month to sub-let a room in a flat in Kennington, south London, from his long-term partner, lobbyist James Lundie.



Mr Lundie sold the flat for a profit of £193,000 in 2007, buying another house nearby for £510,000.



The MP then began claiming to rent the "second bedroom" in this property. His claims increased to £920 a month. The partner also lived at the property. Mr Laws' main home is in his Yeovil constituency.



The arrangement continued until September 2009, when Parliamentary records indicate that Mr Laws switched his designated second home and began renting another flat at taxpayers' expense. His partner remained at the Kennington house.



Since 2006, Parliamentary rules have banned MPs from "leasing accommodation from a partner".



Last night Mr Laws apologised and announced that he would "immediately" pay back the money in the wake of the Daily Telegraph's disclosures, as well as referring himself to the parliamentary standards commissioner.



The Yeovil MP also dramatically chose to "out" himself as gay, saying his actions had been motivated by a desire to protect his privacy rather than financial gain.



Lib Dem colleagues including former leader Paddy Ashdown and Taunton MP Jeremy Browne rallied round Mr Laws, praising his "brilliance" and warning against a "witch hunt".



But Labour MPs questioned whether he should stay in post, and Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, suggested Mr Laws should step aside from his job while the matter was investigated.

Mr Laws had explained his use of expenses by saying he had not regarded Mr Lundie as his "spouse" under the technical definition in Commons rules.



"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 (in 2006) until August 2009," he said.



Mr Laws insisted that, despite having been in a relationship with Mr Lundie since 2001, the fact had been "unknown to both family and friends throughout that time".



"I regret this situation deeply, accept that I should not have claimed my expenses in this way and apologise fully," he added.



The loss of Mr Laws is a significant setback for the coalition. He was a pivotal figure in the negotiations between the parties after the inconclusive general election result, and impressed Conservative right-wingers with the vigorous way he has set about implementing spending cuts.



Mr Alexander, another key figure in coalition negotiations, will now be thrust to centre stage in the drastic programme of spending cuts being planned by the Government.

Shadow cabinet minister Ed Balls said: "Having worked with David Laws over the last three years, I am personally very sorry about what has happened.



"Danny Alexander is a highly curious choice as Chief Secretary to the Treasury given he was a leading proponent of Britain joining the euro in the last decade as part of the Britain in Europe campaign.



"I hope he now accepts he was wrong and this would have been a disastrous course for Britain to take.



"He and the Liberal Democrats now have the chance to take a different course to David Laws and stop the spending cuts this year which, at this delicate moment for all our economies, would hit growth, jobs and economic recovery in Britain and Europe."

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice