The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws MP, has resigned his position, on the basis that he has broken the rules on MPs expenses.
Mr Laws, a Liberal Democrat, claimed Parliamentary allowances for accommodation, which he paid to a person with whom he was having a relationship. Prior to the relationship having been discovered, Mr Laws sexuality had not been known; the revelation in effect ‘outed’ him.
Mr Laws’ decision to resign, along with his enforced ‘outing’, is a tragedy for him and his friends and family, and a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. Laws is a formidable and brilliant politician, an incisive brain, and a great performer. One story tells of how, having been presented with a potted plant for his office, he asked where the money had come from, and how, by the end of the day, the Treasury no longer had a budget for potted plants.
David Cameron’s acceptance of Mr. Laws’ resignation was warm and exceptionally honest; he recognised, correctly, that Mr Laws is an honourable and talented man, and hoped that he would be able to serve again in the future.
I am troubled by the farago; Mr Laws was keen, as he should have been able to do, to keep his sexuality a matter for himself, and not a matter of public knowledge. It is clear that announcing his status, living with a person of the same sex would have been essentially outing himself. In effect, the rule change in 2006 would have meant him being forced to out himself then.
It is further clear that the taxpayer actually did rather well from his living arrangements. £40,000 was claimed over eight years, or about £5,000 per year, which is considerably less than the cost many other MPs’ accommodation from members expenses levies on the people. If Mr. Laws had outed himself, he would have quite reasonably been able to describe the person with whom he was having a relationship as a ‘partner’ and even been able to claim second home allowances.
However, it is clear that Mr. Laws considers that he has broken the rules; his decision to resign so quickly in the national interest and the interests of his constituents, is a sharp contrast to the previous administration where disgraced ministers clung on to their jobs until they were made jump.