Richard Willis's Blog

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BREAKING NEWS – David Laws Has Resigned from the Cabinet

Just a couple of weeks into the life of the new coalition government the first resignation from the Cabinet has been reported. The irony is that the cause was the issue that so dominated the last Labour government, namely that of sleaze. The Daily Telegraph which exposed so many MPs and Ministers of all parties ran an expose that Lib Dem MP David Laws had been claiming public money which he had paid to his partner in rent, against Parliamentary rules. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laws was the man responsible for the allocation of public money and therefore the allegations were doubly damaging.

Laws is very much on the right of his own party and is one of the Lib Dem MPs that is popular on the Conservative benches. His stock rose even further when he set out the arguments for cutting the deficit in the House of Commons and made mincemeat of Shadow Chancellor Alastair Darling in the process. He was seen as a rising star of the coalition government and one who had usurped Vince Cable’s reputation for economic wisdom.

The loss of Laws from the Treasury team is a severe blow to the new government but his swift action in repaying the money in question, referring himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and his resignation should allow him to return to the front benches in due course. Undoubtedly he committed an error in judgement but as Iain Dale has highlighted if he were seeking to profit from the public purse he could have claimed far more money from other ruses used by other MPs.

I have the highest regard for David Laws and have long thought that in earlier times he would have found a warm welcome in the Conservative Party. Now he must return to the back benches for a time but I am sure he will be back in due course. The time he spends in exile will probably depend to a large extent on the findings of the Parliamentary Standards  Commissioner.

Tonight both the government and the Lib Dems have lost a man of stature and wisdom.

UPDATE: Danny Alexander has replaced Laws in the Treasury and Michael Moore will be Secretary of State for Scotland.

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May 29, 2010 - Posted by | National

14 Comments »

  1. Coalition demolition? I smell a rat…Daily Telegraph: a lot to answer for their timing. Very capable man replaced by Danny who? Never heard of him until coalition negociations..strange choice, only time will tell why!

    Comment by Jazz | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. This is a distraction in the colossal task of rebuilding this country. Cameron and Clegg need to pursue the agenda that they have set in the coalition agreement. Good it has happened early and David Laws did the honourable thing. Now let’s move on from this as the Cabinet is full of very capable men. The good intent is there and the nation has placed its hopes in this government to deliver. But it must stand strong to the pressures of the baying mobs, say no more.

    Comment by Minnie | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. An “error of judgement” that lasted some 5 years apparantly.Surely such an ‘intelligent’ man would have had good cause to look at his circumstances during the revelations last year and change the set up to avoid being found out later on.
    This scenario makes a good case for government owned property for the housing of MPs in London complete with telephone number for the maintainance department. This sort of thing wouldn’t happen any more !

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  4. For your info Howard, it appears the only “questionable” period is 2006-09 when the rules were changed. The fact that David Laws’s arrangement did not change is what is in dispute ( including the relative claimed amount for that period). At the end of the day, he is entitled to accommodation. In this case, he could have “declared” the partnership and participated in the mortgage payment of the property and ended up claiming more! And o who is the loser then? David Laws for losing his privacy or the public purse And yes your idea is worth thinking about..

    Comment by Jazz | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  5. Why does a millionaire in charge of cutting every bit of expenditure he can, seem to think he should pay his boyfriend £1000 per month of our money to live where he already lives? Especially when he SHOULD NOT be doing just that.

    As for them not being ‘partners’, well if he thinks that will wash he’s not half as bright as some of the sycophants think he is.

    New politics? Worse than the old politics.

    Good riddance, at least he escaped jail unlike Sarah Riley:
    A Norfolk mother who falsely claimed more than £76,000 in benefits after failing to declare she was living with a partner, was last night starting a 20-week jail sentence.

    Sarah Riley, 34, falsely claimed the benefits over a six year period from 2001 to 2007. Norwich Crown Court heard that she obtained a total of £64,433 in income support and £10,225 in housing benefit as well as £1,583 in council tax benefit.

    Matthew Edwards prosecuting said that Riley’s claim had not been fraudulent from the outset but she had failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions when she had started living with her new partner in 2001.

    The court heard that Riley had now split up from her partner and was making efforts to repay some of the money and had paid back more than a £1,000.

    Riley of Cremer Street, Sheringham, admitted 10 counts of benefit fraud.

    Jailing her for 20 weeks, judge Alasdair Darroch, told her he accepted that prison would be devastating for her but said: “This is a very large sum of public money and there was dishonesty going on for a long period of years.”

    He accepted her relationship with her partner had not been stable but said: “I’m unable to avoid a prison sentence.”

    Katharine Moore, for Riley said she was of previous good character and her claim had not started out as a false one.

    She said the relationship Riley had with her partner was not a traditional one where she received any financial support.

    “She was very desperate. She had a very difficult time.”

    Looks a bit different after that…?

    Comment by Steve Wilson | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  6. Yes Steve Wilson! Looks very different to me. What contribution did Sarah Riley make to getting the country back on its feet or even come to that to public service ( as you do when you are an MP)over a period of 6 years did you say? The amount you are quoting is huge. Hope it helped get her back on her feet. How did she stop receiving the money? Someone shopped her or she voluntarily wanted to stop receiving the money?

    Comment by Jazz | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  7. You’re going to have to rewrite your original blog with reference to Danny Alexander now. Th Telegraph’s not being very helpful, is it?

    Comment by Jonny | May 31, 2010 | Reply

  8. And there we have it from a local Labour councillor (and Press Agent for the local Labour Party) going on the moral high ground in the Guardianista today:

    “Even in Yeovil there are people who claim housing benefit, and local MP David Laws must have constituents who have been refused HB because South Somerset district council believed they have a “contrived tenancy” in which “their liability to pay rent has been created to take advantage of the HB scheme”. You can’t get HB if your landlord is a relative or a partner. Some of Mr Laws’s constituents may even have faced prosecution for fraud because they tried to do so. What’s the moral or legal difference?

    Pete Ruhemann

    Reading, Berkshire”

    Am afraid Cllr Ruhemann when you were forced to resign from your post as lead Councillor for Children’s Services ( and I mean forced, through a unanimous vote of non confidence by the Oppostion parties), that is when your claim to moral high ground ended. Nuff said.

    Comment by Minnie | May 31, 2010 | Reply

    • Minnie – do you mean to say that Ruhemann failed to include the fact that he is a Labour Councillor when writing to the paper? Surely this is an essential fact that people need to know when judging whether his comments are from a member of the public or from the Reading Labour Party’s Press Officer!

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 31, 2010 | Reply

  9. Just because it’s from a Cllr and Press Officer doesn’t make it any less true.
    Jonny Morris (ex-Labour Councillor, Labour Party member, member of RSPB and NT, Chair of Residents’ Association, cat-lover and GMB member)

    Comment by Jonny Morris | June 1, 2010 | Reply

  10. That’s right Richard. What you have is a copy and paste in its entirity from the letters section in yesterday’s online version!

    Comment by Minnie | June 1, 2010 | Reply

  11. Jonny, it would have been good for Pete to include as you did something like: disgraced ex-Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, writer of misleading campaign leaflets and whatever else his humility would have let out..

    Comment by Jazz | June 1, 2010 | Reply

  12. Could it be the same Cllr Ruhemann who decided to go Guido F’s blog under a pseudonym ( Martin Day?) this morning?. Response to his contribution are included below:

    Martin Day says:
    June 1, 2010 at 8:39 am
    David Laws needs to quit politics now.

    Even in Yeovil there are people who claim housing benefit, and local MP David Laws must have constituents who have been refused HB because South Somerset district council believed they have a “contrived tenancy” in which “their liability to pay rent has been created to take advantage of the HB scheme”. You can’t get HB if your landlord is a relative or a partner. Some of Mr Laws’s constituents may even have faced prosecution for fraud because they tried to do so. What’s the moral or legal difference?

    Reply
    43Grumpy Old Man says:
    June 1, 2010 at 8:54 am
    Dear Martin. For the last 13 years, institutionalised hypocrisy well mixed with corruption was the lubricant of Labour’s choice to keep the wheels political life turning. The change to probity, openness and accountability.will take some time. I very much doubt whether Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears or indeed the duck house owner would meet the same standards of public conduct as Mr Laws has just done.

    Reply
    90Smig says:
    June 1, 2010 at 9:36 am
    Don’t you have a GCSE this morning Martin?

    Reply
    142Maggies Drawers says:
    June 1, 2010 at 10:01 am
    Laws didn’t claim Housing Benefit. Next question?

    Comment by Outraged Abbey Supporter | June 1, 2010 | Reply

  13. Blimey, it’s gone viral..but who’s copying who and/or from where?? Anyone in public service should take heed and watch that online lark!

    Comment by Big Brother watching | June 1, 2010 | Reply


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