Opinion: David Laws takes another step on the road to redemption

Last night, despite the rather unpleasant efforts of a handful of Labour backbenchers to throw stones from an already rather damaged greenhouse, the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed a motion proposing six members to form the Joint Committee to scrutinise the draft Financial Services Bill.

Usually, such motions are passed without a murmur, especially as the nominees are proposed by the various political parties. However, on this occasion, the presence of David Laws, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, drew the ire of, amongst others, Thomas Docherty, the Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, and John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw.

Their sole objection, whilst thinly disguised with other justifications, was that David Laws was not a ‘fit and proper person’ to serve on such a committee. There will be those, no doubt, who share that stance, but it was felt elsewhere in the house that, having been punished by the House authorities, there was nothing to be gained by penalising him further. David Mowat, the Conservative member for Warrington South, questioned whether there were many in the House who know more about international financial services than Mr Laws.

Whilst Speaker Bercow attempted, with mixed success, to keep the discussion strictly to the topic, Docherty and Mann continued with a serious of spurious objections in an attempt to spin out the debate, clearly oblivious to the idea that rehabilitation might have a place in any justice system.

However, following a motion to grant additional time for the debate, so as to allow a conclusion, the House voted that the question be put, before passing the original motion without a vote.

Undoubtedly, there will be much talk of David Laws’s future, and that this is a step towards bringing him back into the Cabinet. In truth, the absence of a vacancy, and the question of whom he would replace in a reshuffle, represent major barriers, although a more junior post may present itself. After all, there is no comparable example of a Liberal Democrat reshuffle in Parliament, and David Cameron is known not to be keen on reshuffles either…

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27 Comments

  • It would be political suicide to have Laws back, so I fully expect Clegg to try and arrange it at some point.

  • Laws should be in prison, not serving on this committee.

  • Sid Cumberland 19th Jul '11 - 2:04pm

    Here Jim – some WD40 for your jerky knee.

  • I forget exactly who it was who made this point, but if there is one MP who you would want on the committee because of his knowledge of financial markets, then it’s David Laws. I’m not a fan of him returning to Cabinet – I think we’d effectively be handing the Tories another Cabinet member – but on this I think he’s a good appointee.

    Docherty was just using the opportunity to have another swipe at Willie Rennie. Living not in but near his constituency, Docherty has quickly gained a reputation for being invisible locally and only raising irrelevant points in Parliament.

    It’s pointless posturing on procedural irrelevances like this that give politicians a bad name – there’s much more important things which should have taken up almost two hours of parliamentary time.

  • My concern with David Laws is simple. He is a multi-millionaire. He did not have to claim any money on expenses for his accommodation. No one made him claim £40,000 of tax payers money fraudulently. He will forever be tarnished with this scandal. The excuse that he didn’t want his sexuality exposed does not stand up when all he had to do was not claim at all. He may have a great financial brain, all the more reason why he should have known better

  • Sorry guys but Laws is a disgrace and is lucky that he did not end up being investigated by the police over his expenses. His ‘holier than thou’ behaviour during the election as well as him not fessing up until after the election also leave a sour taste.

    The Lib Dems have better people to defend and support than him

  • Ivan – what is your evidence that David Laws is a multimillionaire? I understand he has recently sold his house in Yeovil and moved to a smaller one in order to be able to pay back the expenses. That doesn’t strike me as the actions of a rich man.

  • While benefits are being reduced or taken away from some of our most vulnerable people by the Liberal Democrats in government, it is sickening that some LibDems also think it is acceptable to let this particular benefit cheat back into government. Laws only had to repay his ill-gotten gains rather than go to jail like the plebs. He got off lightly because he is an MP. He would not have gotten off so lightly if he had cheated a few hundred quid’s worth of housing benefit.

    But there you have it. Good thing we don’t live in a corrupt third world country, otherwise this would be endemic. Good thing it’s only those at the bottom who have to pay for their mistakes.

  • Paul McKeown 20th Jul '11 - 1:29am

    Good luck to David Laws; the country needs his ability and he was missed in his absence.

  • Tim. Just search “David Laws Multi Millionaire”, a selection of the results include:
    Telegraph:
    Mr Laws, 44, “retired” from business aged 28, by which time he was already a multi-millionaire.
    He turned his attention to his great love – politics – taking up a position in 1994 as an economic adviser to the Lib Dems, before moving sharply up the political career ladder.

    Times:
    David Laws, 44, the chief secretary to the Treasury, is also a millionaire thanks to a seven-year career as a senior executive in investment banking at JP Morgan and Barclays. City analysts conservatively estimate his wealth at £1.3m

    The Mirror:
    The multi-millionaire former City banker insisted that he wasn’t motivated by greed but a desire to cover up the fact he was in a relationship with landlord Jamie Lundie.

    I Could go on. He had no reason to claim taxpayers money for his lover. He did not need to claim ANY expenses

  • My understanding is Laws used his resources to support himself during his time working for the party (we really don’t pay well now and it was even worse if possible in the 1990s) and he was than a Parliamentary candidate.

    I think we should be very nervous of MPs who decide to just dip into their personal fortunes if they have them (it is less clear here) to avoid claiming expences. Parliament started recognising that MPs needed expences, staff etc because it was a proper job not just a hobby for the independently wealthy.

  • @Ivan

    He wrote about this, he worked for the LDs unpaid for several years, most of this money from his youth has gone already.

    I’m not a huge fan of David Laws but he is clearly not so rich as to have no use for expenses. He also could have gained a lot more money by claiming perfectly legitimately for a mortgage had he been open with his relationship, so given that he materially suffered (relatively) for his illegitimate expenses relative to what he could have legitimately claimed very easily, I’m inclined to believe his explanations.

  • “He wrote about this, he worked for the LDs unpaid for several years, most of this money from his youth has gone already.”

    Actually, he worked for the LDs for £15,000 a year from 1994, according to online sources.

    If he had to supplement that salary to the tune of several million pounds, he must have had very expensive tastes.

  • Incredible that at a time when the public interest demands a clean up of allegeded police, media and political corruption and the PM being scrutinised re his choice of friends and appointees, that the HoC thinks it’s appropriate to invite an MP who cheated on his expenses to sit on a financial committee.

  • Grammar Police 20th Jul '11 - 9:24pm

    @ Ivan and Squeedle – whilst I don’t condone the way he went about doing things, we should point out that had he put his claims through properly, he would have been entitled to more money. So the only person he did out of money, was himself.

  • @grammar police. I do not wish to sound flippant, but the crux of your point is that we should be thankful David did not have us over for even more money…! Quite a staggering position to take.

    Look, I have no beef with David. I just think that it is perverse he should be lauded for his financial prowess, while he was caught fiddling his expenses. These are the facts of the case.
    “Well Respected Financial Expert Submitted False Claims For Expenses”.
    Please tell me what part of that sentence is wrong?

  • @RichardF:
    The problem with the phrase “fiddling his expenses” is that implicitly it is taken to read “claimed more money than he was entitled to”. David Laws, by common admission, claimed less than he was entitled to. So before we get all high and mighty about false statements, perhaps we should consider the truth in assertions we are flinging about, eh?

    The fact that he could have claimed more does not make right the fact he broke the rules about claiming. Let’s look at a type of comparison. If a disabled man in receipt of ESA was found to have lied or not been 100% truthful on their application, he or she can be fined, have their benefits suspended for months or imprisoned depending on the severity of the case. Now let’s say the same disabled person was also eligible for more & higher rates of benefits (such as DLA,) which he did not apply for since he could not face the paperwork, more medical checks and bureaucracy. Breaking the rules or lying when applying for ESA does not excuse him from this because he didn’t claim more benefits, even though he would have been entitled to do so.

    Really, if the LibDems are serious about this so-called “new politics” and serious about cleaning up Westminster, then they should make sure Laws does not make a return to the government now. I know he is highly intelligent and I’m sure he is a decent man at heart, but he is supposed to be setting an example by being an MP. The fact that he is gay and wanted to hide it is neither here nor there, as most people these days could not care less about the gender our politicians are attracted to.

  • Ed Shepherd 21st Jul '11 - 8:04am

    David Laws has no money left, someone has said. He once had £1.3million, it is said above. Where did it go? What did he spend it on?

  • Richard F

    Your post reminds me of the apologosts from all the other parties’ supporters – ‘new’ politics?

    Just to put you right – in the circumstances he was living i.e. in the property of someone with whom he was in a relationship he was entitled to nothing – not more than the 40000. he was only entitled to more if he was living in another property and claiming that. So your point is wrong. Also, he was claiming for non-receipted expenses that dropped dramaticallly when he had to justify them. As I said above he was very lucky and the LD should focus on supporting othe members than him.

    Stop trying to rehabilitate him – the party would be better served by chucking him out

  • Other excuses that were given included promoting gender balance (with two male MPs tabling the motion), and the fact the he is English.

    Despite some of the opinions here, it remains that only a handful of MPs agreed that it was the right thing to vote against the appointment. I’m pleased to see they were able to make the most of the democratic process and force three votes to get that point across.

  • The rather dubious premise of the whole debate on this topic is that it is somehow a privilege for an MP to serve on a committee conducting detailed scrutiny of a draft piece of pretty technical legislation.

    Perpahs it should be but, in my experience, this sort of thing – while important for scrutiny purposes – tends to be, for a majority of MPs (of all parties), something they have to be cajoled or persuaded into doing, rather than them queueing up for it. This is very much at the workhorse end of an MP’s work rather than the glamorous end!

    Incidentally I suspect the reference to David Laws working unpaid refers to the period between the summer of 1999 and election 2001 when he had given up his party employment to be a full-time campaigner / parliamentary candidate.

  • “Where did it go? What did he spend it on?”

    Is it anyone’s business?

  • Kirsten de Keyser 22nd Jul '11 - 11:54am

    Big problem David Laws.

    No doubt one of the most financially competent people in the coalition, BUT…
    We’re currently questioning the quality of Cameron’s judgment regarding Coulson, so what does that do to our view of Laws’ judgment regarding his partner/expenses?

    Discuss

  • Paul Kennedy 23rd Jul '11 - 2:43pm

    The issue for me isn’t so much David’s expenses as the way he voted on tuition fees in December.

    It will take him and 27 other MPs (and by association the whole party even though most of us were screaming at them to stop) much longer to redeem themselves for breaking their personal pledges and voting against party policy.

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