Statement from David Laws

From a party news release:

David Laws, MP for Yeovil, today commented on the conclusion of the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and the Standards and Privileges Committee.

The Inquiry identified a number of breaches of rules, in particular it found that Mr. Laws was in breach of the partner rule, and should have designated his constituency home as his main home from 2004/05, on the basis of the nights spent test.

However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards accepted that Mr. Laws’ motivation was privacy and not financial benefit, and both the Commissioner and the Committee accept that his claims would have been “considerably more” if he had claimed in accordance with the rules.

The Inquiry received evidence from Mr. Laws that his claims would have been almost £30,000 higher over 2004-2010 if he had made these against his Somerset home, as the Commissioner has ruled that he should. There was therefore no loss to the taxpayer from the breach in rules.

On the issue of rental levels, the Commissioner has concluded that the amounts charged by Mr Laws were “broadly similar” to the levels of Assured Shorthold Tenancy rent estimated by his advisers. Although the Commissioner’s advisers suggested that the rent should be lower because Mr Laws had a lodging agreement with less legal security, the Committee and Commissioner have agreed that Mr Laws’ living arrangements were in fact more advantageous than the agreements documented.

Last June as the Commissioner stated “to his personal credit” Mr. Laws paid back all of his claims from July 2006 to July 2009, even though Mr Lyons has now concluded that he would have been entitled to more money if he had claimed correctly over this period.

David Laws MP said:

I accept the conclusions of the Inquiry and take full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made. I apologise to my constituents and to Parliament. Each of us should be our own sternest critic, and I recognise that my attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with my duty as an MP to ensure that my claims were in every sense above reproach. I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.

However, from the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.

I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the Committee. The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.

This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding.

Update: David Laws has now made a personal statement to the House of Commons. You can watch the video at BBC Democracy Live.

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63 Comments

  • Dave: I completely agree that politicians at all levels deserve privacy, and I feel extremely sorry for David Laws, but I can see that MPs must be seen to be scrupulously adherent to laws and regulations. I do hope he’s free to return to government (if any sane Lib Dem would want to at the moment).

  • “We need to get away from this prurient tabloid culture of gossip and rumour, and let people who are good constituency representatives and lawmakers get on with their jobs.”

    This isn’t about the tabloid culture (which is despicable), it is about knowingly breaking the rules. If you are not prepared to keep to the rules of an organisation do not belong to it. Sorry but it really is that simple.

    I’m also not sure being a gay MP is even an issue anymore.

  • In my view this man is a fraud and a swindler, and should be expelled from the Party for bringing it into disrepute. There is a huge difference between “privacy” and “secrecy”.

    So much for “new politics”.

  • ‘I’m also not sure being a gay MP is even an issue anymore.’ – I think it almost certainly is.

    But perhaps more importantly you are spot on about the ‘rules’ which is why those flipping their homes seem to have got away with it because it was ‘within the rules’ though wrong, whilst those who – perfectly reasonably – pay their partner rent (as I would expect to do) suffer because they broke the rules but not the spirit.

  • @Fiona – Please develop your point and explain the difference in this case between secrecy and privacy?

  • Why did the LDs so fiercely attack Labour and Tory MPs who broke the rules but now go easy on their own guy who broke the rules?

    And you lot claim you are not tribal!

  • Henry, he could quite easily have protected his privacy by properly designating his constituency home as his second home. But that would have meant his partner would have missed out on a nice little allwance courtesy of the taxpayer. Had he wanted to protect his privacy, he could have made sure his claims were above reproach. It was his desire for secrecy, to cover up his scam, which got him into trouble. Read the report:

    “30. Although we entirely accept the Commissioner’s assessment that London was Mr Laws’ main home from April 2005, it is understandable that up until July 2006, when the rules and their interpretation were not subject to as much scrutiny as now, Mr Laws was able to convince himself that Somerset was his main home, given that it was the property on which he had a mortgage. However, even if that mistaken decision was explicable, Mr Laws needed to establish a proper market rent for the London property. The method used would be acceptable for private individuals seeking to set a price for an arrangement they were funding themselves; it was not acceptable where public money was concerned. If Mr Laws was reluctant to consult the Department, he could have taken advice from a property professional, who could have helped identify both an appropriate form of tenure, and a reasonable rent.

    31. By denying himself the advice of the Department of Resources or property professionals over a period of more than 5 years, Mr Laws failed to ensure his claims were above reproach. In fact, even if renting from a partner had been permissible, the arrangement for Mr Laws’ first property, as the Commissioner said, “represented a very good deal for the landlord. It was not a good—or reasonable—deal for the House.”[32] In our view the breach of the rules in relation to the second property was still more serious, in that Mr Laws had made significant financial contributions to the purchase and upgrading of the property. Such commitments are unusual between landlord and tenant, or even between friends. In consequence he should have had no doubt that he and his landlord were “partners” for the purposes of the Green Book.

    32. It is clear that Mr Laws recognized that there was potential conflict between the public interest and his private interest. By omitting to seek advice he made himself the sole judge of whether that conflict was properly resolved. It was inappropriate for him to be judge and jury in his own cause. As the Commissioner comments, it can never be acceptable to submit misleading documents to those charged with overseeing public finances. As this case shows, Mr Laws’ desire for secrecy led him to act in a way which was not compatible with the standards expected of an MP.”

    Note in particular the last sentence of paragraph 32.

    As I say, in my view this man should be expelled from the party. Quite apart from the fact that he has brought the party into disrepute, desperate pleas for his return make the party look desperately lacking in talent.

  • I would recommend reading the full report which is on the web.

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/standards-and-privileges/

    Whilst I do have some sympathy for him, it is clear he knowingly broke the rules. Private citizens are not entitled to choose which regulations (imposed by parliament) we follow and which we do not. If we do not follow them we can be punished, whatever our motives. He specifically mentioned expenses when seeking re-election, and he did so knowing he was breaking rules.

    For those who think this is purely a technical breach, consider the punishment. 7 days suspension may not seem severe, but it is actually pretty significant in terms of the commons. Any suspension is not considered lightly as it, in effect, leaves the people of the constituency without representation..

  • Henry – Fiona doesn’t like Laws’ political views.

    He can’t come back soon enough IMO.

  • Selective reporting. Lyons said that the deception was “serious” and the sums involved “substantial”. And the defence that he could have claimed more, doesn’t hold water. He could only have claimed more if he had a joint mortgage, which he didn’t have. If his relationship had been open he still would not have been able to pay his lover rent from expenses.

  • Mark, you can dress this up any way you like, but you can’t alter the fact that his actions were most certainly not above reproach. He himself accepts that, and so should you. If he and his partner didn’t make any money out of it, why did he pay back over £50,000? I’d say it was because he’d been caught bang to rights. Why do you think he paid the money back, if he thought he hadn’t scammed it in the first place?

  • I’m sorry but the argument that he could have claimed more doesn’t wash. His partner was enriched to the tune of 40 grand in clear contravention of the rules. In any other walk of life he would be sacked and prosecuted for fraud. If Laws returns to the Cabinet the message you will be sending out is that you approve of a society in which the rich and powerful are treated leniently while the poor are treated mercilessly.

  • Imagine this – an unemployed woman gets Local Housing Allowance of £400 per month to meet the costs of renting a place to live. Later she meets, falls in love and moves in with a guy. But instead of stopping claiming LHA, she makes out that her boyfriend is actually her landlord and gets £300 per month LHA (she doesn’t claim as much as she could do).

    If that happened then that woman would be facing a prison sentence when caught. I’m not suggesting that David Laws should be in prison but what’s liberal about the poor being convicted while the rich and powerful get a slap on the wrist?

  • Bill Kristol-Balls 12th May '11 - 1:24pm

    @ Fiona

    What a great scam he pulled. Giving up a highly paid job in the city to become a Lib Dem researcher on £14k a year so that in time he could become an unpaid candidate for Parliament, eventually win a seat and then claim substantially less then he might have done.

    It’s the crime of the century and no doubt about it.

    Joking aside, all MPs are ultimately responsible to their constituents and if as seems the case, they want him to continue then continue he should. Cameron has said there isn’t going to be a major reshuffle until 2012 anyway so I would guess 2 years out of office would be fair enough punishment.

  • I heard Paddy Ashdown suggesting that Laws ‘penance’ for use of a better word, was harsher than that meted out to Jaqui Smith.
    One wonders why he didn’t choose to make a comparison with those MP’s currently serving a prison sentence.

  • In his apology speech, David Laws came over as a serious and honourable person.
    Perhaps people will compare his dignity with the hysterical ranting on the blog of former hedgefunder Paul Staines who tries to dignify his political malice and male chauvinism as Guido Fawkes. We know what happened to the real Guy Fawkes so perhaps his impersonator will get his comeuppance one day when someone discovers a blemish on his career.
    Staines blog appears to be trying to outdo sunday tabloids in desperate attempts to destroy senior Libdems. First Cable, then Laws and Huhne and Teather, with minor attempts at Lamb and Farron.

  • Glad to see the Daily Mail ‘we got him bang to rights’ brigade are out in force 🙂

    Joking aside, I find it quite disturbing that people can actually persist in claiming Laws carried out some kind of ‘scam’ when the report makes it crystal clear that he was entitled to substantially more money than he actually claimed for. So much for rational conclusions.

    As Frank Field commented, there were MPs who clearly milked the system and broke the spirit (even if not the letter) of the rules, and they received no censure at all. While David Laws broke the letter of the rules but not the spirit of them – resulting in a discout for the taxpayer at his own expense – and he gets a 7 day suspension. Where’s the justice in that? The whole system is a mess – just pay them a flat-rate allowance and be done with it. The receipts system is likely to be far more expensive due to admin costs.

  • I think people are focussin gon the wrong element. The fact that he could have claimed more money isn’t the issue. It’s the fact that he knowingly broke the financial rules of his organisation. Why then should he be trusted with the finances of the country. Would a company have a finance director who had previously been found guilty of financial impropriety ?

    The Lib Dems have (rightly) highlighted the failings of the political system, and of politicians breaking the rules, to the electorate. Is it not therefore hypocrisy to then suggest that one their own should be somehow immune because of the reason he broke the rules, or because he could have milked the system for more ?

    I think the fact that such a capable person is stopped from holding ministerial office (and my preference would be for the duration of this parliament) sends a clear signal to all that the rules must be observed or the penalties will be significant. In fact I want like to see that in the minesterial code.

  • “Glad to see the Daily Mail ‘we got him bang to rights’ brigade are out in force”
    Of course if it was George Osbourne or Oliver Letwin it would be the mob from the Guardian…
    The hypocrisy is of those that believe that breaking the rules is OK as long as it’s one of theirs…

    This was exactly how Labour were over Mandelson. I don’t care what party someone is from, if they want to be an MP they should follow the rules required of them.

    “While David Laws broke the letter of the rules but not the spirit of them ”

    In what way is knowingly misleading the claims office not breaking the spirit of the rules. Even he has admitted this much…

  • I geddit! “Gay man, privacy, elderly parents, technical matter, no financial benefit, could have claimed £30k more!, unduly harsh, double standards, we need him back, it’s all Labour’s fault…eeer, that’s it.”

    Never mind the conclusions, the Commissioner’s FINDINGS OF FACT make interesting reading:

    5. The Commissioner has set out a series of factual findings. These are summarised below.

    Mr Laws owned a substantial house in Somerset from 1999, on which he had a mortgage. On his election in 2001, he designated this as his main home, and this designation remained until 2010. Mr Laws had a mortgage on this property, which was increased in 2007.
    Mr Laws lived with his landlord in London in a flat owned by the landlord, on which there was a mortgage, from 2000-2007. Mr Laws claimed for the cost of rental and other services from the ACA.
    In July 2007, Mr Laws and his landlord moved to a second London property. This was financed in part by a gift of £99,000 from Mr Laws. Mr Laws remortgaged his Somerset property to provide this sum. Rental costs, utilities, council tax, phone, cleaning service and maintenance and repairs were claimed against this property, as they had been for the previous property. Mr Laws also contributed substantially to other costs which he did not claim against Parliamentary allowances.
    With the exception of his claims for rent, Mr Laws’ monthly claims against each heading were under the threshold for which invoices and receipts needed to be submitted.
    Throughout the period, Mr Laws deposited a series of rental agreements with the House authorities. Mr Laws and his landlord did not take professional advice on these agreements, and based the rental amounts on information in estate agents’ advertisements and on the internet.

    Are we to assume that Mr Laws’ partner (I hope that’s no longer in dispute!) derived no tax-payer funded benefit from this arrangement?

    “…between 2004 and 2007, Mr Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month to sub-let a room in a flat in […], south London. This flat was owned by the MP’s partner who was also registered as living at the property. The partner sold the flat for a profit of £193,000 in 2007.” The article said that in 2007 Mr Laws’ partner had bought a house nearby for £510,000; that Mr Laws then begun claiming for the cost of renting the “second bedroom” in this property where his partner also lived; that his claims had increased to £920 a month…”

    It is suggested that Mr Laws could have claimed substantially more by designating his second home differently. That is mere speculation, is it not? There is still a basic requirement to provide receipts. Besides the overarching need to behave with propriety and probity.

    Wasn’t Mr Laws know for his acuity and acumen?

    I despair!

  • What ever excuse people want to make for Laws, the fact remains that it was a calculated deceit. The way how he went about helping to finance the purchase of his lover’s property just goes to show this.

  • As someone else has pointed out on this thread.

    Mr Laws would not have been entitled to claim more, had his expenses been for mortgage instead of rent, due to the fact that to have been able to claim for mortgage Interest Payments, Mr Laws would have needed to have been named on the Mortgage papers as a joint Borrower.

    Since MR Laws was not on the papers as joint owner, in No way could he have claimed for interest payments.

    MR Laws instead concocted a tenancy agreement between himself and his partner in order to be able to claim rent, which as we know (is against the rules)

    No Matter how the Government or the Liberal Democrats try to dress this up, Mr Laws “knowingly” broke parliamentary rules and behaved in a way which is not fit for public office.

    Mr Laws should do the right thing and resign, or at the very least, call a by-election in his constituency and allow the public to decide whether they wish to re-elect him or not.

  • Patrick Smith 12th May '11 - 4:37pm

    The David Laws claims case was clearly one of a totally different order and motivated by his intention to secure privacy and not for venality.He has admitted his mistake.

    He is a gifted and talented top table Liberal politician and Editor of the `Orange Book’ a brilliant communicator in the media and a major asset,in any role, when he returns to the `Coalition Government’.

  • In what way is knowingly misleading the claims office not breaking the spirit of the rules. Even he has admitted this much…

    No, he admitted that he broke the rules. My point was that the rules were intended to prevent MPs and their families from personally profiting – that’s what I’d call the spirit of the rules. David Laws did NOT profit from his breach of the rules. If he hadn’t wanted to protect his privacy, he and his partner would simply have set up a joint mortgage, for which he would have claimed – legitimately – a far greater sum than he claimed in rent. Since he didn’t profit (quite the opposite in fact) I fail to see how he broke the spirit of the rules.

    OTOH, MPs who flipped their properties to avoid paying Capital Gains Tax may not have breached the letter of the rules, but since they personally profited from it I would certainly condemn them as breaking the spirit of the rules, which is to prevent MPs playing the system for their own personal gain.

    And no, I wouldn’t have a different opinion if this was happening to a Labour or Conservative MP. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of the allegations against Mandelson, but personally I never had any problem with his return to government. And I would defend any MP of any party against the kind of arbitrary (and IMO unjust) treatment that Laws has been subjected to. The unlucky Conservative MP with his infamous duck house, for example – who was endlessly pilloried even though he never even claimed expenses for the sodding thing. And Jacquie Smith being criticised because of an accidental claim for a porn film watched by her husband, that she almost certainly had no knowledge of whatsoever (most husbands would hardly advertise their porn viewing habits to their spouse).

    There were some MPs who made genuinely dodgy claims and played the system for profit (like the house flipping) and a tiny handful of actually fraudulent ones (which have quite rightly ended up in court), but that doesn’t justify the ensuing feeding frenzy. I imagine many decent people have been put off the idea of becoming an MP after watching their treatment over the past two years.

  • @Catherine
    None of your points change the fact that as an MP then Cabinet Member he had an obligation to live by a set of rules. If he did not wish to follow them he either needed to stop being an MP or seek their change. He did neither, he lied. Claiming benefits based upon a lie is against both the lettter and the spirit of the rules whether for profit or not.

    If you wish to play a role in looking after the nations finance you should expect to be held to a high standard of integrity, he fell short. It may be a travesty for him personally, and some would argue for the country, but it sends a clear signal that MP’s cannot flout rules whatever they may think of them. I can’t drive at 40 down my road, even though it’s probably safe to do so. If I do and am caught by the police or a camera, whatever my reasoning, I must face the consequences.

    There is also the myth that he somehow came clean regarding this. He did so after being exposed. This wasn’t some realism that he shouldn’t make false claims, more that he was caught. The vile part is where people make an issue of the fact he is gay. My viewpoint is that this is simply not relevant to the issue.

    This is particulalry true as he stood on an integrity ticket along with every other Lib Dem MP.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 12th May '11 - 5:52pm

    Is it fraud ?

    Ex-MP David Chayter – Fraud amounting to £18,350 = 18 months prison
    Ex-MP Jim Devine – Fraud amounting to £8,385 = 16 months prison

    David Laws – Fraud (?) amounting to £40,000 = off the hook?!? Should he be penalised like the others?

    Have the questions been answered? Lots of people commit fraud for all sorts of reasons, many of which arise from very genuine and human emotions, and they often volunteer to pay the money back. But nevertheless they still end up in court. Should David Laws be treated any differently?

  • ^^ Up to the police and the CPS isn’t it? Fortunately we have not yet got to the stage of having a load of frothing internet bloggers decide who is innocent and guilty in today’s society although we are getting dangerously close.

    I am sure the electorate of Yeovil, will, in time decide on David Laws’s fate. Perhaps we should leave it to them to decide whether he is fit and proper to be an MP; after all, they employ him.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 12th May '11 - 6:26pm

    Cogload

    I don’t disagree with you. But I would have thought and hoped that all cases where someone made a false claim for £40,000 of expenses would be looked at by the police. I don’t actually think judgements as to motivation and/or whether the claimant could have claimed more are really matters that should be considered by internet bloggers who only have access to a partial picture and are not able to question the suspect.

  • I’d like to draw a parallel with the armed forces if I may.

    Someone who is gay and wanted access to armed forces housing (the rent is substantially lower than market rates) for themselves and their partner would have to effectively go public with their sexuality by:

    1. Having to be in a civil partnership to qualify for it.
    2. As a result of living in the house making it obvious to their colleagues their sexuality.

    If this hypothetical individual wanted to keep their sexuality private and still wanted to live with their partner they would have to pay more for their accommodation in the private sector.

    The point is that if you value your privacy sometimes you have to pay for it. He was dishonest. The money side of it is an irrelevance.

  • Tony Dawson 12th May '11 - 7:20pm

    “He is a gifted and talented top table Liberal politician ….a brilliant communicator in the media ”

    Most political parties have, in their upper echelons, a substantial fraction of brilliant communicators who can sometimes have poor judgement – and sometimes have repeatedly-poor judgement..

  • Tony Dawson 12th May '11 - 7:22pm

    “I imagine many decent people have been put off the idea of becoming an MP after watching their treatment over the past two years.”

    I doubt very much whether this issue has affected the judgement of a single person in any Party who might have any serious chance of ever being elected as an MP. Most MPs have not been bothered by this issue in the least except being tarred with the same brush as those who have got themselves into deep doo doo.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th May '11 - 8:16pm

    David Laws – Fraud (?) amounting to £40,000 = off the hook?!?

    He is “off the hook”, as you put it, precisely because it has been determined that this was not fraud. Fraud requires an intended or actual personal financial gain; this was an intended and actual personal financial loss. As such it does not meet the requirements in law to be considered fraud.

    It doesn’t matter what you say about “right” or “wrong” or “fit for office” here: the law is clear. It’s not fraud if you set out to lose money and you do lose money.

  • Do we think, after this experience, Laws will suffer from Judge Dread?

  • Everyone seems very keen to ignore the fact that, during the election campaign, David Laws made great play of his integrity over the expenses scandal. Those who say the voters will deliver their verdict should recognise that they were denied that opportunity last year.

    I seem to remember a great deal of enthusiasm for the power of recall in situations like these. Has that enthusiasm now evaporated?

    One option for Laws would be to resign his seat and then stand again – allowing the voters to decide whether he is fit to represent them.

  • I should also have pointed out that he got 55% of the vote last time. I’m sure he would win and the voters would have spoken.

  • Old Codger Chris 12th May '11 - 10:13pm

    The rules were ridiculous – and perhaps still are. For me, the worst example was the Labour MP for Luton South claiming for work on a house in SOUTHAMPTON.

    But the fact that the law is often an ass doesn’t alter each person’s moral duty to behave honestly – and that counts double for MPs. As an Orange Booker Mr Laws may have few scruples about legislation which is likely to put an increasing number of men, women and children out on the street. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for him?

    I don’t care how talented he’s supposed to be, he should be suspended from the party for (perhaps) a minimum of six months. And that’s being lenient.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 12th May '11 - 11:05pm

    Andrew Suffield

    I didn’t say he was off the hook. I didn’t say it was fraud. I was asking questions – that is what question marks symbolise. You are wrong that a view has been taken as to whether or not it is fraud – that was not the job of the parlimentary investigaton to determine. Fraud would be a matter for the police to look into, the CPS to detrmine whether to prosecute and then for the courts to decide. And as for not seeking an intended or actual financial gain – that is highly debateable – there are plent of cases whare those commiting fraud have paid the money back but that does not stop a sucessful prosecution (it might be offered as a plea in mitigation) and I don’t think the defence of I could have claimed more if I had claimed for something else would normally carry much leverage in the courts. I also believe that Laws has a very strong plea he could offer in mitigation because he wanted to keep his private life private (and I have said so previously on this forum) – and many fraudsters often have very tragic circumstances and make similar pleas in mitigation. But that is not really an argument that the police should not investigate. You may wish to put forward the argument about parlimentary sovereignty – but I don’t thing that Chaylor and co got very far with that (and quite rightly so).. All I’m saying is that the law should be brought to bear on Laws in the same way as it would be applied to anyone else.

    If you or i or anyone else was to submit a claim for expenses to our employees for £40k which was in breach of the rules then I very much suspect that our employees would submit the matter to the police to look into. If the police look into and decide they don’t want to take the matter further then that is good enough for me – I just want MPs to be subject to the same processes as everyone else.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 12th May '11 - 11:14pm

    @Andrew Suffield

    It doesn’t matter what you say about “right” or “wrong” or “fit for office” here: the law is clear. It’s not fraud if you set out to lose money and you do lose money.

    He submitted an expense claim for an expense to which he was not entitled – and the claim was then paid. How does that act not consitute personal gain! The report also made it clear that rents above the market level were claimed, I don’t think that the fact that he could have arranged his affairs differently and complied with the rules would actually cut much ice if the matter were ever brought to court – if I had done X and Y instead I wouldn’t have needed to submit a false expenses claim doesn’t sound very convincing to me I’m afraid.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th May '11 - 11:23pm

    I was asking questions – that is what question marks symbolise.

    When they come from a known party shill like you, they merely symbolise tacky rhetoric.

    doesn’t sound very convincing to me I’m afraid

    An amusing line from somebody who not 11 minutes before was claiming that nobody other than the police and CPS could decide this question. Make up your mind – is this your decision based on your partisan opinion, or is it somebody else’s? Or is it whatever is more convenient for you in the current sentence?

  • “One law for Laws, one law for Labour”:-
    http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=uk

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 9:40am

    “When they come from a known party shill like you, they merely symbolise tacky rhetoric.

    doesn’t sound very convincing to me I’m afraid”

    I am not sure what a party shill is perhaps you could explain based on your indepth knowledge.

    There is a subtle difference between asking and deciding questions which you don’t seem to appreciate. As for answering them – this is something that you seem to avoid/ignore, presumably on the grounds that it is too difficult..

    Perhaps I should persevere with a further question – if someone in normal employment made a false claim for £40k of expenses do you really think that an argument that they did not claim for a greater amount of expenses for something else on the grounds of embarassment should really be taken as reason for saying that no fraud had occurred and that the matetr shouldn’t be referred to the police? Or do you believe that there is as special case to be made for MPs.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 9:51am

    From Wikipedia

    A shill or plant is a person who helps another person or organization to sell goods or services without disclosing that he or she has a close relationship with the seller. The shill pretends to have no association with the seller/group and gives onlookers the impression that he or she is an enthusiastic independent customer.

    For the avoidance of doubt I don’t think I have ever claimed to be independent from the Labour Party – as always I continue to be a proud member and supporter of my Party and I don’t think I have ever tried to hide it or claim otherwise. I await Mr Suffield’s apology – but I’m not holding my breath.

  • “If David Laws had done what you suggest he should have, and designated his home in that way, he would have been able to claim around £30,000 *more* than what he did.”

    Presumably this is how he justified in his own mind claiming rent that was judged to be “excessive” for the accommodation concerned?

  • Moving away from the tiff between @Andrew Suffield and @toryboysnevergrowup and back to the question of fraud. I believe the BBC covered this when it said that the Police and CPS had decided not to prosecute, I think this section was later removed when the actual report was published.

    I have been and remain critical of Laws, but I do not believe he should be tried for fraud as this is where I agree the arguments about amounts claimed come into play.

    It is therefore for me an argument about integrity and not legality. After all the problems with expenses the rules need to be seen top be followed and the penalties harshly applied where they are not.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 11:16am

    “I believe the BBC covered this when it said that the Police and CPS had decided not to prosecute, I think this section was later removed when the actual report was published. ”

    There is nothing on this in the actual report – I checked before commenting. As I’ve already said whether it should be tried or not would be a matter for the Police/CPS who usually have well defined processes for deciding such matters – but I do believe that best practice would certainly be to refer a “false claim “(the Commissioner’s words not mine) for £40k of expenses to the Police, regardless of what the mitigating factors are..

    Re the integrity argument – I actually have a lot of sympathy for Law’s motivations – especially when there are others who played the second homes systems within the rules for considerably greater financial gains. But legality and morality are two different things.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 11:19am

    It should be noted that it is a common position held by most experts in corporate fraud that it is important for companies to report potential instances of fraud to the authorities – if only to give a signal as to how seriously fraud is considered and to discourage future fraudsters.

  • @Toryboysnevergrowup
    ‘abuse of position, or false representation, or prejudicing someone’s rights for personal gain’.
    From the SFO’s website. He didn’t gain, in fact potentially lost so I don’t think it can be fraud..

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 12:34pm

    Steve Way – he clearly did gain from the false claim on his London property when that act is considered in isolation. As I have already mentioned I don’t think you can argue that he could have made other claims/redesignated he first and second properties differently so that he didn’t have to make the false claim. I took something else from someone because I didn’t want to invoice them legally for something they owed me, since it would be embarassing to do so, doesn’t sound a very convincing argument or behaviour that should be encouraged I’m afraid.

  • @toryboysnevergrowup
    There needs to be an intent to gain. It has been accepted, even by his detractors that this is not the case..

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th May '11 - 1:06pm

    Steve Way

    So he didn’t submit the false expenses claim with the intent of getting it paid. Seems unlikely to me – but I don’t think that it is me (or you or others for that matter) to consider and decide whether this is the case – this is why we have the Police and CPS.

  • “There needs to be an intent to gain. It has been accepted, even by his detractors that this is not the case..”

    But the question has to be why – if he had no intent to gain – he claimed what was found to be an “excessive” amount in relation to the accommodation he was paying for.

  • It is entirely possible that David Laws could have received more money from the taxpayer by treating his London home as his primary residence and his Somerset home as his secondary home. However there would have been a political cost to doing that. One of the political weaknesses of David Laws is that he is not seen as a local and he has not put down the sort of roots here that Paddy Ashdown so successfully did. If David Laws had listed his home as London that have been difficult to explain to his constituency.

  • “Steve Way
    Posted 13th May 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
    @toryboysnevergrowup
    There needs to be an intent to gain. It has been accepted, even by his detractors that this is not the case..”

    What nonsense. There merely has to be an intent to cause a loss to another person. In any event Laws profited to the extent that a conected person (his partner) was in receipt of rent reimbursed by the taxpayer, which is explicitly forbidden under HoC rules.

    A further point is that Laws’ partner was only able to pay for the equity in the building because of a £99,000 gift from Laws. It seems that the gift was made so that Laws would not be seen to be the landlord himself.

  • Steve Wilson 13th May '11 - 6:01pm

    The partisan support for Mr Laws is the sort of thing that gets right up the noses of people like myself who don’t have any allegiance to a party anymore.

    He’s a millionaire, if privacy was the issue then he didn’t need to claim a penny, did he?
    He certainly didn’t need to claim more than he should (well over market rates)
    He couldn’t have claimed more and I’m fed up with people trotting this out. It has been shown upthread that this was not possible.
    He did what several MPs were doing, not maliciously perhaps, but certainly with the air of a man who thought he would never have to answer for what he was doing.
    His claims benefited and enriched a third party who would not otherwise have benefited.

    The whole episode – his actions and the subsequent weasel wording from other MPs and supporters are exactly what is wrong with our political class. He shouldn’t have done it, he didn’t need to do it, he enriched someone through the public purse. It was wrong and the rest of it stinks. I don’t want him pilloried or prosecuted but I also don’t want to see him back in public life as if nothing matters.

  • Old Codger Chris 13th May '11 - 8:22pm

    From The Guardian 27th May 2010 (ie during Laws’ brief period as a minister) –
    “Laws – who is proud to own no filing cabinets – thrilled the Tory backbenches on Monday by announcing £6.2bn worth of cuts and then again on Wednesday by getting up in the chamber and defending them zealously”.

    But it’s OK for this millionaire – whose millions are from banking not real business – to falsely claim £40k of OUR money provided he repays it.

    And if it’s true – as reported – that it was Section 28 which caused him not to join the Tories under Thatcher, he might as well join them now, as Cameron has apologised for Section 28 and Laws is unlikely to assist Clegg’s belated attempts to create a clear distinction between the coalition partners.

  • Kevin Colwill 16th May '11 - 9:04pm

    The Laws debacle has thrown a couple of points into sharp relief.

    The first is that the Lib Dems are no less hypocritical than other parties in damning the misdemeanours of politicians in other parties whilst bending over backwards to forgive similar misdemeanours amongst their own people.

    The more substantive point is that Laws is confirmed on economic right and the fulsome support for him demonstrates just how much common cause the Lib Dems have with the Tories. Good news for the coalition, rubbish news for left of centre (former) Lib Dem voters.

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