David Laws: “Privacy, not greed, was my motivation”

Cabinet minister issues statement following newspaper revelations about £40,000 expenses claims.

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The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, has a apologised for his conduct following a newspaper story this morning which revealed that he had been claiming rent on a room in his partner's house.

Laws said he would pay back the money claimed. The Daily Telegraph, which ran the story, says the expenses amount to £40,000. In a statement issued in the past hour, he said:

I've been involved in a relationship with James Lundie since around 2001 -- about two years after first moving in with him. Our relationship has been unknown to both family and friends throughout that time.

I claimed back the costs of sharing a home in Kennington with James from 2001 to June 2007.

In June 2007 James bought a new home in London and I continued to claim back my share of the costs.

I extended the mortgage on my Somerset property -- for which I do not claim any allowances or expenses -- to help James purchase the new property.

In 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prohibit payments to partners.

At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as "one of a couple . . . who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses".

Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses -- for example, we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

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 until August 2009.

James and I are intensely private people. We made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right. Clearly that cannot now remain the case.

My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality.

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

I have also referred myself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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