David Laws

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For other people named David Laws, see David Laws (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
David Laws
MP
David Laws MP at Bournemouth.jpg
Minister of State for the Cabinet Office
Incumbent
Assumed office
4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Position created
Minister of State for Schools
Incumbent
Assumed office
4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Nick Gibb
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
12 – 29 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Liam Byrne
Succeeded by Danny Alexander
Member of Parliament
for Yeovil
Incumbent
Assumed office
7 June 2001
Preceded by Paddy Ashdown
Majority 13,036 (22.8%)
Personal details
Born (1965-11-30) 30 November 1965 (age 48)
Farnham, Surrey, England
Political party Liberal Democrats
Domestic partner James Lundie (2001–present)[1]
Residence Chard, Somerset, England
Alma mater King's College, Cambridge

David Anthony Laws PC (born 30 November 1965) is the British Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Yeovil, and the Minister of State for Schools and the Cabinet Office, where he has a cross-departmental role working on the Coalition Agreement and government policy.

Laws was briefly a Cabinet Minister in 2010, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He held office for 17 days before resigning due to the disclosure of his Parliamentary expenses claims, described by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee as "a series of serious breaches of the rules, over a considerable period of time".[2] In consequence of the breaches he was suspended from Parliament by vote of the House of Commons.

After a career in investment banking, Laws became an economic adviser and later Director of Policy and Research for the Liberal Democrats. In 2001, he was elected as the MP for Yeovil, the seat previously represented by former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.

In 2004, he co-edited The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism, followed by Britain After Blair in 2006. After the 2010 general election, Laws led negotiations for the Liberal Democrats which resulted in a coalition with the Conservative Party.

Early life and education[edit]

Laws was born in Farnham, Surrey,[3] son of a Conservative voting father who was a banker, and a Labour voting mother. He would later joke that he was the "perfect fusion" as a Liberal Democrat.[4] He has an older brother and a younger sister, both adopted.[5]

Laws was educated at fee-paying independent schools: Woburn Hill School in the town of Weybridge, Surrey, from 1974 to 1979;[4] and St George's College, Weybridge, a Roman Catholic day school in the same town, from 1979 to 1984. Regarded as a skilled speaker in intellectual argument, he won the national Observer Schools Mace Debating Championship in 1984.[4]

Laws graduated in 1987 from King's College, Cambridge, with a double first in economics.[6]

Career[edit]

Laws went into investment banking, becoming a Vice President at JP Morgan from 1987 to 1992 and then a Managing Director, being the Head of US Dollar and Sterling Treasuries at Barclays de Zoete Wedd.

He left in 1994, to take up the role of economic adviser to the Liberal Democrats, on a salary of £15,000 per year.[7] He unsuccessfully contested Folkestone and Hythe in 1997, against Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard. From 1997–99 he was the Liberal Democrats's Director of Policy and Research.

Following the 1999 Scottish Parliament election, Laws played a leading advisory role in the negotiation of the Scottish Parliament coalition agreement with Labour, as the UK party's then Policy Director.[8]

Laws' wealth is estimated as £1-2m.[9]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Laws at the Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2008

Laws had joined the Liberal Democrat back office at the same time as Nick Clegg while the party was led by Paddy Ashdown. When Ashdown resigned the leadership of the party and then decided to stand down as an MP, Laws was selected for his seat. Both would walk the constituency in what former Royal Marine Ashdown described as mufti attire; but on election day, Laws wore tailored suits.[10]

After his election to parliament, Laws became a member of the Treasury Committee, and in November 2001 he was appointed the party's deputy Defence spokesman. In 2002 he became Lib Dem "shadow" Chief Secretary to the Treasury and launched "a spending review".

He was the co-editor of the Orange Book, published in 2004. In 2005, he was appointed the Liberal Democrats' Work and Pensions spokesman, a position in which he was critical of the government's handling of the Child Support Agency and flaws in the tax credits system. He was subsequently the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Children, Schools and Families.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne offered Laws a seat in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, but was rebuffed, with Laws saying "I am not a Tory, and if I merely wanted a fast track to a top job, I would have acted on this instinct a long time ago."[11][12] Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007, Laws announced that he would not be a candidate for the leadership of the party.[13]

Government[edit]

Following the 2010 general election, Laws was one of the main negotiators for the Liberal Democrats, part of the team of four that negotiated a deal to go into a governing coalition with the Conservatives.[14] His account of the coalition's formation was published in November 2010 as 22 Days in May.[15]

Laws was one of five Liberal Democrats to obtain Cabinet positions when the coalition was formed, becoming Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tasked with cutting spending in order to reduce the UK deficit.[16] He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.[17]

Laws' predecessor Liam Byrne, wrote a note to his successor as Chief Secretary to the Treasury which read "Dear Chief Secretary, I'm afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam". Byrne said the letter was meant as a private joke but Laws published it,[18] slightly misquoting it (from memory) at a press briefing as "I’m afraid to tell you there's no money left". Looking back in 2013 he said that he had thought the note was a joke but that he felt it was in poor taste given the poor state of the economy. He had not expected the revelation of the contents of the note to be taken as significantly as they were.[19]

Outlining spending cuts in May 2010, Laws said Child Trust Fund payments would be axed by January 2011. He said halting these payments to newborns from the end of the year – and the top-up payments – would save £520m. Mr Laws said: "The years of public sector plenty are over, but the more decisively we act the quicker and stronger we can come through these tough times." He said that "We also promise to cut with care, we are going to be a progressive government even in these tough times".[20] Iain Martin of the Wall Street Journal published an article on Laws's early performance and described him as a "potential future prime minister"[21]

Expenses scandal, resignation and suspension from Parliament[edit]

Laws speaking in 2013

On 28 May 2010, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that Laws had claimed more than £40,000 on his expenses in the form of second home costs, from 2004 to late 2009,[22] during which time he had been renting rooms at properties owned by what the newspaper claimed to be his "secret lover" and "long-term partner", James Lundie. They were not in a civil partnership. The Daily Telegraph had not intended to reveal his sexuality, but Laws himself did so, in a public statement shortly before the newspaper's publication of the story.[1] Lundie is a former Liberal Democrat Press officer and now works for the Political Affairs team of public relations and lobbying firm, Edelman.[23]

Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month rent between 2004 and 2007, plus typically £100 to £200 a month for maintenance, to rent a room in a flat owned and lived in by Lundie in Kennington, South London.[1] After the flat was sold for a profit of £193,000 in 2007, Lundie bought a nearby house for £510,000. Laws then began claiming rent for the "second bedroom" in this property, at a cost of £920 a month, until September 2009. Laws then began renting another flat. This flat was not owned by Lundie, who remained at the Kennington house. Since 2006, parliamentary rules have banned MPs from "leasing accommodation from... a partner."[1] Laws also maintained his main home in Chard in his Yeovil constituency,[3] as well as a holiday home he owned in Provence, France.[4]

Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 29 May 2010,[24] stating that he could not carry on working on the Comprehensive Spending Review while dealing with the private and public implications of the revelations.[25] He claimed that his reason for the way he had claimed expenses had been to keep private details of his sexuality and that he had not benefited financially from this misdirection.

In May 2011 the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards reported to the Standards and Privileges Committee on his investigation into the conduct of Laws. The Committee concluded that Laws was guilty of breaking six rules with regard to MPs' expenses. The Commissioner reported that none of Laws's claims for the London properties was acceptable under the rules. but that he had not intended to benefit himself or Lundie directly. In addition to finding against Laws with regard to the payment of rent to his friend, the investigation had also found irregularities in payments for phone bills and building work.[26]

The Standards and Privileges Committee concluded that "... the rental agreements submitted [by Laws] between 2003 and 2008 were misleading and designed to conceal the nature of the relationship. They prevented any examination of the arrangements that in fact pertained over the entire period". Further, his claims for rent were in excess of market levels for a lodging agreement, and a market level agreement would not have included contributions from the lodger towards building repairs and maintenance, which Laws also claimed.[2]

After being found guilty, Laws was suspended from the House of Commons for 7 days [27] by MPs in a House of Commons vote on 16 May 2011.[28]

Laws claimed to the Inquiry that his claims could have been almost £30,000 higher over 2004–2010 if he had made claims in respect of his Somerset home. However, no rent was in fact payable on that dwelling, because he owned it.[citation needed] Laws claimed there to be no loss to the taxpayer from the various breaches of the rules. The commissioner stated "I have no evidence that Mr Laws made his claims with the intention of benefiting himself or his partner in conscious breach of the rules."[29] Olly Grender, who was the Liberal Democrat's Communications Director in 1997, writing in the New Statesman asserted that "If he had allocated his constituency home as his second home he would have still been in the cabinet, having claimed £30,000 more".[30] The view of the Standards and Privileges Committee differed, concluding that it was inappropriate to judge whether the claims on a particular property were appropriate by reference to potential payments on another property, which was not in fact claimed for.

The Committee said that Laws was guilty of a series of serious breaches of the rules, over a considerable period of time.[2]

The Committee also mentioned the conduct of Laws after May 2010, stating: "We have also considered whether there needs to be a stronger sanction than repayments. Not only has Mr Laws already resigned from the Cabinet, his behaviour since May 2010 has been exemplary. He quickly referred himself to the Commissioner, has already repaid allowances from July 2006 in full, and has cooperated fully with the Commissioner's investigation". The Committee's conclusion was however that a stronger sanction than repayment was indeed needed. This led to the vote temporarily excluding Laws from the House of Commons.[2]

In 2012, Laws returned to government in the reshuffle as a Minister of State in the Department of Education. He is also responsible for Lib Dem strategy, working closely with his Conservative counterpart, Oliver Letwin. He may attend Cabinet, not as a full member but because of his strategic portfolio.

Political views[edit]

In initial debates on the spending cuts, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, Edward Leigh described Laws as heeding to "stern, unbending Gladstonian Liberalism". Laws added that he believed in "not only Gladstonian Liberalism, but liberalism tinged with the social liberalism about which my party is so passionate."[31]

Around the time of the 2010 general election, it was alleged that Laws told a Conservative colleague that he would have become a Conservative politician had it not been for the Tory party's general "illiberalism and Euroscepticism" and particularly the Thatcher government's introduction of Section 28, which forbade local authorities from "promot[ing] homosexuality".[10] According to former MP Evan Harris, one of Laws' former colleagues, "Laws is a fully social liberal on equality, abortion, faith schools, religion and the state. He is also very sensible on discrimination issues and sex education."[10]

Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce described Laws as "an unreconstructed 19th-century Liberal. He believes in free trade and small government. Government should do the job only government can do. There's no point in having [a] large public sector if the users of the public services are getting poorer."[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Watt, Holly; Winnett, Robert (28 May 2010). "MPs' Expenses: Treasury chief David Laws, his secret lover and a £40,000 claim". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d The Committee Office, House of Commons. "House of Commons - Mr David Laws - Standards and Privileges Committee". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  3. ^ a b David Laws; Five things I have learned BBC News, 14 March 2010,
  4. ^ a b c d Greenhill, Sam (1 June 2010). "Double Life Private Mr Laws In London seen Provence couple". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Daily Mail, 28 September 2012,
  6. ^ "Colleagues heap praise on David Laws after resignation". BBC. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "DAVID LAWS: RISE AND FALL OF SELF-MADE MAN". Daily Express. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  8. ^ Mark Pack, A Delicate Balance: the history of Liberals and hung Parliaments, 30 September 2009
  9. ^ Glen Owen The coalition of millionaires: 23 of the 29 member of the new cabinet are worth more than £1m... and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories Mail on Sunday 23 May 2010
  10. ^ a b c d Allegra Stratton (27 May 2010). "David Laws: Diehard liberal with no qualms over wielding Treasury axe". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Tories step up hunt for defectors, BBC News, 23 March 2007
  12. ^ David Laws "Open maw not big tent", The Guardian, 22 June 2007
  13. ^ Menzies Campbell resigns as leader of the Lib Dems after just two years This is London, 16 October 2007
  14. ^ Haroon, Siddique (11 May 2010). "Profiles: The Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour negotiators". The Guardian (London). 
  15. ^ 22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition (Biteback 2010) ISBN 978-1-84954-080-3
  16. ^ Cameron's government: A guide to who's who BBC News, 21 May 2010
  17. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 13 May 2010". Privy Council. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  18. ^ Hutton, Robert (17 May 2010). "`There's No Money Left,' U.K. Minister Learns From Predecessor". Bloomberg. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  19. ^ "'No money' note revealed". ITV Westcountry News. 24 June 2013. 
  20. ^ George Osborne outlines detail of £6.2bn spending cuts, BBC News, 24 May 2010
  21. ^ Martin, Iain (28 May 2010). "David Laws: How High Can the Rising Star of the Coalition Climb?". The Wall Street Journal. 
  22. ^ Prince, Rosa (4 September 2012). "Cabinet reshuffle: David Laws returns to Government two years after resigning in disgrace over his expenses". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 September 2012. 
  23. ^ James Lundie. "UK General Election 2010 – Author Archives". Edelmans. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  24. ^ "Treasury Minister David Laws resigns over expenses". BBC News. 29 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  25. ^ "David Laws resignation letter to prime minister". BBC News. 29 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  26. ^ "David Laws 'broke six MPs' expenses rules'". BBC News. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  27. ^ BBC TV News 12 May
  28. ^ "Commons debate on Standards and Privileges report on David Laws – News from Parliament – UK Parliament". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  29. ^ "Lib Dem David Laws to be suspended over expenses claims". BBC News. 12 May 2011. 
  30. ^ "Laws is guilty of poor judgement, not avarice (Olly Grender 12.05.2011)". Newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  31. ^ Hansard – Government Spending Cuts UK Parliament – 26 May 2010

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Paddy Ashdown
Member of Parliament for Yeovil
2001–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Liam Byrne
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
2010
Succeeded by
Danny Alexander
Preceded by
Nick Gibb
Minister of State for Schools
2012–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister of State for the Cabinet Office
2012–present
Incumbent