David Laws, the Liberal Democrat appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury has been forced to come out as gay after the Daily Telegraph revealed he had claimed almost £40,000 in rent that was paid to his secret partner breaking the rules on MPs’ second home expenses.
The Daily Telegraph’s Expenses Files which exposed many MPs last year show that between 2004 and 2009, Mr Laws claimed more than £40,000 rent a room in properties in Kennington, south London owned by his male partner James Lundie.
In 2007, Mr Lundie bought another house nearby for £510,000. Mr Laws then claimed £920 in rent on the second bedroom in this house.
Mr Laws designated his main home as being in his Yeovil constituency and claimed rent on a flat not owned by his partner when expenses rules were changed.
In a statement Mr Laws 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.
“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.”
“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.”
Mr Laws sexuality was known by some in the Westminster village including PinkNews.co.uk. He has a good record on LGBT issues and so this publication did not chose to breach his right to keep his sexuality secret by not including him in our PinkNews.co.uk political power lists or in our coverage of gay Government ministers.
The Daily Telegraph’s pressure on Mr Laws does at least mean there is now an openly gay man in the Cabinet. As the minister in charge of Government spending, Mr Laws is now almost certainly the most powerful gay man in Britain.