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Nick Clegg predicts David Laws could return as a minister

Jessica Geen June 2, 2010
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Deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said today that David Laws could return as a minister if his expenses claims are cleared up.

Mr Laws was one of five Liberal Democrats in the coalition Cabinet. He resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the weekend after it was claimed he had wrongly paid expenses to his secret gay partner.

According to the Evening Standard, Mr Clegg said the MP had suffered a “cruel invasion of his privacy”.

Mr Laws has reported himself to the parliamentary expenses watchdog and Mr Clegg said: “I hope that, if all the question marks about his expenses are cleared up, there will be an opportunity for him to rejoin the government.”

This morning, the deputy prime minister said the coalition government was still strong despite Mr Laws’ resignation.

When he stood down, he was replaced by Scottish secretary and Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander. The switch was criticised by some who said Mr Alexander was not experienced enough for the role.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that the circumstances of Mr Laws’ resignation were “extremely unfavourable” and “personally tragic”.

He said: “David Cameron, myself and David Laws spoke several times during the crucial hours in which David [Laws] was making up his mind about what he wanted to do next and then we acted very fast.

“David Laws announced that he was standing down, Danny Alexander has replaced him, government carries on and the strategy which we set out at the beginning of this government in terms of dealing with the black hole in our public finances is being worked on as hard as before David Laws’ departure.

“I think that is an example actually of how, whilst of course people might create a lot of sort of synthetic anxiety around these unfortunate events, government carries on.”

Mr Laws was said to have broken Commons rules by claiming rent on a property his partner James Lundie owned. In 2006, new rules were introduced to bar MPs claiming expenses on homes their partners or spouses own.

He said in a statement yesterday he had no intention to exploit the expenses system and claimed his problems were caused by his desire to keep his sexual orientation secret.

He said that he realised he was gay at time when most people believed it to be wrong and had struggled to tell the truth as time passed.

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