Just weeks after its formation, Britain’s coalition government was rocked Saturday by an expenses scandal very similar to one that caused parliamentary heads to roll a year ago.
Secretary to the Treasury David Laws on Saturday apologised for claiming more than 40,000 pounds (57,850 dollars) in expenses to rent rooms in properties owned by his gay partner.
The scandal, first reported in The Telegraph, echoed similar controversies a year ago when numerous parliamentarians were called to account for filing claims for everything from moat cleaning to fees for rentals of adult movies.
Mr. Laws, who belongs to the Liberal Democrat party, the junior member of Britain’s governing coalition, paid 950 pounds a month for five years to rent rooms in two properties owned by lobbyist James Lundie, reported the Press Association.
British law bars members of parliament from renting housing from a partner. In outing himself as a ‘homosexual’ and explaining why he was only doing so now, Mr. Laws said that he and his partner “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.” The relationship was apparently a secret to close family and friends.
Mr. Laws, who has recently promised massive spending cuts, said he would pay the money back and that he had reported himself to parliamentary officials.
Mr. Laws, a millionaire former banker, said that he had never considered himself to be breaking parliamentary rules.
“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.” British media on Saturday was speculating that the revelations could be a blow to the Conservative—Liberal Democrat coalition and that Mr. Laws — who was especially critical of parliament members caught up in last years’ expenses scandal — might have to step down.