Socialist Worker

New government’s axeman is chopped

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2204

The front man for the government’s attacks on public services resigned last week after his expenses fiddles were exposed.

Lib Dem MP David Laws has received sympathy in some parts of the media as he claims that his scam was not to gain money, but to avoid attacks on his sexuality.

It should be of no consequence that he is gay, and it should be entirely up to him if he reveals his sexuality.

But the issue here is not homophobia but the expenses scandal.

Laws crowed last week, “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.”

But over the years, there was plenty in the public purse for him.

Laws, a former investment banker with JP Morgan, claimed between £700 and £950 a month to sub-let a room in a flat in Kennington, south London.

This flat was owned by his partner James Lundie, who sold it in 2007 for a profit of £193,000.

The same year Lundie bought a house for £510,000, and Laws said again that he was sub-letting a room. His claim went to £920 a month.

The arrangement continued until September 2009, when Laws switched his designated second home and began renting another flat at our expense.

His claims for other expenses are interesting. Between 2004 and 2008, he claimed up to £150 a month for utilities and up to £200 for maintenance. No receipts were required to back up the claims.

However, in April 2008, when the rules were changed and MPs had to provide receipts for any claims above £25, his claims dropped sharply.

Laws hosted a dinner in the House of Commons for the lobbying company Edleman. His partner James Lundie is a director with Edleman.

Edleman had seven receptions at the House of Commons in a year and a half from 2004.

The firm’s clients include Microsoft, Kraft, Starbucks, Walmart, Shell and EON. The firm specialises in industrial relations PR.

While the government is determined to cut spending on vital services, it is packed to the rafters with overpaid millionaires in the pockets of lobby companies and who are fiddling their expenses.


Replacement in trouble

Danny Alexander—the Lib Dem who replaces Laws—is also keen on expenses.

He defined a south London property as his second home when claiming parliamentary expenses. But when it came to paying tax he said it was his main residence.

He has admitted using a legal loophole to avoid paying Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of the property for £300,000 in 2007.

Between 2005 and 2007, Alexander claimed more than £37,000 in expenses for the flat.

The government is currently arguing over whether to put up the tax rate for owners of second homes in the budget.

Alexander’s arrangements are similar to disgraced former Labour minister Hazel Blears, who was forced to repay money after avoiding payment of CGT.

Alexander’s claims included up to £550 a month to pay the interest on his property’s mortgage.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said last year, “There are MPs who flipped one property to the next, buying property, paid by you, the taxpayer, and then they would do the properties up, paid for by you, and pocket the difference in personal profit.”

And one of them has just been promoted by Clegg.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

News
Tue 1 Jun 2010, 18:54 BST
Issue No. 2204
Share this article


Related


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.