LONDON – A senior minister in Britain’s new coalition government resigned Saturday after admitting that he claimed tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ money to pay rent to his long-term partner.
David Laws said he would step down immediately as chief treasury secretary, a role he had occupied for less than a month.
It was the first major setback to Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government, which had promised to crack down on politicians’ abuse of expense claims. Hundreds of lawmakers in the previous Parliament had used taxpayers’ money to fund everything from swanky second homes to horse manure and a mole catcher. Five lawmakers have been charged with false accounting, and scores of others were either forced to resign or decided not to run for office again.
Laws – whose job was to implement the new government’s deficit reduction plan – apologized and said he would immediately pay back the money, which the Daily Telegraph newspaper said totaled 40,000 pounds ($57,822).
The newspaper reported that Laws claimed up to $1,384 a month in taxpayer money between 2004 and 2007 to rent a room in two properties owned by his partner, James Lundie.
Laws, a relatively unknown Liberal Democrat just weeks ago, was catapulted into the limelight when he emerged as one of the key players in negotiating the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition deal.