David Laws

David Laws
The Right Honourable
David Laws
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
12 – 29 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Liam Byrne
Succeeded by Danny Alexander
Member of Parliament
for Yeovil
Assumed office
7 June 2001
Preceded by Paddy Ashdown
Majority 13,036 (22.8%)
Personal details
Born 30 November 1965 (1965-11-30) (age 45)
Farnham, Surrey, England
Political party Liberal Democrats
Domestic partner James Lundie (2001–present)[1]
Residence Chard, Somerset, England
Alma mater King's College, Cambridge

David Anthony Laws (born 30 November 1965) is a British politician. He is Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Yeovil and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

After a career in investment banking, Laws became an economic adviser and later Director of Policy and Research for the Liberal Democrats. In 2001, he was elected as the MP for Yeovil, the seat previously represented by former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.

In 2004, he co-edited The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism, followed by Britain After Blair in 2006. After the 2010 general election, Laws led negotiations for the Liberal Democrats which resulted in a coalition with the Conservative Party. He then briefly held the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but resigned on 29 May 2010.

He is currently the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development (Apgood)[2]


Early life and education

Laws was born in Farnham, Surrey,[3] the only son of a Conservative voting father who was a banker, and a Labour voting mother. He would later joke that he was the "perfect fusion" as a Liberal Democrat.[4]

Laws was educated at independent schools: Woburn Hill School in the town of Weybridge in Surrey, from 1974 to 1979;[4] and St George's College, a Roman Catholic day school in the same town, from 1979 to 1984. Regarded as a renowned speaker who revelled in intellectual argument, he won the national Observer Schools Mace Debating Championship in 1984.[4]

Laws graduated in 1987 from King's College, Cambridge, with a double first in economics.[5]


Laws went into investment banking, becoming a Vice President at JP Morgan from 1987 to 1992 and then Managing Director, being the Head of US Dollar and Sterling Treasuries at Barclays de Zoete Wedd.

He left in 1994, to take up the role of economic adviser to the Liberal Democrats, on a salary of £15,000 per year.[6] He unsuccessfully contested Folkestone and Hythe in 1997, against Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard. From 1997–99 he was the Liberal Democrats's Director of Policy and Research.

Following the 1999 Scottish Parliament election, Laws played a leading advisory role in the negotiation of the Scottish Parliament coalition agreement with Labour, as the UK party's then Policy Director.[7]

Laws' wealth is estimated as £1-2m.[8]

Parliamentary career

Laws at the Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2008

Laws had joined the Liberal Democrat back office at the same time as Nick Clegg under the leadership of Paddy Ashdown. When Ashdown resigned the leadership of the party and then decided to stand down as an MP, Laws was selected for his seat. Both would walk the constituency in what ex-Army man Ashdown describes as Mufti attire; but on election day, Laws returned to his preferred attire of tailored suits.[9]

On his election to parliament, Laws became a member of the Treasury Committee, and in November 2001 he was appointed the party's deputy defence spokesperson. A year he later took up the position of Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury and launched "a spending review".

He was the co-editor of the Orange Book, published in 2004. In 2005, he was appointed the Liberal Democrats' Work and Pensions Spokesman, a position in which he has been highly critical of the government's handling of the Child Support Agency and flaws in the tax credits system. He subsequently served his party as the Liberal Democrat Children, Schools and Families spokesman.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne offered Laws, who is generally seen, along with other Orange Book authors, as being on the more economically liberal end of the Lib Dems in terms of economic policy, a seat in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, but was rebuffed, with Laws saying "I am not a Tory, and if I merely wanted a fast track to a top job, I would have acted on this instinct a long time ago."[10][11]

Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007, he announced that he would not be a candidate for the leadership of the party.[12]


Following the 2010 general election, Laws was one of the main negotiators for the Liberal Democrats, part of the team of four that negotiated a deal to go into a governing coalition with the Conservatives.[13] His account of the coalition's formation was published in November 2010 as 22 Days in May.[14]

Laws was one of five Liberal Democrats to obtain Cabinet positions when the coalition was formed, becoming Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tasked with cutting spending in order to reduce the UK deficit.[15] He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.[16]

His predecessor Liam Byrne, on leaving his position as Chief Secretary to the Treasury following the change of UK government in May 2010, left him a note that stated, "Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam". Byrne said the letter was meant as a private joke.[17]

Outlining spending cuts in May 2010, Laws said Child Trust Fund payments would be axed by January 2011. He said halting these payments to newborns from the end of the year - and the top-up payments - would save £520m. Mr Laws said: "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." He said that "We also promise to cut with care, we are going to be a progressive government even in these tough times." [18] Iain Martin of the Wall Street Journal published an article on Laws's early performance and described him as a "potential future prime minister"[19]

Expenses scandal and suspension from Parliament

On 28 May 2010, The Daily Telegraph stated that Laws had claimed more than £40,000 on his expenses in the form of second home costs, from 2004 to late 2009,[20] during which time he had been renting rooms at properties owned by what the newspaper claimed to be his "secret lover" and "long-term partner", James Lundie. They were not in a civil partnership. The Daily Telegraph also said that it had not intended to reveal his sexuality, but that Laws had himself done so, in a public statement shortly before the newspaper's publication of the story.[1] Lundie is a former Liberal Democrat Press officer and now works for the Political Affairs team of public relations and lobbying firm, Edelman.[21]

According to the Telegraph, Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month rent between 2004 and 2007, plus typically £100 to £200 a month for maintenance, to sub-let a room in a flat owned and lived in by his boyfriend in Kennington, South London.[1][20] After the flat was sold for a profit of £193,000 in 2007, Lundie bought a nearby house for £510,000. Laws then began claiming rent for the “second bedroom” in this property, at a cost of £920 a month, until September 2009. Laws, whose main home is in Chard[3] in his Yeovil constituency, and has a holiday home in Provence, France;[4] then began renting another flat. This flat was not owned by Lundie, who remained at the Kennington house. Since 2006, parliamentary rules have banned MPs from “leasing accommodation from... a partner.”[1]

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said, "The Prime Minister has been made aware of this situation and he agrees with David Laws's decision to refer himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards."[20]

Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 29 May 2010,[22] stating that he could not carry on working on the Comprehensive Spending Review while dealing with the private and public implications of the revelations.[23] He also stated that his reason for the way he had claimed expenses had been to keep private details of his sexuality and that he had not benefited financially from this misdirection. Accepting his resignation, Cameron said, "I hope that, in time, you will be able to serve again."[20] He was succeeded by Danny Alexander, who had initially been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.[22]

In May 2011 the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards reported that Laws was guilty of breaking six rules with regard to MPs' expenses, but that he had not intended to benefit himself or Lundie directly. In addition to finding against Laws with regard to the payment of rent to his boyfriend, the investigation had also found irregularities in payments for phone bills and building work.[24] After being found guilty Laws was suspended from the House of Commons for 7 days [25] backed by MPs in a House of Commons vote on 16 May 2011.[26] A Labour MP, Thomas Docherty, asked New Scotland Yard to mount a criminal investigation into the matter.[27] Docherty remarked "If anyone else had fraudulently obtained £50,000 and their defence was that they had done it to protect their privacy, then they would rightfully have had the book thrown at them."

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards accepted that Laws’s motivation was privacy and not financial benefit, and both the Commissioner and the Committee accept that his claims would have been “considerably more” if he had claimed in accordance with the rules. The Inquiry received evidence from Laws that his claims would have been almost £30,000 higher over 2004-2010 if he had made these against his Somerset home, as the Commissioner has ruled that he should. There was therefore no loss to the taxpayer from the breach in rules. The commissioner also stated "I have no evidence that Mr Laws made his claims with the intention of benefiting himself or his partner in conscious breach of the rules."[28]

Olly Grender, who was the Liberal Democrat's Communications Director in 1997, while reporting in the Statesman noted the irony that "If he had allocated his constituency home as his second home he would have still been in the cabinet, having claimed £30,000 more."[29]

Political views

Laws has been described as "a complete liberal" with a belief in free trade and small government.[9] In initial debates on the spending cuts, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, Edward Leigh described Laws as heeding to "stern, unbending Gladstonian Liberalism". Laws added that he believed in "not only Gladstonian Liberalism, but liberalism tinged with the social liberalism about which my party is so passionate."[30]

Laws is a social liberal. Around the time of the 2010 general election, it was alleged that Laws told a Conservative colleague that he would have become a Conservative politician had it not been for the Tory party's general "illiberalism and Euroscepticism" and particularly the Thatcher government's introduction of Section 28, which forbade local authorities from "promot[ing] homosexuality".[9] According to former MP Evan Harris, one of Laws' former colleagues, "Laws is a fully social liberal on equality, abortion, faith schools, religion and the state. He is also very sensible on discrimination issues and sex education."[9]

Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce described Laws as "an unreconstructed 19th century Liberal. He believes in free trade and small government. Government should do only the jobs only government can do. There's no point in having a large public sector if the users of the public services are getting poorer."[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Watt, Holly; Winnett, Robert (28 May 2010). "MPs' Expenses: Treasury chief David Laws, his secret lover and a £40,000 claim". Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7780642/MPs-Expenses-Treasury-chief-David-Laws-his-secret-lover-and-a-40000-claim.html. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  2. ^ http://www.apgood.org.uk/executive
  3. ^ a b David Laws; Five things I have learned BBC News, 14 March 2010
  4. ^ a b c d Greenhill, Sam (1 June 2010). "Double Life Private Mr Laws In London seen Provence couple". Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1282820/Double-Life-Private-Mr-Laws-In-London-seen-Provence-couple.html. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "Colleagues heap praise on David Laws after resignation". BBC. 30 May 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10192614. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "DAVID LAWS: RISE AND FALL OF SELF-MADE MAN". Daily Express. 30 May 2010. http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/178048/David-Laws-Rise-and-fall-of-self-made-man/. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Mark Pack, A Delicate Balance: the history of Liberals and hung Parliaments, 30 September 2009
  8. ^ Glen Owen The coalition of millionaires: 23 of the 29 member of the new cabinet are worth more than £1m... and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories Mail on Sunday 23 May 2010
  9. ^ a b c d e Allegra Stratton (27 May 2010). "David Laws: Diehard liberal with no qualms over wielding Treasury axe". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/27/david-laws-profile. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Tories step up hunt for defectors, BBC News, 23 March 2007
  11. ^ Open maw not big tent, The Guardian, 22 June 2007
  12. ^ Menzies Campbell resigns as leader of the Lib Dems after just two years This is London, 16 October 2007
  13. ^ Haroon, Siddique (11 May 2010). "Profiles: The Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour negotiators". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/11/hung-parliament-negotiators-profiles. 
  14. ^ 22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition (Biteback 2010) ISBN 9781849540803
  15. ^ Cameron's government: A guide to who's who BBC News, 21 May 2010
  16. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 13 May 2010". Privy Council. http://www.privy-council.org.uk/files/other/13th%20May2010%20List.doc. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Hutton, Robert. "`There's No Money Left,' U.K. Minister Learns From Predecessor". Bloomberg. http://preview.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-17/u-k-has-no-money-left-treasury-minister-learns-from-predecessor-s-note.html. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  18. ^ George Osborne outlines detail of £6.2bn spending cuts BBC News, 24 May 2010
  19. ^ Martin, Iain (28 May 2010). "David Laws: How High Can the Rising Star of the Coalition Climb?". The Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/iainmartin/2010/05/28/david-laws-how-high-can-the-rising-star-of-the-coalition-climb/. 
  20. ^ a b c d "Treasury Minister David Laws apologises over expenses". BBC News. 28 May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8712383.stm. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  21. ^ James Lundie. "UK General Election 2010 - Author Archives". Edelmans. http://elections.edelman.co.uk/author/james-lundie/. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  22. ^ a b "Treasury Minister David Laws resigns over expenses". BBC News. 29 May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/10191524.stm. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  23. ^ "David Laws resignation letter to prime minister". BBC News. 29 May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/10191673.stm. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  24. ^ "David Laws 'broke six MPs' expenses rules'". BBC News. 10 May 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13347619. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  25. ^ BBC TV News 12 May
  26. ^ http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2011/may/commons-debate-on-standards-and-privileges-david-laws/
  27. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/met-urged-to-investigate-david-laws-expenses-2283660.html Met urged to investigate David Laws' expenses
  28. ^ "Lib Dem David Laws to be suspended over expenses claims". BBC News. 12 May 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13371746. 
  29. ^ Laws is guilty of poor judgement, not avarice (Olly Grender 12.05.2011)
  30. ^ Hansard - Government Spending Cuts UK Parliament - 26 May 2010

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Paddy Ashdown
Member of Parliament for Yeovil
Political offices
Preceded by
Liam Byrne
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Danny Alexander

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