Ex-British minister faces suspension over expenses

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A former British minister faced a week-long suspension from the House of Commons Thursday after lawmakers found him guilty of breaking rules on expenses as he tried to hide his homosexuality.

David Laws landed a key role in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition when it was formed after May 2010 elections, but quit within weeks over the scandal, in a blow to the fledgling government.

The Lib Dem lawmaker resigned as chief secretary to the Treasury after admitting he had failed to disclose that he had claimed back rent he paid to his boyfriend because he wanted to keep the relationship secret.

He referred himself to the parliamentary authorities, and the standards watchdog concluded Thursday that he was guilty of "a series of serious breaches of the rules" on expenses and should be suspended for seven days.

Lawmakers will vote on the recommendations on Monday, which are likely to delay any attempt by Laws to return to frontline politics.

The millionaire former banker had been one of the chief architects of a plan to slash Britain's budget deficit in his role as deputy to finance minister George Osborne.

He resigned after a newspaper reported he had channelled thousand of pounds of taxpayers' money in rent to his long-term male partner, James Lundie.

Since 2006, parliamentary rules have banned lawmakers from paying rent to partners.

In a statement Thursday, Laws said he accepted the watchdog's verdict and took "full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made".

"I recognise that my attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with my duty as an MP to ensure that my claims were in every sense above reproach," he said.

He added: "From the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses."

The cross-party standards and privileges committee noted Laws had already paid back £56,592 (almost 65,000 euros, $92,000) in expenses.

But it said: "Whatever his motives and subsequent behaviour, Mr Laws was guilty of a series of serious breaches of the rules, over a considerable time."

© 2011 AFP

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