Key British minister quits over expenses

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The new British coalition government suffered a blow Saturday when a key finance minister, David Laws, announced he was resigning following revelations over his expenses claims.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday that Laws, the Chief Treasury Secretary, had channelled more than 40,000 pounds (57,800 dollars, 47,100 euros) of taxpayers' money to his long-time male partner.

"I do not see how I can carry out my crucial work on the budget and spending review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent allegations," Laws said in a brief press conference.

Laws, a millionaire former banker who is a member of the Liberal Democrat junior coalition partners, said his problems were caused by his "desire to keep my sexuality secret".

In a letter responding to Laws' resignation, Prime Minister David Cameron described him as a "good and honourable man".

Another Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, will take over from Laws as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's deputy at the Treasury, Downing Street said.

The Telegraph reported that Laws claimed up to 950 pounds a month for five years to rent a room in two properties owned by his partner James Lundie, a lobbyist.

Laws had one of the highest profile roles in the new government whose priority is to reduce Britain's record deficit of 156.1 billion pounds in 2009-2010.

He and Osborne this week unveiled spending cuts worth 6.25 billion pounds.

Britain's first coalition government since World War II emerged from the indecisive May 6 general election.

© 2010 AFP

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