David Laws, MP for Yeovil, today commented on the conclusion of the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and the Standards and Privileges Committee.
The Inquiry identified a number of breaches of rules, in particular it found that Mr. Laws was in breach of the partner rule, and should have designated his constituency home as his main home from 2004/05, on the basis of the nights spent test.
However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards accepted that Mr. Laws' 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 Mr. 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.
On the issue of rental levels, the Commissioner has concluded that the amounts charged by Mr Laws were "broadly similar" to the levels of Assured Shorthold Tenancy rent estimated by his advisers. Although the Commissioner's advisers suggested that the rent should be lower because Mr Laws had a lodging agreement with less legal security, the Committee and Commissioner have agreed that Mr Laws' living arrangements were in fact more advantageous than the agreements documented.
Last June as the Commissioner stated "to his personal credit" Mr. Laws paid back all of his claims from July 2006 to July 2009, even though Mr Lyons has now concluded that he would have been entitled to more money if he had claimed correctly over this period.
David Laws MP said: "I accept the conclusions of the Inquiry and take full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made. I apologise to my constituents and to Parliament. Each of us should be our own sternest critic, and 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. I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.
"However, 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, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.
"I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the Committee. The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.
"This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding."