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Treasury says deficit is still main priority

THE Treasury yesterday insisted it would not be distracted from reducing the deficit, despite the shock resignation of its second most-important minister just seventeen days after his appointment.

Liberal Democrat David Laws resigned on Saturday night after it was revealed he had claimed £40,000 in parliamentary expenses to rent a room from his partner.

Commons rules forbid MPs from renting accommodation from a partner or spouse, but Laws kept the arrangement secret as he had not told colleagues and family he was gay.

Danny Alexander, a fellow Liberal Democrat that has been an MP for just five years, has taken over from Laws and will be charged with overseeing public spending cuts.

A spokesman for George Osborne said the chancellor was “delighted” at Alexander’s appointment and insisted it would be “business as usual”. And Treasury sources said he “would pick up where David left off” immediately.

Alexander played a key part in negotiating the government’s coalition agreement, and worked closely with Osborne on drafting the sections on the budget deficit.

But there are doubts in the City over whether the 38-year-old is experienced enough for such a big job after just five years in parliament.

And Alexander is facing questions over his own expenses claims, after he didn’t pay capital gains tax (CGT) on a property he funded with his additional costs allowance for two years. He sold the London flat, designated as his second home, in 2007 and paid no CGT.

But the Treasury points out that capital gains tax does not apply for the first three years after someone has moved out of their home, even if they have purchased another property and designated it their “main home”.

DANNY ALEXANDER
NEW CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY


Danny Alexander, 38, left his job as press officer for the Cairngorms National Park when he was elected to parliament for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency in 2005.

He shot from the obscurity of the Highlands to become chief of staff for Nick Clegg in just over three years, acting as Liberal Democrat disability spokesman and shadow secretary for work and pensions along the way.

He doubled his majority in the last election and took a key role in the Liberal Democrat negotiating team, before being appointed secretary of state for Scotland in the coalition government.

His role as press officer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1993 to 1996 has surely helped him in his rise to prominence – along with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from St Anne’s College, Oxford.

He still lives in Aviemore with his wife Rachel and two daughters, the youngest of whom is just over a week old.
By Marion Dakers