I saw this on Facebook today. It has been shared over 3,600 times.

It is a photo of the two individuals, Ms. Irving on the left and Mr. Laws MP on the right. Below Ms. Irving's photo it has the following points:

  • Single mother of 4
  • Unemployed
  • Failed to declare she was living with partner (sic).
  • Overclaimed £40,000 in housing benefit
  • 6 months imprisonment

Below Mr. Law's photo it has the following points:

  • Single
  • Multimillionaire
  • Failed to declare he was living with partner (sic).
  • Overclaimed £40,000 in parliamentary expenses
  • Invited to rejoin government after 18 months on backbench (sic).

How accurate is this comparison? Is he really a multimillionaire? Did they each defraud the government of the same amount; and was it £40,000? Was the 6-month sentence just for the benefit fraud, or were there other factors? If it was just for the fraud, is that a standard sentence for this crime?

  • Another important distinction: did either of them pay it back?
    – user11643
    Aug 31, 2017 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


As I'm sure you realize the comparison is politically motivated. For those claiming benefits payments, particularly housing, it's material whether you are co-habiting with a partner. This principle is controversial and regularly criticized by the Left as an unwarranted intrusion by the State.

David Laws entered politics after a successful business career in the City of London. He was a senior managing director at BZW so it's safe to assume he was making 7-figures a year and is a multi-millionaire. He was also secretly gay and, to disguise this, pretended to be renting accommodation in London from his partner when in fact they were cohabiting. This rent was then claimed back as a parliamentary expense. By not disclosing the relationship between them he broke the rules on expenses and had to resign as a minister. Daily Telegraph 28 May 2010

In his defence it was accepted by the Parliamentary standards body that his actions were motivated by wanting to hide his sexuality rather than financial gain. It was also pointed out that if he'd nominated his constituency home as a second home (which was absolutely commonplace for MPs of all parties) he could have claimed a lot more money without breaking the rules in the slightest. Official Parliamentary Report

How accurate is the comparison? Not very. Carol Irving systematically and deliberately defrauded the taxpayer by failing to disclose her personal circumstances. David Laws inadvertently broke the rules on parliamentary expenses as a side-effect of trying to conceal his sexuality. Just 'working the system' in a completely legal way would have netted him far more money.

"Single mum Carol Irving was sent to jail for six months in June for benefit fraud after failing to tell the authorities she had a partner living with her. ... The mum of four, from Plymouth, told the city’s crown court she would not have been able to feed her family if she had declared her true circumstances." Mirror report

  • 6
    Welcome to skeptics. We have higher standards of evidence than other sites, even some of the other Stack Exchanges that I see you are a regular on. Please provide some sourcing on your to back up your answer. A few quick google searches to find the articles that you read should do the trick. Aug 29, 2017 at 17:53
  • 8
    So ignorance of the law is no excuse unless you're a politician? As long as you're bringing ignorance into this, do you have any evidence the woman was committing intentional fraud rather than similarly unaware of the law?
    – Kevin
    Aug 29, 2017 at 19:52
  • 3
    @T.Sar And can you prove it? The accuser must have proof of the accusations. A link to the sentence would be acceptable, but an opinion of a SE user saying that "Carol Irving systematically and deliberately defrauded" is just that, an opninion.
    – Rekesoft
    Aug 30, 2017 at 8:58
  • 3
    @Kevin I've added a link to a newspaper report on Carol Irving's trial. Her own comments confirm that she knew she was deliberately misreporting her circumstances to avoid financial penalty. The fact that it went on for over 5 years also supports the use of the word systematic as this wasn't an isolated incident. Aug 30, 2017 at 10:42
  • 3
    Your opinion is that Laws' actions were "inadvertent", yet he knowingly broke the rules: there's nothing inadvertent about knowingly breaking the rules, so your opinion doesn't stack up against reality. Furthermore, to many people, the comparison is pretty accurate - they both systematically and deliberately made false claims for expenses from the taxpayer. Your opionion is that it's not an accurate claim, yet you have confirmed every individual element of the claim.
    – 410 gone
    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .