Many moons ago a nursing colleague and I decided to leave the National Health Service in order to establish a private care home.
Whilst we were waiting for the registration process to go through its paces we signed on. Whilst awaiting registration we lived in the house which we hoped to turn into a care home. Because both of us did odd jobs for nursing agencies we never actually received any benefit payments, but we were warned that if we ever had a payment we would be investigated on the basis that both of us were living on the same premises and both of us were signing on as single people rather than as a couple.
When we protested that our relationship was totally business and not sexual, we were informed that co-habitation is sharing a table rather than sharing a bed and if we ate together (which we often did) we were a couple in benefit speak, and one of us had to claim as the head and the other had to claim as his partner.
Fortunately we never got any benefits so we were never prosecuted, but it's a sobering thought, I could have been prosecuted for living in sin with a bloke who I never, ever would have wished to sin with!
Many people on benefits have been fined and imprisoned for falsely claiming benefits as individuals whilst living in a relationship, some intentionally, some innocently, because they didn't realise what a relationship is in law!
Which brings one to the case of David Laws!
He claimed Parliamentary expenses to pay his gay lover rent. MP's are not allowed to claim for rental payments to their wives, their husbands, their girlfriends or their boyfriends or those who cohabit with them / share the same table as them.
I don't understand the sympathy Mr Laws seems to be receiving amongst the political class, I have no sympathy for him at all. A benefit claimant would be in court facing a fine or imprisonment for doing what he did!
At worst Mr Laws might get a slap on the wrist from a Parliamentary committee! Had he claimed that 40 grand as a state benifit rather than as a parliamentry perk he would be looking at time inside!