MPs given lessons in freeloading

New MPs are being offered advice on how to make the most of Westminster "scams" that maximise their income.

An anonymous insider, thought to be a Labour MP, tells how unused train tickets can be exchanged for cash, and says politicians need never buy a meal or a drink in London.

Do not get the wrong idea, he advises in the new edition of Parliamentary Review. "In fact we're far from being as poor as church mice. We have to pretend to be poor, and to be making huge sacrifices to serve the people.

"Yet for most MPs the allowances are well worth taking the oath for - and better than most of us would get outside."

The basic salary of pounds 43,000 is quite good, he admits, "but the Office Cost Allowance of pounds 46,364 [increased by the Retail Price Index] is really what you want to make of it, or out of it. It's not bad if you propose to build the family finances by employing the spouse on some huge salary."

The actual work could be done by a graduate "for peanuts". A secretary would be more efficient "but they know the going rate".

Then there's the travel allowance. By rail, it is first-class tickets between home and constituency and Westminster.

"This is taxable. Unused tickets can be exchanged for cash while you travel by bus, which is much cheaper. Yet this is a sordid business. The bus ride, I mean."

And if all that isn't enough, "then remember that while London is expensive, you need never buy a meal, a drink, an overseas trip, a pen set or an oyster again. Especially if you're New Labour."