Politics: Outraged Tories accused of hypocrisy over spending

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The Independent Online
The Prime Minister's spokesman last night fuelled further Tory outrage over Labour government spending on ministerial accommodation, parties and travel with confirmation that Tony Blair's Downing Street receptions were costing more than John Major's.

But the spokesman added that Mr Blair's guest lists were longer, and the Liberal Democrats - Westminster's acknowledged experts on tracking such spending - accused the Conservatives of hypocrisy.

Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dems' Treasury spokesman, said: "Labour is spending 44 per cent more than the Tories on special advisers, but some 3 per cent less on parties and less also on overseas travel.

"William Hague's claims about Labour's wasteful record come as rank hypocrisy given his own record at the Welsh Office, where he was spending 29 per cent more on hospitality than under his Labour successor."

Last night, in a written Commons reply, the Prime Minister told Eric Forth, a former Tory education minister, that refurbishment of Numbers 10 and 11 had cost pounds 126,000 so far this financial year, which includes April, when Mr Major and Kenneth Clarke were in occupation.

But even if all that expenditure was incurred in the eight months during which Labour has been in office, it was easily capped by the pounds 381,000 spent in 1995-96, under Mr Major.

Mr Blair said that since 1993, pounds 155,000 had been spent on the flat in No 10, and pounds 105,000 on the flat at No 11, which the Blairs now occupy.

"Both work schedules have been designed to refurbish parts of Nos 10 and 11, some of which had remained untouched for over 30 years, and in the case of No 11, to accommodate the fact that previously unused rooms are now used as family bedrooms."

Mr Blair's spokesman last night conceded that the average prime ministerial reception under Labour had cost pounds 2,226.40, compared with pounds 1,929.50 under John Major.

Normally, the Blairs would have been expected to live "above the shop" at No 10, but they swapped with Gordon Brown, who is single and did not need the extra space at No 11.

Mr Blair told Mr Forth: "All expenditure is within existing budgets, both No 10 and Cabinet Office, as inherited from the last government."

- Anthony Bevins

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