From pizzas to pests, the latest expenses revelations

Hot property: Tony Blair. Former prime minister

Tony Blair's penchant for property is hardly a state secret, but the documents give an insight into how the former prime minister amassed his glittering portfolio.

Months before buying his town house in London for £3.65m, Mr Blair remortgaged his constituency home in Co Durham, for £296,000 – almost 10 times its original price. He was able to claim for most of the interest repayments amounting to almost a third of the new mortgage. That was enough for a deposit on the London house in Connaught Square, one of five properties he now owns worth a combined sum £10m.

In his last term as prime minister, Mr Blair's claim forms showed £15 for a window cleaner and an annual newspaper tab of £1,167.48.

In defence: Technically, Mr Blair did not break rules and MPs have used similar strategies to amass property. A spokesman for Mr Blair said: "The facts are as we said at the time, there was no cost to the taxpayer in this decision."

Job: Former prime minister
Salary: Prime minister pension of £64,000
Expenses for second homes: 2004-05: £16,417; 2005-06: £8,399; 2006-07: £10,917; 2007-08: £5,772
Food: £177.13
Cleaner: £2,218
Utility bills: £2,874.47
Council tax: £1,399.22
Television licence: £131.50
Sleaze rating: *

Take your partner: Stephen Byers. former cabinet minister

One of the apostles of New Labour, Stephen Byers is the second MP found by the Telegraph investigation to have used the system to benefit their partner. Indeed, the former cabinet minister claimed £126,648 in second-home expenses while living rent-free in the Camden flat owned by a lawyer, Jan Cookson.

Ms Cookson does not have a mortgage, so Mr Byers could not claim interest charges on loan repayments. Yet in 2007, the former transport secretary still charged the entire £27,033 sum for renovations made to the exterior of the building which comprises four flats. Receipts also showed he regularly spent the maximum £400 a month on groceries, even when Parliament was in recess, and nearly £500 of redecorating costs, including £240.50 on replacement of bathroom tiles.



In defence: Mr Byers said he does not pay rent to Ms Cookson and that "all of the expenses I have received are within the rules and have been approved by the Commons authorities".

Job: MP for North Tyneside
Salary: £64,766
Expenses for second homes:
2004-05: £17,638; 2005-06: £14,208; 2006-07: £21,481; 2007-08: £18,091
Food: £400 monthly
Plumbing: £577.50
House repairs: £12,033
Washing-machine: £388
Sleaze rating: b***

Helping the homeless: Iain Wright, junior minister

The former accountant claimed thousands of pounds on furnishings for a second home, even before he had one. In a letter to the Commons authorities, he said it seemed "stupid" not to use up his annual additional costs allowance.

In 2004, the MP for Hartlepool also claimed on overnight stays in London hotels. In April the following year, two days after a general election was called, his letter to the fees office said he had claimed £1,811 for "things I've bought like bedding, kitchen equipment etc" and that he was in the early stages of buying a house. "It's still OK to claim, isn't it?" he asked.

The Commons official allegedly deemed the request "reasonable", but suggested he waited until the general election. Mr Wright later bought a Westminster property with another MP.



In defence "As a new MP, I purchased furniture and electrical equipment once I was in the process of purchasing a half-share of a small two-bedroom flat in London," he said.

Job: Parliamentary Under-secretary of state in the Department for Communities
Salary: £94,228
Expenses for second homes:
2004-05: £7,116; 2005-06: £20,493; 2006-07: £18,780; 2007-08: £17,882
Food: £375 a month
Legal expenses: £1,431.46
Sleaze rating: ***

Pizza the action: Tom Watson, junior minister

Last month, he found himself in the line of fire over the Damian McBride email saga, and was forced to deny any involvement in the plot to smear Tories.

This weekend, the denial came in the form of a Marks & Spencer's "pizza wheel" which, Mr Watson pointed out, appeared on a receipt he submitted, as part of a free gift for spending over £150 at the store. Indeed, he allegedly spent £4,800 on food in one year and exceeded monthly limits at least once. In 2006, he had his expenses cut by £210 after buying a set of dining-room chairs beyond the Fees Office limits.

After buying a Westminster property with Iain Wright, they are said to have submitted thousands of pounds on set-up costs.

In defence: "All claims were made under the rules set out by the House of Commons authorities. I fully understand why the public expects the system to be reformed. I voted for this last week and only hope that reforms can go even further as quickly as possible."

Job: Minister for Digital Engagement and Civil Service Issues
Salary: £94,228
Expenses for second homes:2004-05: £13,995; 2005-06: £19,029; 2006-07: £19,740; 2007-08: £16,059
Food: Exceeded the £400 monthly limit at least once
Sleaze rating: ***

Community support: Kevin Brennan, junior minister

He had a £450 widescreen television delivered to his family home in Wales and then claimed it on his allowance for his second home in London. But Mr Brennan, parliamentary under-secretary in the Cabinet Office, told The Telegraph that the items on his additional costs allowance – such as Ikea furnishings and a crockery set – were not for his family home and were bought to "support local businesses" despite one purchase being online.

Claims included Ikea bunk beds for his daughters' visits, despite other MPs – including David Miliband – having similar requests rejected. When Mr Brennan moved out of his north London home in 2007 and bought a flat 10 minutes from Westminster, he put the £10,200 stamp duty on his allowance, and claimed mortgage interest payments of £1,531.59 a month.



In defence "Expenditure and bills were shared with agreement of the Fees Office to ensure this arrangement conformed to the spirit and letter of parliamentary rules," he says.

Job: Parliament Under- secretary in the Cabinet Office
Salary: £94,228
Expenses for second homes:2004-05: £12,991; 2005-06: £12,017; 2006-07: £13,703; 2007-08: £23,083
Linda Barker Monkey Tail Cutlery set: £49.94
Sleaze rating: **

I'll get that mole: John Gummer, Tory former minister

In one of the more bizarre and cryptically framed expense claims, the former Tory cabinet minister claimed £9,000 a year for gardening, treating insect "infestations" and removing moles and jackdaw nests from his Suffolk home, and for an annual "rodent service".

The Suffolk Central MP has claimed close to the maximum allowance of more than £20,000 annually during most years amid concerns by the Fees Office he was not producing receipts to justify many claims. He produced several almost identical annual statements from cleaners, gardeners and other suppliers that were submitted as receipts. One read: "This is to acknowledge the receipt of sums in excess of £9,090.00 from the Rt Hon John Gummer for outside maintenance, wood-chopping and gardening."

In defence "I have only ever claimed the relevant proportion of the costs of necessary maintenance and repairs of an old rural property (and the claims for 'gardening' relate in significant part to maintenance and repairs too)," he said.

Job: MP for Suffolk Coastal
Salary: £64,766
Expenses for second homes: 2004-05: £20,292; 2005-06: £21,634; 2006-07: £22,110; 2007-08: £23,076
Mortgage: £60,000
Gardening: £9,090
Cleaning: £1,900
Roof repairs: £5,000
Sleaze rating: ****

Window dressing: Kitty Ussher, Junior Minister

An audacious junior minister set out a two-page wishlist of improvements to her house in Brixton, instructing parliamentary officials to "pay as much as you are able!"

Within 12 months of being elected in 2005, the Burnley MP fired off the plans for the south London property, where she had already lived for five years. They included a renovation of the bathroom and a replacement of her "rotten" and "draughty" sash window frames. She also requested for a "damp patch in the kitchen" to be "sorted out", a "grimy" stair carpet replaced and the walls repainted. In the next 12 months, Ms Ussher received the maximum £22,110. In 2005-06 – the year she became an MP – she claimed £17,903 in additional costs allowance.



In defence A spokesman for Ms Ussher said: "Kitty has always made clear that the public needs to have confidence in the democratic process. All her claims were in line with the relevant House of Commons rules and guidance and have been approved by the Fees Office."

Job: Work and Pensions junior minister
Salary: £94,228
Expenses for second home:2004-05: N/A; 2005-06: £17,903; 2006-07: £22,110; 2007-08: £22,767
Sofa: £1,590
Food: £200 a month
Sleaze rating: ****

Toilet humour: John Reid, Former cabinet minister

Like John Prescott, whose expense revelations included two toilet seats, Mr Reid has shown a predilection for a variety of the furnishing: a £29.99 "black glitter" toilet seat from Homebase.

It doesn't stop there. Last August, he went on a spree at Marks & Spencer and submitted a £486.50 receipt for everything from slotted spoons to an ironing board. In 2008 Mr Reid moved into a flat in Glasgow and soon began kitting it out with soft furnishings like a £199 pouffe. He also submitted receipts for two sponges costing 75p, 20 coat hangers at £1.68, and a bucket for 99p after moving house three times in 2007-08. Previously he refurbished a house in Motherwell with the help of £8,890 of taxpayers' money, including £2,387 for a bathroom suite. When he sold the house in March 2007 he refunded the cost of the bathroom, sending a cheque for £1,886 to the parliamentary fees office.

In defence He was unavailable for comment.

Job: MP for Airdrie and Shotts
Salary: £64,766
Expenses for second home: 2004-05: £16,757; 2005-06: £13,026; 2006-07: £20,596; 2007-08: £23,083
Sofa: £899
Pest control: £685
Sleaze rating: **

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn