Leading MPs' expenses released

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Indy Politics

New details of MPs' expenses released today show that former prime minister Tony Blair claimed £116 to pay his TV licence, his successor Gordon Brown claimed £2,000 for cleaning and ex-deputy prime minister John Prescott £4,000 for food over a year.





The details were released by Speaker Michael Martin to the BBC after House of Commons authorities decided not to appeal the Information Commissioner's ruling that they were wrong to withhold them.



There is no suggestion that any of the claims were in breach of rules, but they shine another spotlight into the operation of the Westminster allowances system, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.











Today's release is understood to contain a breakdown of how much was claimed by six prominent MPs in the financial year 2003/04 on a range of different items, including stationery, IT equipment, travel for the MP and spouse and groceries.

But it does not include the full details, including receipts and invoices, being demanded under a separate information request relating to 14 MPs, which the House of Commons Commission is appealing at the High Court on the grounds that it breaches members' privacy. The Commission argues that publishing the full documentation relating to allowance claims would inevitably mean MPs' home addresses becoming public knowledge.



The Commission, which Mr Martin chairs, announced last night that it would not mount an appeal against Information Commissioner Richard Thomas's decision in January to uphold the BBC request, which was initially made before the last General Election, along with a separate request relating to a single MP made by a freedom of information campaigner.



Also on the list of MPs covered in today's release was former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, who was revealed to have claimed £12,000 in mortgage interest costs for his second home in London.



Details of MPs' claims for the years 2004/05 to 2007/08, broken down by category, are due to be made public in the autumn. And in future the information will be released on a quarterly basis.



Today's release is likely to further prolong the agony felt at Westminster over expenses, initially sparked by a critical report into former Conservative MP Derek Conway's employment of his son at the taxpayer's expense.



Further embarrassment was caused by the publication of the so-called "John Lewis list" detailing amounts which MPs are allowed to claim for furnishing their taxpayer-funded second homes, based on the prices at the famous department store.

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