MPs swap 'John Lewis list' for 'Ikea list'

MPs finally agreed to ditch the controversial "John Lewis list" today - but still clung to the right to kit out their second homes at the taxpayers' expense.

The latest drive to reform MPs' allowances descended into recriminations after Gordon Brown blocked an attempt to end all expenses claims for household goods and furniture.

Instead, MPs will now only be able to claim £2,400 a year for such items - 10% of their total £24,000 second homes allowance.

The Commons also agreed to scrap the "John Lewis list" - which details how much MPs can claim for an array of goods based on prices at the up-market department store.

But the Tories, who had called for an end to any furniture claims under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA), insisted the new cap did not go far enough.

Shadow leader of the House Theresa May accused the Government of replacing the "John Lewis list" with an "Ikea list".

The package accepted unanimously by the Commons today will also introduce an element of independent scrutiny of MPs' expenses, although well short of what was recommended by a recent review.

The National Audit Office (NAO) will oversee the procedures for new internal checks on expenses claims and approve new rules governing the allowances.

The Members' Estimate Committee, which conducted a "root and branch" review of expenses earlier this year, had called for the NAO to scrutinise claims itself.

Today's vote was an attempt by MPs to make amends after their rejection of reforms of their expenses earlier this month sparked public uproar.

But they were nevertheless described as "half-hearted" by the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Chief executive Matthew Elliott said: "Taxpayers are fundamentally unhappy with MPs spending our money on furniture and TVs, and while a £2,400 limit is an improvement, it is still £2,400 too much.

"The NAO audit is yet another unsatisfactory compromise. We urgently need proper transparency and accountability, which means all receipts must be submitted and published in full."

The Tories brought the issue back to the Commons in the form of an Opposition Day debate, although the Government insisted it had been working on proposals for weeks.

All parties backed the abolition of the "John Lewis list" - the now-notorious table of furniture and home improvement claims available to MPs, based on prices at the department store.

They include £10,000 for a kitchen, £6,000 for a bathroom, plasma televisions and other electricals, furniture and any white goods.

But a Tory bid to end ACA claims for anything but utility bills, council tax and mortgage interest or rent was defeated by 295 to 238 after Labour opposed it.

The Government, led by the Prime Minister, instead proposed that claims for household goods out of the £24,000 ACA be capped at 10%.

Mr Brown was left embarrassed earlier this month when the Commons threw out reforms of the second homes allowance.

The vast majority of the MPs who rejected the shake-up then were Labour, including 34 ministers, among them Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

Ms May said: "The Government is treating people like fools; they are just replacing the John Lewis list with the Ikea list.

"MPs should not be able to buy their TVs and furniture at the taxpayer's expense. When will this Labour Government get the message?"

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