Revealed at last: leading MPs' expenses claims

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown once claimed £15 for light bulbs, Peter Mandelson spent nearly £3,000 on a shower and Tony Blair lavished nearly £11,000 of taxpayers' money on a new kitchen, according to the most detailed account of MPs' expenditure ever published.

After years in the courts, countless hours of legal argument and a bitter battle by the Commons to maintain their secrecy, the full expenses claims of 14 high-profile MPs have finally been made public.

The unprecedented publication also revealed Sir Menzies Campbell ran up £357.81 in taxi bills in two months, while his former front-bench colleague Mark Oaten's claims included £159.95 for a bunk bed and a £149.95 dressing table.

While Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett put in a bill for £638.03 to renew the lighting in her sun lounge. The papers also show that Mrs Beckett had a claim for garden expenses partially rejected, with £600 for plants and pergola disallowed.

Some 450 pages of receipts give a full breakdown of the second-homes allowance paid to the MPs. The photocopied chits and receipts were handed to journalists in three cardboard boxes after senior MPs decided not to appeal against a High Court ruling that the information must finally be released.

Full details of all MPs' claims going back four years will be released in the autumn. The documents provide a window into the domestic lives and occasional extravagances of MPs while the events of state unfold around them. In November 2005, Tony and Cherie Blair suffered the indignity of receiving a "red bill" from Northumbrian Water over an unpaid £147.11. The letter, addressed to "Mr C L Blair" warned the bailiffs could be sent in if the money was not paid. It added: "We appreciate that you may be experiencing some financial difficulties ... If you are experiencing difficulties please contact us to discuss payment."

As Mr Blair was preparing to send British troops to Iraq, he also had more mundane domestic concerns on his mind. In March 2003, a new kitchen was fitted in his constituency home in Trimdon Colliery, Co Durham, at a cost to the taxpayer of £6,500.

Two months later, another bill arrived to cover the £4,174 cost of other work to the kitchen, including fitting cupboards and tiles and redecorating the room. It brought the total expense of the Blairs' new kitchen to £10,674.

During 2005, the then Prime Minister claimed for utility bills, as well as £515.75 for a dishwasher and £50 on servicing an Aga stove in 2002.

By contrast, Gordon Brown spent just £4,471 refurbishing his own kitchen in Fife, including its Seville cream wall tiles, in 2005. Mr Brown's claims include bills for £1,396 for redecoration as well as the £33-a-month cost of his Sky TV connection.

Figures for John Prescott show the former deputy prime minister, who revealed his battle with bulimia last month, was paid £2,882.14 for food during 2005.

Peter Mandelson, formerly Mr Blair's closest confidant, must have fitted one of Hartlepool's most extravagant showers. The bill for fitting a shower and decorating the bathroom in his constituency home in July 2003 – a year before he resigned to become a European Commissioner – was £2,981.

Yesterday's figures detail only David Cameron's £1,741.83-a- month mortgage interest payments during 2005-06, apart from a £65.50 telephone bill. But George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, claimed £2,300 for food during the same year.

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