Revealed: huge cost of carpets and 'snooze chairs' for MPs' new offices

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MPs have spent more than £3.7m of taxpayers' money to furnish their controversial new building in Westminster. Each individual office has cost £4,500 to fit out - a figure that doesn't include computer equipment.

MPs have spent more than £3.7m of taxpayers' money to furnish their controversial new building in Westminster. Each individual office has cost £4,500 to fit out - a figure that doesn't include computer equipment.

Portcullis House, the luxury building above Westminster Tube station, has already cost more than than £230m to construct, prompting calls for an investigation by the National Audit Office.

Now, the Independent on Sunday has found that each of the 200 MPs' offices will boast a German-made swivel office chair, a £440 armchair adjustable to snooze position, and carpets that have cost £53 a square metre to buy and fit. The total for each room is £3,100 for furniture, with another £1,325 for carpets.

The public areas will feature 12 Florida fig trees imported from Belgium at a cost of £150,000, and green leather window-seats from the second to sixth floor of the block at a cost of £205,000.

Secretaries and researchers, who will accompany politicians to the building, which faces Big Ben, will work at kitchen-style worktops. Trimmed in oak, like the office shelving, together they have cost £380,000.

When added to the construction costs, which include a price tag of £30m for cladding the stonework in bronze, the total cost will be more than £230m. This is enough to build two Tate Moderns, or two Millennium Domes.

Yesterday, office furnishing suppliers branded the MPs' spending as "outrageous". Allied Carpets said that its average carpet costs £15-£18 per square metre, and just £2.33 per square metre for fitting - a fraction of the Portcullis House bill.

Ecos Office Supplies in Edinburgh said that it could supply quality office furniture for less than half the price being spent on the MPs' offices, estimating the cost of chairs at between £60 and £100, easy chairs at £150 to £200, desks at £200, coffee tables at £50 each and three-drawer filing cabinets at £79.

Ecos estimated the total cost for an office at between £500 and £600. Portcullis House's offices have cost six times as much to furnish. Quality car-pets could have been bought for one-third of the price.

The enormous expense of the fittings and fixtures has led to a renewed outcry from opponents of the costly building. Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said that he would be passing on the Independent on Sunday's findings to Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, as part of his campaign to prove that Portcullis House was not built cost-effectively and has wasted taxpayers' money.

He said: "Portcullis House is an extravagance and I cannot think taxpayers will be pleased about the huge amounts of money being poured into this. It must come second only to the Millennium Dome in terms of waste of public money.

"Judging by the amount of money spent on furniture and carpets, which is almost unbelievable, it almost seems as if Lord Irvine has been advising on the contents. The legendary prudence of Gordon Brown has gone out of the window when it comes to the building across the road from the Treasury.

"If MPs need more offices they should demonstrate the sort of prudence that they expect from other areas of the public sector. Spending on this appears to be uncontrolled and out of control."

Part of the reason for the high cost of external work at Portcullis House lies inthe tricky business of constructing the building above an underground station.

The building's elaborate air conditioning system, which sweeps beneath the carpets and smoked-glass windows, has also contributed to the final price tag.

Blunders and miscalculations are thought to have added some £100,000 to the overall cost of construction and fitting-out. Portcullis House is expected to be in use when Parliament returns from its summer break in October.

An expensive taste in home furnishings has been a hallmark of the Labour government. Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, decorated his grace-and-favour flat in lavish style, and only last week the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was criticised for spending £100,000 on the redecoration of his government flat at Admiralty House.