So, what can an MP buy with £22,000 of public cash?

Click to follow

MPs can claim up to £10,000 expenses for fitting a new kitchen or more than £6,000 for a new bathroom, according to the "John Lewis list" used to regulate their expenses on second homes.

They can also put in for £750 for a hi-fi and £750 for a television under the official list of 38 household items for which MPs can claim from public funds under the controversial additional costs allowance.

House of Commons' officials released the list, until recently unknown even to MPs, under the Freedom of Information Act yesterday.

The list, which includes goods totalling more than £28,000, is designed to set a limit on claims for furnishing and running MPs' second homes, based on prices in the department store.

Officials at Westminster had previously resisted publishing the list, arguing that members could claim up to the official limits if they became known. But its publication is sure to reignite controversy over MPs' allowances, which are currently subject to a root-and- branch review in the wake of the Derek Conway affair.

In a further development last night it was reported that MPs may have to publish detailed claims of expenses dating back to 2004.

Under parliamentary rules, MPs can claim up to £22,000 for the costs of running a second home. That includes rent or mortgage interest payments, utility bills and food. But claims for maintenance and furnishings, white goods and electrical equipment are also permitted, although the official guide for MPs insists that they "should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious".

They are told claims must be "above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money ... Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services."

A note to clerks says that dry cleaning items are permitted "within reasonable limits". It says that John Lewis is used as a guide because it "came out top of all retail shops" in the February 2007 edition of Which?, on cost, customer service and variety of goods.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, welcomed publication of the list, but branded it "a bit of a joke". He said: "They would not let me have a computer if I actually wanted to do work at home."

The 'John Lewis' list for MPs

Air conditioner unit: £299.99

Bedside cabinet: £100

Book case/shelf: £200

Bookcase/cabinet: £500

Carpet: £35 per sq m

Carpet fitting: £6.50 per sq m

Coffee table: £250

Dining armchairs: £150 each

Dining chairs: £90 each

Dining table: £600

Dishwasher: £375

Drawer chest (5): £500

Dressing table: £500

Food mixer: £200

Free-standing mirror: £300

Fridge/freezer: £550

Bathroom: £6,335

Kitchen: £10,000

Nest of tables: £200

Recordable DVD: £270

Rugs: £300

Shredder: £50

Sideboard: £795

Tumble dryer: £250

Underlay: £6.99 per sq m

Wardrobe: £700

Washer/dryer: £500

Washing machine: £350

Wood floor: £35 per sq m

Workstation: £150