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Saturday, 27 November, 1999, 07:52 GMT
1m bill for Downing Street decoration
The Blairs outside 10 Downing Street The Blairs' new baby could mean more spending

Tony Blair is under fire from opposition MPs for his spending on No 10 Downing Street, according to a newspaper.

Parliamentary answers show that almost a million pounds has been spent modernising and redecorating the building since Labour came to power.

Norman Baker MP Norman Baker MP: Criticised spending
In 1997-1998, the bill was 188,000. In 1998-1999 it was 348,000 and in April to October 1999, it was 435,000.

The Daily Telegraph says Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who put down the questions, said Mr Blair appeared "to have given himself a blank cheque signed by the taxpayer".

And the Conservative's John Redwood tells the paper: "They obviously want a glitzy backdrop for their showbiz parties, but I can think of other spending priorities."

John Redwood MP John Redwood MP: "Other priorities"
Mr Blair's written parliamentary answers say the expenditure is "mainly attributable to the refurbishment of the state rooms and coverting the top floor of the building into office accommodation."

The answers estimate spending on wallpaper at approximately 1,200.

Mr Blair's close colleague, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, was widely criticised for spending 650,000 upgrading his official residence last year.

Among the items singled out by critics was hand-crafted wallpaper for 59,000.

Room must be found for new baby

Mr Blair and his wife and family do not live in the flat above No 10, but in the bigger apartment over Nos 11 and 12 Downing Street.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, uses the flat over No 10.

The recent announcement that Cherie Blair was expecting the couple's fourth child in May led to speculation more work would have to be done on the family flat.

According to Mr Blair's parliamentary answers, plans for future expenditure have not yet been agreed.

They also point out that in 1996-1997, 1,486,775 was spent on Nos 10-12 Downing Street
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See also:
19 Nov 99 |  UK
Bringing up baby, Downing Street style
02 Mar 99 |  UK Politics
Irvine invites new row
20 Apr 98 |  UK
Lord Irvine opens his doors

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