Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 21:56 UK

MPs' expenses claims are revealed

MPs in the Commons
The BBC requested details of six MPs' claims

Commons speaker Michael Martin has released details of top MPs' expenses - including John Prescott's £4,000 food bill and a TV licence for Tony Blair.

The details follow a three-year Freedom of Information (FOI) battle by the BBC, which covers the expenses of six MPs.

Mr Blair's claim of £116 for a TV licence has angered certain groups.

The National Pensioners' Convention said its members will be "furious" and that most people had to wait until they hit 75 before getting a free licence.

All six of the MPs covered by the BBC request claimed mortgage interest payments on their second homes and five had their council tax paid.

The expenses date back to 2003/2004 and there is no suggestion that any of the claims were in breach of rules, but they do shed further light on MPs' spending.

Cleaning costs

Of the six MPs, then Conservative leader Michael Howard spent the most on "additional costs" - including mortgages, utility bills, council tax, phone bills, cleaning, food and provisions and household repairs, claiming £20,347.

Pensioners will be furious to learn that the former prime minister was getting his [TV licence] paid for by the taxpayer
Neil Duncan-Jordan
National Pensioners' Convention

Mr Prescott, deputy prime minister until last year, was next on £20,057, followed by Conservative MP Jonathan Sayeed, who has since stood down, on £18,618.

Mr Blair spent £15,490 and Mr Brown £14,304.

Meanwhile, then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy's £12,869 additional costs claim all went on mortgage interest payments.

Mr Prescott claimed the most on food and groceries of the six covered by the BBC's request - £4,000 - with Mr Blair the only other MP to claim under this category, for £174.41.

Under the rules, MPs can spend up to £400 a month on groceries.

Mr Blair, prime minister from 1997 until last year, had a £116 for TV licence paid.

Neil Duncan-Jordan, spokesman for the National Pensioners' Convention, predicted there would be anger over Mr Blair having his TV licence paid.

Michael Howard - £20,347
John Prescott - £20,057
Jonathan Sayeed - £18,618
Tony Blair - £15,490
Gordon Brown - £14,304
Charles Kennedy - £12,869
Figures supplied by Commons Commission

"Most people have to wait until they reach 75 before they get a free TV licence, and pensioners will be furious to learn that the former prime minister was getting his paid for by the taxpayer," he said.

The figures supplied also include office costs, travel and telephone expenses.

In 2003/04, the maximum amount MPs could claim for on Additional Cost Allowance, for running a second home was £20.902. It is currently £23,083.

The BBC originally made its FOI request in 2005.

But the House of Commons Commission argued that, a detailed breakdown of expenses could expose MPs to a security risk.

However, in January this year the information commissioner ruled that some of the details should be published.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office said the information was "clearly a matter of public interest".

Second request

Following a separate FOI request by campaigner Heather Brooke, the House of Commons Commission has also released details of the second home costs of nine senior politicians from 2005/06.

George Osborne - £21,533
Margaret Beckett - £21,415
David Cameron - £21,359
Mark Oaten - £21,178
William Hague - £20,071
Gordon Brown - £18,681
John Prescott - £12,825
Sir Menzies Campbell - £11,611
Tony Blair - £8,398.68
Figures supplied by Commons Commission

Conservative leader David Cameron claimed nearly all of his permitted allowance in mortgage interest/rent payments - £21,293 - and did not claim for other items such as council tax, food, cleaning or repairs, the figures show.

Sir Menzies Campbell, then Lib Dem leader, claimed the most for food of the nine MPs that year - £3,700, with John Prescott claiming just over half the amount he did two years earlier - £2,300.

Ms Brooke faces a High Court battle to get a more detailed receipt by receipt breakdown of the costs after the Commons rejected a request by the information commissioner to release them.

The Commons authorities claim releasing details of travel routes and addresses could compromise MPs' security.

Matthew Sinclair, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said some of the amounts revealed were "really shocking".

He said: "The public will be alarmed to hear that they are paying essentially to keep MPs for large parts of their working years, to cover their food, to cover their council tax and to insulate them from the kind of cost pressures that ordinary people feel."

But Labour MP Ann Cryer said the pursuit of expenses details by journalists was "becoming a witch hunt" and politicians were "all being tarred with the same brush".

She told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "We are all assumed to be wrong 'uns."

But a Conservative Party spokesman applauded the release of the figures and said all of the party's frontbenchers had been ordered to declare parliamentary claims annually.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman and anti-sleaze campaigner Norman Baker said: "This is public money we are talking about and we have to be accountable for it."

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