EAST Lancashire MPs’ expenses have been revealed, lifting the lid on claims for garage doors, televisions, dry stone walls, groceries and even beer glasses.

But the true scale of payouts could be far greater as much of the House of Commons data published yesterday was blacked out.

Despite the censoring, around 1,000 pages of expenses claim forms for East Lancashire MPs were released.

They revealed Darwen and Rossendale MP Janet Anderson claimed for a dry stone wall costing £900, £160 for newspapers and £235 for new carpets.

The public purse picked up the tab for Hyndburn and Haslingden MP Greg Pope’s £99 vacuum cleaner, a £1,646 dining table and chairs, a set of beer glasses, bedding and a cutlery set during a trip to department store John Lewis.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw’s £400 LCD television and £3,635 bathroom refit was paid for, while Burnley MP Kitty Ussher got a £1,590 new sofa and £599 on curtains, a rug, wine rack and floorstand.

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans claimed for a microwave, telephone and kettle, while Pendle MP Gordon Prentice a £649 fridge freezer and a £595 sideboard.

All our MPs claimed thousands of pounds in food costs.

Critics said the payouts revealed the MPs’ ‘gravy train’.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is utterly wrong that so many MPs have been enriching themselves at taxpayers’ expense.

“No-one has any objection to covering the costs of doing the job, but taxpayers should never have been charged for beer glasses or hundreds of pounds of food. These things are in no way necessary to the role of being an MP.”

Mr Pope, who is standing down at the next election for family reasons, admitted he was ‘embarrassed’ about some of his claims being made public.

He said: "It is uncomfortable reading.

"With hindsight of course it looks terrible. Especially the timing of these details being published is bad because so many people are going through such tough times and I am acutely aware of that.

"The purpose of the allowance is to assist you in your home and when I bought those items I was moving house.

"I have been a member of parliament for 17 years and it is not as if I was making claims like this every year.

"But do I feel comfortable about those claims I made from the trip to John Lewis? No I do not.

"What I did was within the purpose of the allowance. I have not broken the rules but I understand that saying that is not enough.

"I have never tried to maximise my expenses claims and I probably could have claimed more within the rules.

"One of my largest claims was £6,000 when my boiler blew up but there cannot be many who would argue with that."

"I know that a committee is being formed in Westminster to look at expense claims in hindsight and I welcome that."

Mr Straw, asked whether claiming for a new television was within the spirit of the rules, said: “It’s long been accepted that TVs are claimable, so yes is the answer.”

And he said he claimed for two new beds because the old second-hand ones were “very uncomfortable.”

He said: “I have always done my best to keep the costs down.”

On the controversial topic of MPs’ food claims, he said: “I have never claimed for the full amount, but I end up having to eat out repeatedly in Blackburn.”

Mr Evans said he was “absolutely” confident his expenses claims were within the spirit of the guidelines, but added: “I am not Mother Theresa.”

Asked about his second home for which he has claimed £50,000 in mortgage interest payments, Mr Evans said: “It is somewhere in East London, and that is all I am prepared to say.”

Having been an MP for 18 years, he said many of his claims predated the latest figures, which start in 2004.

Mr Evans said he had stopped claiming for food in 2007/08: “I have stopped claiming for food year on year. They are legitimate claims - and some MPs have claimed the top amount for many years. But I decided it should be something I should be paying for myself.

“I know people think MPs are obsessed with expenses, but it’s the thing you do last thing at night when you’re trying to get away. It’s an absolute bind filling them in.”

Mrs Anderson defended her claims and said: “Under the additional costs allowances we are allowed to claim up to £400 a month for food. The other allowances are designed to reflect the fact we have to live and jobs" target="_blank">work in two different places.”

Mr Prentice did not respond to requests for a comment. A spokesman for Mrs Ussher said she would not be making any comment.

Ashley Whalley, politics lecturer at the university centre, Blackburn College, said trust in MPs had been damaged.

He said: “The problem began when Margaret Thatcher refused to sanction pay rises to MPs and they were encouraged to use expenses to supplement their income.

It has become the custom and practice for most MPs to say ‘but I’m acting within the rules’.

“I don’t think that is acceptable anymore.”

The release of tens of thousands of claim forms and receipts on the Parliament website more than a year after the High Court ordered their publication is likely to lead to demands for greater openness.

There are no addresses for MPs' homes, meaning it would have been virtually impossible to identify so-called "flipping", whereby MPs switch the designation of their second properties to maximise their claims.

Also removed are the names and details of people and companies to whom payments were made using expenses.

Correspondence between MPs and the Commons Fees Office has also been removed.


BLACKBURN MP Jack Straw’s expenses include claims for two new beds, renovation of his bathroom, basement shelves and even a £2,000 garage door.

Despite having claimed relatively little for his mortgage expenses, Mr Straw has filed claims for £7,500 for boiler repairs and £1,855 for jobs" target="_blank">work to his kitchen.

Public cash was used to buy a £400 LCD TV and a £3,635 bathroom refit. In line with many MPs Mr Straw claimed around £3,500 per year for food, around £300 per month.

As previously reported Mr Straw paid back around £1,500 that he had incorrectly claimed for council tax.

Yesterday’s Government publication of Mr Straw’s expenses did not include figures for the tax year 2004-05.

Many of the details of Mr Straw’s claims are censored in documents released online.


RIBBLE Valley MP Nigel Evans was refunded for a microwave, a telephone and a kettle as part of his Additional Cost Allowance.

But his expenses do not reveal the scale of claims of the kind seen elsewhere in Westminster. The expenses files reveal he has a 20-year interest-only mortgage worth £300,000 on his second home, which is in East London.

His mortgage interest claims were at least £1,000 a month, and had cleaning bills of between £800 and £1,000 reimbursed every year.

Mr Evans also claimed hundreds of pounds in services charges and ground rent for his London home. Mr Evans claimed the cost of his television licence back every year, and in 2004/05 was paid glass shelving costing £82.

The same year he claimed back £210 in ‘legal costs’. Mr Evans has not claimed any food costs back since 2007.

His phone costs claimed were around £300 a year.


REPAIRS to a dry-stone wall costing £900 were among Janet Anderson’s expenses claims.

The Labour MP for Rossendale and Darwen, who already tops the pile for her mileage claims, also claimed £160 to have newspapers delivered to her home in Darwen in 2005/06.

Her other claims included £1,120 to replace a garage door, £100 to remove graffiti, £75 to tidy her garden, £500 to clean paintwork, £250 to lop down trees, £74 to tidy the garden, £235 for new carpets and £325 for new double glazing.

Mrs Anderson also claimed a hefty telephone and communications bill, which topped £2,000 some years – and typically claimed £350 a month for food for her time spent in Darwen.

Her files also show an unexplained entry under the “other” section of £2,700 in April 2007, which is not supported by a receipt. She claimed mortgage interest of between £4,000 and £5,000 per year.

In March 2007 Mrs Anderson was refunded £350 for replacing missing roof tiles and repairing a stained glass skylight.

She claimed annual cleaning bills of between £1,500 to £2,000 for her Darwen home.

The files show she was given a 50 per cent second home discount on her council tax by Blackburn with Darwen Council until 200708, when she paid the full amount.


HYNDBURN MP Greg Pope regularly claimed the maximum £400 per month in food allowance but was among the lowest claimers in categories such as cleaning and telephone costs.

Mr Pope had a £6,057 bill paid by the taxpayer for a new boiler in 2005.

But one of his biggest claims was due to him moving his second home from a flat in Kennington to a small house in Southwark in 2006.

He claimed £5,203 for services including furniture storage and removal van hire. Also in that amount was a claim for a storage unit and towel stands for £37.95, a vacuum cleaner for £99.98 and a dining room table and chairs for £1,646.

A trip to department store John Lewis saw Mr Pope spend £1,500 on items including an LCD TV for £749, a set of beer glasses, a 24-piece cutlery set and bedding.He also claimed for a mirror, sauce jug, bowls and a high-ball glass.

Costs that were named in his expenses list also included a charge of £217 for a vacuum cleaner.

But Mr Pope’s claims for council tax and cleaning were low, with the MP stating that he had accidentally under-claimed for years.

In all he claimed just £304 over four years for cleaning.


BEFORE her first year in office was complete, Kitty Ussher claimed for the revamp of her south London home.

In her March 2006 expenses claim, the Burnley MP had submitted receipts for her new £1,750 bathroom, a £1,240 plumbing bill and the £1,590 cost of a new sofa and cream chair.

These went alongside a £599 LG fridge freezer, £397 Bosch tumble dryer, and £241 Hotpoint dishwasher. In January 2007 she spent £599 on furniture, including new curtains, a rug, wine rack and floorstand. The following year, by the time of her September 2007 claim, she had replaced her windows, costing £5,615, with window blinds and a bathroom refit sought later, leaving an £850 bill. The MP had tried to claim £2,797 for the bathroom project, but was told by the Commons Fee Office she was only entitled to £292.67. Blocked drains were a problem in October 2007, resulting in a £387 claim.


MP Gordon Prentice last year claimed for a £649 fridge freezer and the previous year he submitted a £595 receipt for a new sideboard.

Elsewhere, cleaning products feature prominently among his monthly claims, along with various TV licence bills, a steam iron and kitchen scales.

In March 2006, the Pendle MP also claimed for a £699 Toshiba LCD television and £69 TV stand.

His mortgage repayments top £900 each month and his grocery bill is usually more than £350 for the same period, just under the £400 maximum allowable.

Regular £600 and £700 service and maintenance bills for his London residence were also settled every few months under the expenses regime.