SOUTHAMPTON MP John Denham has lifted the lid on his Parliamentary expenses and revealed he spent almost £2,500 of taxpayers’ money on furniture for his London home.

The Itchen MP and Communities Secretary gave the Daily Echo exclusive access to details of his allowances over four years, saying he wanted to “get it out there” so people could make their own judgements.

In doing so, he becomes one of the first Cabinet ministers to allow a spotlight to be shone on to his claims before their official publication today by the Commons authorities.

Most of the controversy over MPs’ expenses has centred on the additional costs allowance, which enabled MPs to claim more than £20,000 a year to keep, furnish and maintain a second home to help them carry out their Parliamentary duties.

The Daily Echo can today reveal for the first time that Mr Denham’s claims for his second home – which totalled £87,729 between 2004/5 and 2007/8 – included £1,590 for two armchairs, £475 for an “Alana” rug and £474 for six kitchen chairs.

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He was refunded £60, leaving the taxpayer to pick up a tab for £2,479.

The claims for furniture for his London home, bought from department store John Lewis in 2005, were approved by the Fees Office.

Campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance said Mr Denham’s claims strengthened the argument for a radical shake-up of expenses.

Campaign director Mark Wallace said: “This is yet more proof that the system of MPs being able to fit out their properties for their own benefit is simply unsustainable.

Taxpayers do not think it’s right for MPs to buy furnishings they get to keep. It’s high time Parliament owned property in London where MPs could be put up.”

Mr Denham’s largest regular claims – for up to £1,533 per month – were for mortgage interest payments, along with repeated claims for utilities bills and council tax.

He also requested and received £3,880 for cleaning over the four-year period, which he said averaged out at £70 per month, and £4,550 for food, or roughly £25 a week.

Other significant claims included, in 2007, £2,792 to damp proof a bathroom wall and, in 2004, £1,100 for redecorating and £545 for repairs to his roof. He also claimed £408 for a replacement washer/dryer, £180 for plumbing, £200 a year in service charges for a burglar alarm and annual payments of about £900 for household insurance.

Mr Denham said all his second home claims between 2004/5 and 2007/8 were for the same London property. He said he paid capital gains tax on former properties in both Southampton and London when he sold them and moved to his current homes.

The MP also opened up his files on his constituency office costs, which came to £69,948 between 2004 and 2008. They included payments to venues hired to host constituency surgeries, rent to the Labour Party for his Southampton office and other payments for the cost of a photocopier, refuse disposal, window cleaning, website, and an accountant to handle the office’s tax affairs.

Other claims included £875 for a share of the costs of redecorating the office and redoing the flooring, £250 for “petty cash” and £4.95 plus VAT for “neon rainbow”

post-it notes.

A claim for Christmas cards, said to be submitted by mistake, was rejected by the Fees Office.

Mr Denham defended his claims but accepted the public now believed the expenses system was too generous and needed an overhaul.

He told the Daily Echo: “When I made my claims I thought they were reasonable and for the purpose the allowance was intended to meet. Looking back, I still believe that was a fair decision at the time. But it is quite clear that the public believes the whole system is too generous.

“We must respond and bring in a system they believe is fair and that means making it less generous as well as preventing abuse.”

Mr Denham is the third MP in the south to release details of his expenses, following Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead and Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne, who posted their full claims on their websites last month.

New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne has been posting details of his expenditure – but not the receipts – online for the past year.

Denham defends his claims

■ £2,479 for furniture

Mr Denham said: “Those were things I didn’t have for the house [in London] I moved into. They weren’t replacements or improvements.

They were typically priced, mid-range. The Fees Office considered it reasonable because they approved it.”

■ £2,792 to damp proof a bathroom wall

Mr Denham’s spokesman said: “In 2007 John had a major damp problem in the bathroom of his second home. As this was a structural problem, he claimed for this under his ACA allowance.”

■ £1,100 to repair and redecorate London property

The claim was one fifth of the redecoration bill. Mr Denham said he claimed for the cost of the “essential” work in stairwells and halls where wallpaper was peeling, plaster falling off walls and paid for the rest himself.