Value For Taxpayers' Money: MP claims £609 for trimming a hedge around his helipad

This is our favourite news item on the MPs expenses fiasco.

It appeared in the Metro on 19 June 2009.

"MPs squeezed every penny out of the taxpayer, claiming for everything from a 1p phone bill to a paper clip, it has been revealed.

As their expenses were officially published for the first time, the full extent of how they bled the allowances system was exposed.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed 1p for a 12-second mob­ile phone call he made – with the amount handwritten on a form alongside a £10,020.34 claim for office repairs and a landline.

Labour's Bob Blizzard claimed for a 39p paper clip, Tory MP Garry Streeter claimed 82p for a flapjack and Labour backbencher Gerald Kauf­man put in for a 53p bottle of bleach and 71p bottle of washing up liquid.

Political commentator Iain Dale said: 'This is indefendable. You could not get away with this in the private sector.'

The claims have been published for the first time online – although much of the critical detail was blacked out.

Had the uncensored documents not been leaked several weeks ago, many of the MPs' worst excesses would have remained secret.

However, the official documents, which cover the years 2004 to 2008, do show that culture secretary Ben Bradshaw claimed for a stamp, Labour MP David Taylor put in for face cream and Conser­vative MP Humfrey Malins claimed £4 for a toilet brush.

Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik claimed £19.99 for the 'mother of all wigs' to wear to a charity event, while shadow chancellor George Osborne charged the taxpayer £47 for two DVDs of his own speech on Value For Taxpayers' Money.

Sir Michael Spicer, the Tories' most senior backbencher, claimed £609 to trim a hedge around his helipad and shadow home secretary Chris Grayling claimed for three TVs and three shredders.

Tony Blair claimed for almost £7,000 to cover roof repairs just two days before he stood down as prime minister.

Despite the revelations, Bill Cockburn chairman of the Senior Salaries Review Body, which sets MPs' pay, said they deserved a rise of between ten and 15 per cent on top of their £64,766 a year salaries."

MPs bled system for wigs, paper clips and flapjacks (The Metro, 19 June 2009)