Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, was involved in a secret eight-month battle with the fees office after making a single expenses claim for more than £16,500 to buy and renovate a new London flat.
The authorities finally agreed to pay the money — after rejecting the claim on three separate occasions — following a series of increasingly desperate pleas from the minister and his wife.
Shortly before Christmas 2005, Mr Burnham even wrote to the fees office that he “might be in line for a divorce” if reimbursement for his expenses was not forthcoming within days.
In July 2007, Mr Burnham attempted to reclaim the costs of buying a £19.99 bath robe from Ikea.
The purchase was made the fortnight after he joined the Cabinet and the claim was later turned down by the fees office. Mr Burnham said last night that the claim was a “genuine oversight”.
A detailed analysis of Mr Burnham’s complicated claims suggest that he had an unusual arrangement allowing him to use a substantial windfall earned from a previous flat rented for him by the taxpayer — to fund the purchase of a new property.
The case casts light on the previously private dealings between the fees office, which authorises expenses, and MPs. Claims are routinely rejected leading to protracted handwritten correspondence and telephone calls between officials and members of Parliament.