Education ministers have billed the taxpayer almost pound;75,000 a year for occasional visits to their constituencies, official figures reveal.
Many of the politicians at the Department for Education and Skills have been claiming the maximum amount for the cost of staying overnight away from home. As ministers, Parliamentary rules say they live full-time in London.
Until February this year, when the rules were changed, they could only claim this allowance for overnight stays in their constituencies.
Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, and ministers David Miliband and Ivan Lewis consistently have claimed close to the maximum allowance, which this year is pound;20,333 per MP.
The total claimed for expenses of all kinds by MPs in the education sector is pound;2,979,034. When expenses for peers involved in education are included, the bill to taxpayers rises to pound;3,056,041.
Despite living in Southgate, north London, a Tube journey from the House of Commons, schools minister Stephen Twigg claimed pound;5,280 for accommodation last year. This year, however, with expenses due to be made public, he claimed nothing.
Kim Howells was paid pound;14,243 this year for stays in his Pontypridd constituency.
The housing allowance has come under particular scrutiny since MPs' expenses were published last week because it allows them to buy second homes at taxpayers' expense and pocket the capital gains later.
Mr Clarke indicated in a statement that he believed the pound;20,333 was for living in London for most of the week, although the rules clearly state this was not the case for ministers. He said: "Like other occupations, MPs should be entitled to claim expenses that arise to meet the costs of their work."
Amounts claimed for accommodation vary enormously. Jeff Ennis, a Labour education select committee member whose constituency is in Yorkshire, managed to secure a London pied ... terre for just pound;7,924 a year.
But Angela Watkinson, a Tory education spokesperson, charged the taxpayer up to pound;19,722 for the occasions she could not return to Upminster, in east London.
Labour select committee member Kerry Pollard has also been criticised for claiming pound;10,052 for a London home, when he lives a half-hour train journey away in St Albans.
The most expensive MP in education is Paul Holmes, the Liberal Democrat select committee member, who cost the taxpayer pound;138,129. Most of any MP's expenses are used to pay for staff and office space, but Mr Holmes also claimed pound;11,514 for travel and pound;7,980 for postal charges.
Mr Holmes said his claims were much lower in previous years, but he had to claim an additional pound;9,391 this year for extra staff after a researcher fell seriously ill.
He said: "About 95 per cent of it is spent on staff and office costs. Would you say a headteacher is pocketing money that goes on running his school? Obviously you wouldn't."
Barry Sheerman, chairman of the education select committee, and Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, claimed the largest amounts for travel at pound;15,634 and pound;16,868 respectively.
But there are signs of belt-tightening: Mr Sheerman had claimed pound;24,740 the previous year, a figure that does not include select committee visits.
Baroness Seccombe, Tory education spokesperson in the Lords, claimed the largest amount among peers involved in education, at pound;43,409.
Peers' allowances largely consist of payments for subsistence and accommodation for every day they attend the Lords. They are allowed pound;64 a day for meals and travel and pound;128 for overnight stays. Like most peers with ministerial salaries, Lord Filkin, junior minister at the DfES, claimed no extra allowances.
The DfES has come under fire for failing to explain a bill of more than Pounds 40 million for consultants.
The department was unable to provide details of who they were and what work they were carrying out when questioned by The TES.
The spending is just part of a bill of more than pound;1.75 billion across all departments. A DfES spokesperson said collating details about the companies involved and their roles would be too expensive because not all of them were hired centrally.
WHAT EDUCATION-SECTOR MPS AND PEERS CLAIM IN ALLOWANCES
Paul Holmes (Chesterfield), Liberal Democrat, on education select committee, pound;138,129.
Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield), Labour chairman of education select committee, pound;133,655.
Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough), Liberal Democrat education spokesman, pound;129,700.
David Chaytor (Bury North), Conservative, on education select committee, Pounds 128,053.
Helen Jones (Warrington North), Labour, on select committee, Pounds 126,924.
Charles Hendry (Wealden), Conservative education spokesman, Pounds 125,811.
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Conservative, on education select committee, pound;125,767.
Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale), Conservative, shadow education secretary, pound;123,918.
Robert Jackson (Wantage), Conservative, on education select committee, Pounds 123,818.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster), Conservative education spokeswoman, Pounds 122,042.
Charles Clarke (Norwich South), Labour, Education Secretary, Pounds 120,816.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell), Conservative education spokesman, Pounds 119,721.
David Miliband (South Shields), Labour, school standards minister, Pounds 118,493.
Average MP, pound;118,000.
Ivan Lewis (Bury South), Labour, junior minister for skills and vocational education, pound;117,517.
Mark Hoban (Fareham), Conservative education spokesman, pound;116,781.
John Pugh (Southport), Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Pounds 117,434.
Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton), Conservative, on education select committee, pound;117,198.
David Rendel (Newbury), Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Pounds 115,309.
Kerry Pollard (St Albans), Labour, on education select committee, Pounds 114,537.
Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford), Labour, on education select committee, pound;112,130.
Kim Howells (Pontypridd), Labour, education minister, pound;110,665.
Valerie Davey (Bristol West), Labour, on education select committee, Pounds 108,564.
Stephen Twigg (Enfield Southgate), Labour, schools minister, Pounds 105,276.
Margaret Hodge (Barking), Labour, minister for children, pound;103,778.
Jeff Ennis (Barnsley East and Mexborough), Labour, on education select committee, pound;102,998.
Baroness Seccombe (Con) pound;43,409
Baroness Blatch (Con) pound;33,598
Lord Filkin (Labour) pound;0