James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, avoided paying capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat after claiming taxpayer-funded expenses for advice from an accountant, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The Cabinet minister saved thousands of pounds after informing the parliamentary authorities that Manchester was his “main” home while the tax authorities considered London to be his “primary” residence. Mr Purnell claimed for a £395 accountant’s bill that included “tax advice provided in October 2004 regarding sale of flat” on parliamentary expenses which are intended to cover the costs of running an MP’s office.

It can also be disclosed that Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, did not pay capital gains tax on the sale of his London home in 2006. Earlier this week, Gordon Brown criticised Hazel Blears’s similar failure to pay capital gains tax as “totally unacceptable”. Miss Blears, the Communities Secretary, wrote a cheque for £13,000 to cover the tax last week. She said yesterday that acting within the rules “doesn’t cut it with the public”.

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