Former Equality Minister Ruth Kelly claimed thousands of pounds for water damage caused by a burst pipe, despite having home insurance at the time.

Expenses obtained by the Daily Telegraph showed that she claimed £31,000 to redecorate and refurbish her Bolton West constituency home between 2004 and 2008, some of which was spent on repairing water damage.

She told the newspaper that the building and contents of the house were covered by an insurance policy, but that she chose to pay for the work from her expenses.

Last night, she said she “can’t now recall” why she did not make a claim on insurance. “I acted in good faith throughout and have broken neither the spirit nor the letter of the rules,” she added.

Kelly did not reveal the exact amount that had been used to cover flood damage but said it would not have included furniture.

Items she claimed for include a coffee table at £625, kitchen equipment for £650 and £1,275 for a sideboard.

Some of her expense claims were rejected for being too extravagant, such as £3,600 for a sofa and chairs from the upmarket BoConcept retailer, £2,355 for a dining table and chairs, and £2,000 for a 37-inch plasma television.

Last night, she defended her claims, saying: “The fees office said the costs could be claimed under the allowances system and, on provision of receipts, they would judge what were reasonable amounts for reimbursement, the remainder of which I would be liable for myself.”

In November 2007, Kelly, then the Transport Secretary, was forced to apologise after misspending taxpayer’s money on Labour party publicity.

MPs are allowed to spend £10,000 of public funds on neutral leaflets but are not allowed to use them to make party political statements.

However, a newsletter distributed in her marginal Bolton West constituency and paid for from her allowance, repeatedly referred to ‘Labour’, ‘Labour Party’ and ‘Labour Government’.

She was selected by Tony Blair as Minister for Equality in 2006

A member of controversial Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, Ms Kelly’s suitability for the role was repeatedly questioned.

After PinkNews.co.uk first raised her voting record in May 2006, Ms Kelly repeatedly refused to deny that she personally regarded homosexuality as sinful.

She did not vote for gay rights while Minister for Equality.

In October, she told her constituents she will step down at the next general election.