ALAN MILBURN was revealed as the region's most expensive MP last night after he claimed £160,888 in allowances last year -nearly 20 per cent higher than the Commons average.

The Darlington MP and former Cabinet minister ran up the 17th highest Parliamentary bill of Britain's 645 MPs in the 12 months to March.

Mr Milburn's train travel -at £15,785, the highest of any MP - propelled him up the expenses' league table. The average rail cost was £3,258.

Mr Milburn also spent considerably more than the average on running his office (£27,968, against £20,037) and significantly more on staff travel (£2,749, against an average £532).

Last night, Mr Milburn declined to comment.

The second costliest MP in the region was Dari Taylor (Stockton South), who claimed £159,178, putting her in 24th place in the Westminster league table.

Right behind was Lib Dem Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough, £159,147, 25th), ahead of Ian Wright (Hartlepool, £156,975, 37th) and Dr Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, £155,572, 44th).

Ms Taylor's rail bill was also high (£12,210), while Mr Wright had one of the highest postage costs (£19,494).

Dr Kumar had the distinction of being the most costly of the region's MPs for each of the previous three years, but his bill fell by nearly £5,500 in the last financial year.

In contrast to the high-spenders, the least expensive local MP was former prime minister, Tony Blair (Sedegefield, £97,084, 635th), followed by Chris Mullin (Sunderland South, £115,356, 583rd).

The allowances, which are on top of a basic salary of £59,686, cover items including office and staff costs, computer equipment, travel expenses, a home in London and postage bills.

In total, MPs totted up a bill of £87.6m in 2006-7, a "like for like" rise of about five per cent on the previous year, according to the House of Commons authorities.

Labour minister Shahid Malik (Dewsbury) claimed the most at £185,421, while Conservative MP Philip Hollobone (Kettering) claimed the least -£44,551.

MP Nick Harvey, who is on the members' estimate committee, said taxpayers received "excellent value for money", and said all payments were subject to "careful control and scrutiny".