The Birmingham Treasury Minister who accepted a £20,000 pay-off after leaving the Government has insisted he did nothing wrong.
Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, took the cash after leaving a handwritten note in his desk warning his successor that there was no money left.
The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury was one of five Treasury ministers who received a total of £64,766 in severance payments.
And his decision to accept the money was condemned by sources in the Coalition government who claimed: “Labour should be ashamed”.
But his spokesman insisted it was standard practice for departing ministers to receive payments.
He said: “Liam Byrne, like other departing ministers, received a package from the Government on leaving the Government.
“His letter left in a desk drawer was supposed to be humorous and he now regrets that the joke fell flat when David Laws released it to the media.”
Mr Byrne, who was unavailable for comment, left the note for Mr Laws, the Liberal Democrat who replaced him as second-in-command at the Treasury.
The Government has attempted to use the letter as evidence that Labour failed to take care of the public finances properly, and David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has referred to it in the Commons many times.
It read: “Dear Chief Secretary. I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards — and good luck! Liam.”
But Mr Byrne said at the time: “My letter was a joke, from one chief secretary to another. I do hope David Laws’s sense of humour wasn’t another casualty of the coalition deal. This is a phrase that chief secretaries have to get used to using.”
Government sources said Mr Laws did not accept a payment, even though he would have been entitled to one, when he quit the Government over his expenses as an MP in late May.
Mr Byrne accepted a severance payment of £19,589 when he left the Government while Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, accepted £19,589 and Stephen Timms, the former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, accepted £10,162.