Friday 23 February 2018

Commons spent '£1.4m on alcohol'

Spending in House of Commons bars has increased over the past three years, according to a Freedom of Information request
Spending in House of Commons bars has increased over the past three years, according to a Freedom of Information request

The House of Commons spent more than £1.4 million on alcohol to sell in Palace of Westminster bars, restaurants and shops in 2012 and 2013, official figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information request response published online by the parliamentary authorities showed it bought nearly 50,000 bottles of House of Commons sauvignon, more than 26,000 of House merlot and more than 33,000 pints of guest ale over a two year period.

More than 8,500 bottles of champagne were purchased, alongside over 2,100 bottles of Speaker John Bercow's whisky.

According to the the Times, spending in Commons bars has gradually increased over the past three years, from just over £222,000 in April 2011 to more than £249,000 in the year to April last year, but this may reflect rising prices.

The figures may lead to further questions over Parliament's supposed drinking culture, which was laid bare in the trial of Tory MP Nigel Evans, who was cleared of sex offences.

The Commons booze culture also hit the headlines when Eric Joyce was forced to resign the Labour whip in 2012 after fighting Tory MPs in a Commons bar.

Most of the alcohol is likely to have been drunk by the 650 MPs, 760 peers, and thousands of staff and parliamentary workers in the Palace of Westminster.

But a Commons spokeswoman said an increase in commercial events accounted for a rise in demand for alcohol and helped bring down the price of running catering services in the Palace.

She said £458,861 worth of the alcohol was bought specifically to be sold in retail shops in the Palace, rather than bars and restaurants.

The spokeswoman said: "The House has seen an increased number of commercial banqueting events involving external customers in recent years.

"The increasing trend is to sell more receptions than dinner events, which attract higher numbers of guests and is the reason for increased consumption and sales in alcohol. To accommodate this increase in demand, banqueting has increased its stock for sale at such events.

"It is not possible to disaggregate sales or consumption by user.

"By allowing commercial events to take place, the House is able to help reduce the running cost of the House to the taxpayer.

"The cost of providing a catering service for the House of Commons is steadily decreasing.

"In 2014/15 the net cost of House of Commons catering service is budgeted to be £3 million.

"This compares with 2010/11 at £5.8 million, and £4.7 million in 2012/13.

"The House of Commons incurs costs for providing a catering service, because of the irregular hours and unpredictability of parliamentary business."

Press Association

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