While people in Britain go hungry an initiative to save the taxpayer money by merging the House of Commons and House of Lords catering services rejected by peers. All because they were concerned the quality of champagne would suffer as a result.
The Guardian reports: The British public has endured the expenses scandal, a cabinet minister describing police officers as plebs and a Labour MP sending an allegedly snobby tweet about “white van men”. But for sheer chutzpah, the peers of the realm have potentially topped the lot.
It has emerged that a proposal to save taxpayers some money by making peers and MPs share a catering department has been rejected “because the Lords feared that the quality of champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service”.
The disclosure, made last week by Sir Malcolm Jack, clerk of the Commons between 2006 and 2011, as he gave evidence to a governance committee examining how the palace of Westminster should be run, was met with gasps and open laughter. The astonished chair of the committee, former home secretary Jack Straw, asked: “Did you make that up? Is that true?” Jack responded: “Yes, it is true.”
Were the Lords right to be so sniffy, asked another committee member, Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley?
Jack, who had responsibility for catering procurement in the Commons, responded: “I don’t think they were; we were very careful in our selection.”
Evidence given the next day by the recently retired clerk of the house, Sir Robert Rogers, only served to confirm the peers’ continued protectiveness over their choice of bubbly. When he was asked why there was not a joint catering service, Rogers responded: “It would be very difficult to get a joint catering service. I must be very careful for a number of reasons what I say here.” Paisley then asked: “The champagne?” Straw added: “We heard a few things yesterday.” Rogers replied: “No, I am not going into the quality of the champagne. People are very possessive about some services. Catering is an absolute classic.”
The House of Lords – which has a £1.3m annual catering budget – has bought in more than 17,000 bottles of champagne since the coalition took office, enough to give each peer just over five bottles each year, at a cost of £265,770. As of 31 March this year, the House of Lords, which currently has 780 peers, had 380 bottles of champagne in stock, worth £5,713, held in its main cellar and at individual stores on site.