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UK Lords reject Champagne budget cut

Peers in the House of Lords rejected a catering budget cut because they feared being forced to drink inferior Champagne, a parliamentary insider has revealed.

The Houses of Parliament (Photo: Flickr)

The House of Lords has long-had a separate catering budget to MPs in the House of Commons – a budget that has seen them enjoy 17,000 bottles of top Champagne over the last five years at prices between £27 and £34 per bottle.

But The Daily Mirror reports that a cost-saving plan which would have seen the two parliamentary Houses combine food and wine accounts was rejected by peers out of fear they would be forced to drink inferior Champagne brands.

The refusal was revealed by Sir Malcolm Jack, clerk of Commons between 2006 and 2011, as he gave evidence to a committee looking at the running of parliament.

Sir Jack told the MPs in the committee, “The Lords feared that the quality of Champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service.”

Committee chair and veteran Labour MP Jack Straw then asked Sir Malcolm: “Did you make that up? Is that true?”

Sir Malcolm replied, “Yes, it is true.”

A spokesman for the House of Lords said: “The House of Lords would not reject a merger of catering services with the House of Commons simply on the supply of Champagne.

“The House of Lords catering department and subsidy is significantly smaller than that of the House of Commons, and it is not clear that any merger would produce savings in the costs of the House of Lords. All alcohol sold in the House of Lords is sold at a profit.”

But the newspaper has claimed that Champagne in the House of Commons’ bars is actually more expensive than in the Lords, at £30.15 a bottle and £40.85 for vintage.

Former Commons clerk, Sir Robert Rogers, told the committee the Lords were “very possessive” about their catering.

He said: “I am not going into the quality of the Champagne. People are very possessive about some services. Catering is an absolute classic.”

In May, the drinks business revealed that £1.4m was spent on alcohol in Westminster as a whole in the parliamentary year 2012-2013, with the HoC own-brand Sauvignon Blanc topping the chart at 50,000 bottles.

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