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House of Commons' champagne bill rises by 72% since 2010


The rest of the country may be suffering the effects of budget cuts but champagne-quaffing politicians are apparently not feeling the pinch.

New figures show a huge spike in the House of Commons' champagne bill over the past four years.

Consumption of the bubbly stuff has steadily grown year on year since the coalition government came into power in 2010, with an increase of 1,482 bottles in the past year alone.

Funds for this come from the taxpayers’ subsidy, as with all bars and restaurants in the Houses of Commons.

The shocking numbers were revealed by parliament officials in response to a Freedom of Information request by Huffington Post UK.

The figures indicated that a total of £275,221 has been spent on buying in more than 25,000 bottles of champagne since the coalition took over in May 2010.

The money is invested on luxury brands such as Taittinger, Lenoble and the House of Commons' own-brand champagnes, for politicians and their guests to enjoy in Parliament's bars and restaurants.

According to the stats, 4,691 of bottles of the fine stuff were ordered the year David Cameron's Conservative-Lib Dem government came to power in 2010.

This figure jumped by 72% - far beyond the level of inflation - to hit 8,082 bottles ordered in 2013.

Number of bottles brought per year by House of Commons staff

Source: Freedom of Information act request by Huffington Post UK

  • 2010/2011: 4,691
  • 2011/2012: 5,832
  • 2012/2013: 6,600
  • 2013/2014: 8,082

David Cameron chairs a cabinet meeting in 2012

A House of Commons spokesman told the Huffington Post:

"While 2010/11 was an election year when catering activity levels were lower than usual, the increasing trend is to sell more receptions than dinner events which attract higher number of guests and is the reason for increased consumption and sales in alcohol. To accommodate this increase in demand, banqueting has increased its order of champagne stocks."

But the figures will anger many people in Britain, which is still recovering from the recession with public services hit hard by budget cuts and public sector workers feeling the effects of long-term pay freezes.

Only at the beginning of this year, chancellor George Osbourne warned of more cuts and austerity to come in a "year of hard truths."

"This country is much poorer because of the economic collapse six or seven years ago, and families feel that. What is the answer? I can't wave a magic wand and make the country richer. The way the country gets richer and families get richer is by being a competitive country that attracts jobs and investment," Osbourne told Radio 4's Today programme in January.

Boris Johnson and David Cameron are presented with bottles of champagne and hot dogs in April 2010

MPs are already under scrutiny for the way in which they spend the taxpayer's money, thanks to a series of expenses scandals and a proposed 11% rise for politician's pay - to £74,000 per year - set to come into effect in 2015.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance told the Huffington Post: "Given the message of fiscal responsibility emanating from Westminster, taxpayers would expect the number of champagne bottled purchased to be going down, not up... With food and booze still subsidised at taxpayers’ expense, tolerance for bills for expensive wine and champagne is in short supply, unlike the drinks."

According to a YouGov/BuzzFeed survey released last month, just 14% of people polled agreed that Prime Minister Cameron was "in touch with normal people" and when asked what his drink of choice might be, the most popular response was champagne.

Despite this, 26% of voters in the poll said they would most like to sit next to Cameron on a long journey – compared to 20 per cent for Labour's Ed Miliband, 18% for Lim Dem leader Nick Clegg and 15% for Nigel Farage of UKIP.

Champagne is flowing at the House of Commons, amid budget cuts elsewhere

Jon Ashworth, a shadow cabinet office minister, claimed the move towards "bubbly" was a return to a Tory-led government.

"Rather than popping champagne corks with their chums, David Cameron and his ministers should get down to business and tackle the cost of living crisis," he told the Guardian at the beginning of this year.

Whitehall's wine cellar is located beneath Lancaster House near Buckingham Palace and holds £832,607 worth of drink – including a £2,310 bottle of 1961 Chateau Latour.

The Coalition vowed to make the parliamentary wine cellar more cost-effective when they came to power.

Tory chairman Eric Pickles imposed a champagne ban on visitors to the party's annual conference in 2009, just before the party was voted in.

"Basically, I want to see less champagne bubbles and more bubbling activity," he said at the time. "It's actually a humbling thing, if people give us their trust against the background of a recession."

Photos: Rex Features



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