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Hilary Benn squashed by 720,479 packets of Jammie Dodgers

10 April 2014

For months now the Tories and Labour have each been trying to out-do the other by revealing embarrassing examples of spending. Labour has generated the odd story about pot plants, biscuits and tellies by using written parliamentary questions to get departments to spill the beans. Eric Pickles’s Department for Local Government has never played ball and replies by flagging up how much Labour spent in government; thereby reminding the public of those Halcyon days. Yesterday’s response to one of Hilary Benn’s questions was a classic of the genre:

‘Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his Department’s (a) catering and(b) hospitality budget was in (i) 2012 and (ii) 2013.

Brandon Lewis: My Department has no separate budget for catering and hospitality in 2012 and 2013.

To assist the right hon. Member, I would note that this Government has dramatically cut spending compared to the last Labour Government and put in place far tighter rules and restrictions on spending:

The Department spent £553,230 on catering and hospitality in 2008-09, and £456,142 in 2009-10. By 2012-13, spending had been reduced to £58,882 (plus £16,727 of delayed billing from the year before). We anticipate spending in the region of £36,000 in the year 2013-14 (the precise figure will be audited at financial year end).

The expenditure undertaken is essentially for light refreshments for a large number of small official events such as: European Regional Development Fund events (meetings with external visitors and Local Management Committee meetings); Conferences and workshops with representatives of local government, housing, planning and local communities; Public roadshows and Portas Pilot events; All-day recruitment assessment centres, training and induction courses.

We do not routinely incur any expenditure on refreshments for Ministers other than “de minimis” expenditure on tea and coffee for Ministers’ meetings with external visitors, or on the rare occasion when Ministers undertake overnight stays on official business outside London.

Our departmental saving has also been assisted by terminating ministerial group spending on Government Procurement Cards, as practiced by the Labour Government at taxpayers’ expense at the likes of Sky City Casino, the Cinnamon Club, the Wolseley, Brasserie 44, Boisdales, Inn the Park, Mango Tree, Shepherds, Incognico, Buffalo Bar, Mr Chu’s China Palace, Tantric Jazz and Fat Tuesdays.

We have showed that there is considerable scope for the public sector to generate significant savings in this area, as evident from the ongoing saving of up to half a million pounds a year.

To place our savings in context, as noted in the answer of 8 April 2014, Official Report, House of Lords, column 270WA, when the right hon. Member was Secretary of State, he spent £444,891 on catering, hospitality and refreshments in 2008-09 and £552,367 in 2009-10.

I know that the right hon. Member has a particular interest in biscuits, so to help quantify this amount, his spending in his last year in office is equivalent today to buying 720,479 packets of Jammie Dodgers from Waitrose (albeit, with a free cup of coffee thrown in).’

Slam dunk. Please let that be the end of this long running game.

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Show comments
  • Anees Rehman

    The forum posting is a unique and

    Advertise online free

  • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

    The bankers’ bonus tax paid for that.

  • jesseventura2

    Hilary was the new labour front man for Tony the phony Blair’s removal of the toilet cops to allow cottaging and dogging.
    Anyone think Cameron, Clegg or Miliband will call to replace the cops and importuning back in the courts

  • Colonel Mustard

    “as practiced by the Labour Government at taxpayers’ expense at the likes of Sky City Casino, the Cinnamon Club, the Wolseley, Brasserie 44, Boisdales, Inn the Park, Mango Tree, Shepherds, Incognico, Buffalo Bar, Mr Chu’s China Palace, Tantric Jazz and Fat Tuesdays.”

    Says it all about those “champions of the people”. What do get when socialists are in power? Privileged apparatchiks and waste.

    • HookesLaw

      And we must do all all necessary to prevent them strolling in to power again.

  • McClane

    Nice. But why are we spending anything on the European Regional Development Fund?

    • HookesLaw

      Because the development of the poorer countries in Europe creates markets for our own goods and creates jobs for them at home and not here.
      Norway is not in the EU but pays into the EU Regional Fund.

  • Radford_NG

    I don’t hear about the Environment Agency financing Gay Pride marches;and purchasing T-shirts an mugs for E.A.staff with the slogan `Some people are gay – get over it`.

    What about T-shirts for the public:`So,your home’s been flooded-get over it`.

    • Dougie

      Yes, another success for Hilary Benn who was, of course, Environment Secretary when this all started.

  • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

    Stupid game by all concerned, particularly because things like tea-bags in the break rooms or at-cost catering in the canteen mean sod all for MPs or senior civil servants (who can always find someone prepared to buy them dinner), they merely penalise the support staff who keep SW1 running.

    • Fergus Pickering

      And wouldn’t be able to do it without free bickies. All my working life I paid for my biscuits. Why should they get them free? I think yu are out of your depth on this thread because you realy don’t know anything about it.

      • Kaine

        I’ve actually worked on the Parliamentary Estate. I bought my own tea bags. When I did a brief stint at one of the shiny lobbying firms I never had to put my hand in my pocket.

        Are you really saying an office cleaner in Portcullis House should have to pay Central London prices if they want a hot meal during their shift?

        • Colonel Mustard

          “Are you really saying an office cleaner in Portcullis House should have to pay Central London prices if they want a hot meal during their shift?”

          No, I think you are saying the opposite. That workers on low salaries should have their meals provided or subsidised. Nice idea but as usual the devil is in the detail of how it would be structured and arranged. Where to draw the lines? Where I live there are a lot of middle-aged or retired, middle class women in relatively low-paid part time jobs, many of them grandmothers. They are mostly working for what used to be called “pin money” to upgrade their one to three annual holidays abroad, whilst young people in this area can’t get jobs. Those women are not ‘poor’ or working through necessity but their availability undoubtedly depresses wages and encourages employers to offer part time jobs, often shared, to keep the wages low.

        • Fergus Pickering

          I(f they get free meals then it is a perk and should be taxed. They get paid central London wages, don’t they?

          • HookesLaw

            Go get a life.

  • BigCheddar

    Great blog, thanks.

  • ITB

    This is quite funny – until you remember that so much public money has been wasted.

    • Makroon

      It’s a shame that the general public, recently conned into thinking the Benn family are ‘national treasures’, will have no chance of hearing this exchange.

      • Kaine

        As opposed to the Thatcher children who consist of a racist reality TV star and a convict?

        • Fergus Pickering

          That’s rather over the top. Waspish, one might say.

        • Colonel Mustard

          But for all their ills the Thatcher family cannot be considered a political dynasty. There are no husband and wife teams in Tory cabinet like Balls-Cooper, or sibling teams like the Bald Eagle Sisters. No equivalent amongst the Tories to Old King Kinnochio and his tribe.

        • HookesLaw

          Only in the thick mind of odious Jo Brand.

  • Frank

    Does anybody know why we have a local government boundary commission as well as a parliamentary boundary commission?

    • HookesLaw

      One is for local govt ward boundaries and one is for parliamentary boundaries?

  • Bluesman_1

    Citizen Benn – always Labour, always wrong.

  • P.chi ki wan

    Osbourne loves ginger nuts

  • Colin56

    Wonderful stuff. I particularly like the Waitrose barb – as if Benn would ever set foot in the place.

    • zoid

      no….he’d have it delivered.

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