February 7, 2023

What cost of living crisis?  MPs go out to dinner with 1,500 puddings and 159 turkeys

MPs can order extravagant dishes around venison supreme turkeys and guinea fowl in the House of Commons this Christmas (Photo: AP/Getty)

MPs and Lords can enjoy potted duck legs and guinea fowl with apricot and cranberry this Christmas after the House of Commons stocked up on festive provisions.

Westminster caterers have purchased 1,500 ‘individual’ puddings and 159 Essex Grove Smith supreme turkey for the estate’s restaurants, according to a working list of ingredients.

The stocks were bought after it was revealed that MPs will be able to deduct some of the cost of the Christmas party from expenses and as the country faces its worst cost-of-living crisis for generations.

The order for festive birds was placed with Grove Smith Turkeys, which says on its Twitter feed that it is an award-winning, family-run farm.

The ingredients ordered so far have been disclosed by the Commons following a request for a Freedom of Information Act from Metro.co.uk.

Catering in Parliament’s restaurants and bars is not directly subsidized, but data for the 2021-2022 financial year shows that they are all at a loss, meaning that taxpayer money is effectively supporting the overall operation.

Christmas meals include potted duck leg, pancetta and cranberry with piccalilli, sage-roasted sourdough and poached pear from Shawsgate Vineyard ‘Frampaign’, available for £4.65 in the Members’ Dining Room.

Another option is the turkey, wild mushroom and smoked pancetta ballotine, which comes with parsnip puree, glazed Brussels sprouts, sausage meat stuffing and roast potatoes with thyme, priced at £8.75.

Desserts include an eggnog tart with rum and nutmeg and a Mont Blanc mandarin trifle with vanilla custard, chestnut cream, white chocolate and candied chestnuts.

Christmas puddings were prepared in the Houses of Parliament in the weeks before MPs voted against free school meals (Photo: NuwanProvider/Getty Images)

Christmas puddings are among the festive dishes on offer in the Houses of Parliament (Photo: NuwanProvider/Getty Images)

At Bellamy’s restaurant, the seasonal fare includes a savory muffin filled with oregano-roasted tofu, caramelized baby onions, sun-dried tomato, and red chard salad dressed with whole-grain mustard. The vegan dish costs £3.30 and contains 318 calories, according to the menu.

Festive dishes at the contemporary restaurant The Adjournment include the guinea fowl, apricot and cranberry terrine with pickled red cabbage, clementine and sourdough, which is part of a two or three course menu.

With millions of households facing skyrocketing food and utility bills, the benefits of MPs and Lords have come under scrutiny.

According to new advice released in November, MPs were told they can declare the cost of food and drink at their Christmas parties out of expenses.

Lights, tinsel and trees, but not alcohol, are under the guidance of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Christmas puddings

The House of Commons restaurants are well stocked with Christmas pudding (Photo: Getty Images/stock photo)

The festive amenities in Westminster come as the Trussell Trust network of food banks warns that the branches are facing a Christmas with record demand amid the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “We all need a bit of revelry after a tough 2022, but the taxpayers who support affordable prices in Parliament are suffering, thanks to the highest taxes in 70 years and bruise inflation.

“Parliamentary authorities must ensure they get value for money as families across the country struggle to make ends meet.”

Christmas puddings

The Metro’s mock-up of what West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock might look like served with a brandy and rum pudding in parliament (Photo: AFP)

Will Morris, director of House of Bread, a charity for the vulnerable and homeless in Staffordshire, said: ‘If I were an MP sitting in Parliament this Christmas eating turkey I would think of other people who have nothing or less this Christmas .

With great privilege comes great responsibility, and MPs should be guided by their moral compass and think of the frontline food shelters, food banks and charities.

“It speaks volumes that the community comes to us with very little and is willing to share it with others less fortunate in their local communities.”

Christmas puddings

MPs have been reminded of the plight of those less fortunate this Christmas (Photo Alexandra Smart/Trussell Trust)

In its response to the request, the Commons states that the Parliament estate and its catering facilities are open to some 15,000 pass holders.

A spokesperson says: ‘Christmas meals at our catering establishments are accessible to all parliamentary pass holders, including staff, members, contractors and members of the press gallery, but also to the many parliamentary visitors.

“The volumes served will be in line with demand and we are constantly looking for cost savings. Our range of food and drink is regularly compared to comparable outlets outside parliament.

‘The services are not directly subsidized and all food and drink are sold above cost price.’

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