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Slap up meals at parliament prices

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 16 April 2009

There are very few places in London where you can get a slap up meal for less than £2.50, but it appears the Houses of Parliament are one of them.

Details of the exclusive menus MPs enjoy while at Westminster have been obtained by Channel 4's Dispatches programme, showing the hugely discounted meals members have access to.

The recession-busting prices include just 60p for a chicken and sweetcorn soup, £1.90 for a puff pastry parcel stuffed with garlic cream mushrooms, and £2.15 for a ratatouille vegetable & mozzarella bake.

All the dishes above were available at The Terrace restaurant this month, one of the 28 eateries MPs have access to. The most expensive meal at The Terrace was £3.80 - for a grilled rump steak.

The cut-price deals are a by-product of the £5m plus subsidy that House of Commons catering enjoys.

Eating like a Lord, or an MP

To view the full selection of menus, click here.

The menus were obtained by Freedom of Information (FoI) campaigner Heather Brooke, who won a court battle last year over the publication of MPs' expenses.

Ms Brooke will present a Dispatches programme called The Westminster Gravy Train on Channel 4 at 7pm this Sunday, 19 April 2009, piecing together how much public money MPs are really spending.

She said: "I think people will be surprised to see how cheap everything is in Parliament.

"It must be the only place left in London where you can get a meal for 60p. It's like a soup kitchen for hungry MPs!

"MPs are not poor by any means, yet their meals are being subsidised by the taxpayer.


"It must be the only place left in London where you can get a meal for 60p. It's like a soup kitchen for hungry MPs!"
Heather Brooke, FoI campaigner

"For example, if you go to the British Library, where there are lots of students, the food is about £4 or £5 higher.

"Why shouldn't that be subsidised? It is more worthy of taxpayers' money than MPs and Lords."

Other discount prices revealed by the menus was just £1.90 for a pappardelle pasta with mushroom garlic cream & parmesan, at the Portcullis Cafeteria this month, as well as just £2.15 for a roast belly of pork confit. Again the most expensive dish was just £3.80.

For MPs with a sweet tooth, desserts at Bellamy's eatery cost as little as £1.05, with bread and butter pudding and jam turnover among the treats.

Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "MPs' heavily subsidised meals are yet another way that the Palace of Westminster is insulated from the concerns of the real world.


"All people want is for their representatives to live by the same rules as they do."
Matthew Elliott, TaxPayers' Alliance

"It isn't just a large bill for taxpayers to bear, it is a serious concern if MPs are sheltered from things like rising food prices. All people want is for their representatives to live by the same rules as they do."

Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, admitted that the food prices at Westminster were very reasonable.

He said: "I do think they need to have a good sort out of all this stuff. The expenses related issues need to be resolved.

"Some of the prices that I pay are the same as those which I'd expect to pay in my constituency but certainly not the same as inflated London prices."

Figures released under FoI show that in 2007/8, House of Commons catering had an income of £7,173,800, against an expenditure of £12,625,800 - meaning a subsidy of £5,452,000.

A spokeswoman for the House of Commons confirmed that plans were afoot to gradually increase the cost of MPs' meals to "bring them in line with comparable institutions."

The menus (.pdf)

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6th Floor Cafe, 7 Millbank

The Adjournment restaurant Bellamy's self-services restaurant Churchill Grill Room and Bar The Debate self services restaurant, Portcullis House The Despatch Box coffee bar, Portcullis House Jubilee cafe Moncrieff's restaurant, press facility Portcullis Cafeteria, 7 Millbank Press self service restaurant menu Pugin Room Strangers' Bar Terrace Cafeteria House of Commons Banqueting Return to top

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