Food costs, supply and wastage (2018)
- I would like you to supply me with relevant information as to how much and what degree are the MPs food subsided ?
- I would ask you to provide the relevant information where this food is disposed of and who too, when it is no longer used by the and staff of the Parliaments catering department?
- Where is the food sourced? i.e. Outside caterers?
- Who decides what are the purchase costs/price for the goods?
- Who is this food for, just MPs or is there other parties taking advantage of the reduced taxpayers funded subsides?
Please note that our response deals only with catering venues for which the House of Commons is responsible. Some catering venues at Parliament are the responsibility of the House of Lords, which is a separate public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 [FOIA]. Therefore you may wish to consider forwarding your request to the House of Lords.
1. How much and to what degree is MPs’ food subsided?
3. Where is the food sourced? i.e. Outside caterers
In the first instance, although we are frequently asked about a ‘catering subsidy’, it is important to note that catering services for the House of Commons are provided by an in-house team who do not provide a subsidised service in the commercial sense of the word. Some venues make a profit, referred to as ‘contribution’ because it contributes to reducing overall costs. In other venues, the cost of providing the service does exceed the income received in sales due to the irregular hours and unpredictability of parliamentary business. The contribution or cost of each venue is calculated by subtracting the food and operational costs from the catering sales. Rather than a subsidy, the House monitors the contribution or cost of each catering venue, which include cafeterias, dining rooms, restaurants and bars. Prices of food and drink are regularly benchmarked against appropriate external comparators and the overall costs have more than halved in recent years, from £6m in 2010/11 to £2.9m in 2016/17.
In addition, Members of Parliament make up a very small proportion of overall customers who use the catering services of the House of Commons. Further information about this is provided in our answer to question 5.
Some information relevant to your request is held by the House of Commons. Details of catering costs are proactively published on an annual basis and can be found on our website. As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
2. Where is this food disposed of, and to whom, when it is no longer used by the staff of the catering department?
This information is held by the House of Commons. Information about waste food disposal in the House of Commons is proactively published by the Catering Services team and is publicly available on our website.
As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
4. Who decides the purchase costs/prices for the goods?
This information is held by the House of Commons. Food purchases are made by the Catering Services team using suppliers that have competitively tendered for the business. Further information about product procurement in the House of Commons can be found on our web pages.
Food prices are decided by the House of Commons and are regularly benchmarked against appropriate external comparators. It may also help you to know that prices of food and drinks are publicly available to view on our website.
5. Who is this food for? Just MPs, or do other parties take advantage of the reduced taxpayer-funded subsidies?
This information is held by the House of Commons. A wide range of customers use our on-site catering venues. This includes not only some of the 650 elected Members of Parliament, but also around 14,500 other pass-holders (MPs’ staff, House staff, civil servants, contractors, Peers, journalists, etc.). We also cater to many of the one million visitors to Parliament every year.
It may help you to know that in recent years, commercial access to function and event rooms has been increased. Allowing external organisations to hold functions and events in the House of Commons provides a valuable financial contribution which increasingly helps to offset the costs of the rest of the catering operation. This has significantly helped to reduce the cost of catering.