Thursday, 20 May 2010

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

The photograph is of the Terrace in the Palace of Westminster. It's one of many eating/drinking places where our political representatives enjoy the best cuisine and drink that is available in Britain. We, as taxpayers, subsidise it heavily, for both food and drink.

It is a lovely setting, with the Thames flowing past quietly, or it did on the one occasion I had tea there back in the 60s. The service was second to none and I'm sure it's the same today. After all, we can't have our MPs slumming it can we.

Lobbydog has kindly listed the MPs whose catering accounts were outstanding, for more than six months, at 1 September 2009. How did Mahmood Khalid manage to run up a bill of £8,200.60p? That's more than many pensioners live on in a year.

It's time Nick Clegg, in his latest efforts to law reform, decided that the taxpayer should no longer support MPs and their staff with their basic needs of food and drink. We all need food and drink to survive and most of us have to pay for it through our own efforts. Why do we need to support public servants?


Joe Public said...

Why should MPs be allowed a 'tab' anyway?

If they are (allowed a tab), and their a/s is more than 30 days overdue, they should be charged interest at a commercial rate. After all, Taxpayers' Money should not be an interest-free loan to a chosen few.

cynicalHighlander said...

I am sure I read somewhere that their subsidised 'cafeteria' was ending like this.
MPs angry at new expenses body

Joe Public said...

Should read a/c not a/s.

Not a sheep said...

£8,200.60p was the amount outstanding at the 30 September, might it not be possible that he actually spent more in the year?

Dramfineday said...

No problems providing they pay for it themselves at full commercial rates - as you and I would be expected to do. They are well rewarded after all. Agree with GP re repayments with the provisio if you haven't squared up after 12 months you are put into the bankruptcy process and chucked out.

Here's a thought, how about a post code lottery, where everyone who voted is eligible, and they are invited to a free lunch and dinner (with drinks),a guided tour, meet you MP etc., on an all expenses paid basis. We could pick a number, say 100 people per day, and put them through the wonderful palace of democracy to encourage future participation. On the other hand, the MP's would probably complain about the plebs stomping all over their playground.

subrosa said...

They should have the pay the same as they would if it was a business Joe and also on a pay-as-you-go basis, as we do.

subrosa said...

I notice in your link CH that someone was complaining they are 'not entitled' to a taxi unless after 11pm. What they don't seem to understand is that they could pay for their taxi out of their salary before that, like most of us would have to do.

Gravy train right enough.

subrosa said...

Very possible Not a sheep. I just can't see how anyone could spend that in such a short time, especially as it is so highly subsidised.

subrosa said...

I've no problem with that either Dram. I've never had a subsidised meal in a top restaurant have you?

Scottish Parliament MSPs are much more accessible and will take you on a guided tour plus coffee. If you're lucky I think you can get a meal out of them too.

Mrs Rigby said...

"Harman Harriet £1,035.45 Paid"

Maybe she did end up paying the bill, eventually. Remind me how much this woman was paid as a minister, was it an extra £108k on top of the MP salary?

I'm sure being Deputy Leader of the Labour Party generates an income too.

So she owed over a thousand pounds for more than 6 months - not bad for an interest-free loan. We could take a family holiday for less than that!

Idle Pen Pusher said...

I don't have a problem with Kalid's £8k bill, nor of there being parliamentary bars and tabs available to members.

But... I don't see why tabs should be longer than 28 days nor why after, say, another couple of letters and perhaps after 3 months debt recovery procedures aren't initiated. I agree bills unpaid by a reasonable deadline (say 28 days) should be subject to an administration charge and a commercial rate of interest. And I don't have a problem with them being run as not-for-profit, but they should not be subsidized, either.

subrosa said...

Yes I'm sure the Deputy PM is rewarded financially too Mrs R.

We too could have a family holiday for less than that and quite a luxurious one into the bargain!

subrosa said...

I don't have a problem either IPP if Kalid had paid the going rate. For a subsidised £8k bill he would possibly pay around £25k in the real world.

Nothing should be on credit, bills should be paid as in any normal restaurant/bar.

The military messes have a very strict system whereas messing is deducted from salaries. If they're not going to pay as we do then that's what should happen.

I too have no objection with it being run as a not-for-profit organisation. For many years NAAFI ran such facilities for the military on that basis and any profit was returned to the relevant unit for their own use.

Anonymous said...

No need for these 'tabs' any more - debit cards have revolutionised these sort of payment obligations. But, again, we see how MPs manipulated the system to their advantage. No wonder that they pass laws which they never bother to read - isn't the word for that 'corruption'?

One wonders - when the coalition start putting Bills before Parliament, will MPs read the
bills? It would be a nice idea for people to band together and, as a group, contact their MP via the internet and ask that MP to explain the meaning of the Bill. I think that if such a group had been in place in every constituency when the smoking ban came up, there would have been a lot more opposition.

JuliaM said...

"I am sure I read somewhere that their subsidised 'cafeteria' was ending like this."

Oh yes. And boy, are they mad about it!

More please. Faster. :D

subrosa said...

Junican, the money could be deducted from their salaries every month if they can't be bothered to pay up at the time.

Now that's an idea which should be discussed more widely. I'd hope the blogosphere would pick up on it.

subrosa said...

Julia, I knew I'd read that somewhere. :) Thanks.

I may just email my MP and ask him to put forward a suggestion that Commons restaurants and bars lose their subsidy or, for equality's sake, if that can't be done then the taxpayer subsidise my weekly shopping.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

That sounds like a system that's better still, SR. I don't think the relevant comparison is to a pub or restaurant, though. A mess or a members' club is the more relevant comparison and plenty of these extend credit to members for bills.

subrosa said...

Do you think so IPP? You must think MPs etc deserve highly subsidized food and drink. I don't. In fact, these days in military messes the food is average if not poor since the MoD decided to sell out to the cheapest bidder some years ago.

Yet MPs have the best. They don't deserve it unless they pay for it.

Most clubs are mens' clubs so I know little about them but I have used a few in my day. If I remember rightly the credit was extended on a monthly basis not an endless one.

It's well known MPs and other staff at Westminster have their buddies in for parties, meals etc. Why should we pay for their cheap entertainment?

We shouldn't.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

SR - I don't think they should be subsidized, as I said in my first comment. My initial thought was, like you said re clubs' credit, that a month's credit would seem reasonable. But I think the mess system you described afterwards, ie deducting it from members' pay, is even better.

If it was run to break even rather than subsidized would many people have a problem with monthly tabs? I doubt it - especially if the bills were deducted from monthly salaries.

Perhaps it's right that we should be overly stringent with such things as a punishment for the previously/currently overly lax rules and abuse of them. I don't know. But if I were setting up a system from scratch then the one I described would seem pretty reasonable to me.

subrosa said...

And it seems pretty reasonable to me too IPP. I'll do another post on it soon.

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