Parliament made 1,000 Christmas puddings while MPs rejected free school meals

More than 1,000 Christmas puddings were being prepared by chefs at the House of Commons in the weeks before MPs voted against extending free school meals.

The catering service made the desserts between August and September as it prepared for the festive season. Chefs made 1,250 individual portions, according to information released by the Commons under the Freedom of Information Act.

Any of the puddings which are not used this year will be held over until 2021, the research and information team disclosed.

At the time the treats were being made, Boris Johnson was refusing to extend free school meals for children across England during holidays, with MPs voting against the move in October.

The information was released as a petition calling for an end to public money supporting MPs’ meals surpassed 1.2million signatures.

The campaign was started by Portia Lawrie as a response to the Government’s initial rejection of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals to children from low-income families during school holidays.

Responding to the latest disclosure, she said: ‘I’d like to say I’m surprised but “never surprised, always disappointed” would be a more apt description of my reaction these days. 

‘The sad fact is this is just one in a long line of examples of the tone-deaf elitism and hypocrisy that prompted me to start the petition in the first place.

‘I’m pleased that there was a quiet U-turn on the appalling free school meals decision whilst everyone was distracted by the US election.

‘But if the Government are really sincere about us all being in this together, then when they start making cuts and freezing pay they should look first at tightening their own belts and reducing the unnecessary burdens they put on the public purse themselves.

‘Feeding children living in poverty is not an unnecessary burden on the public purse. Feeding Christmas pudding to already well-paid and well-fed public servants really is.’  

The Commons catering operation serves around 14,500 Parliamentary pass-holders, including MPs, staff, and journalists, as well as thousands of visitors every year.

Catering in restaurants and bars is not directly subsidised but runs at a loss, meaning taxpayers’ money effectively supports the overall operation.

In the past, Christmas fare at Parliament has included including chargrilled partridge with roast pear and grilled salmon marinated in vodka.

In 2014, the Strangers’ Dining Room – used by members to wine and dine guests –  served chargrilled spatchcocked partridge with roast pear, squash and game chips for £9.25. 

Another seasonal item at the restaurant was the roast Norfolk turkey breast wrapped in smoked pancetta with piccolo parsnips, baby sprouts, chestnut stuffing, cranberry gel and bread sauce foam for £12

The Freedom of Information Act response stated: ‘Although some Christmas food may be made available at House of Commons catering venues in December, the Catering Services team anticipates volumes to be very low, and have therefore not yet ordered any ingredients. As we have already explained, orders will be placed closer to the time that the ingredients are required.’

A spokesperson added: ‘The House of Commons continuously seeks to reduce costs and ensure there is minimal food wastage.

‘Of the 1,250 individual portions of Christmas pudding made any unused puddings will be stored for Christmas 2021.

‘Although some Christmas food may be made available at House of Commons catering venues in December, the Catering Services team anticipates volumes to be very low.

‘Any ingredients will be ordered in line with demand.’

You can find the petition here.

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