Daily Mail, MPs were under fire last night for wasting taxpayers’ cash on a £500-a-day ‘Commons food-taster’ to ensure Westminster’s restaurants are up to scratch. They have drafted in the food consultant to run the rule over the Palace’s catering. Hospitality expert Jon Hewett will work on a daily rate as an adviser to the Commons administration committee. Sources were unable to confirm what Mr Hewett would be paid but insiders estimated he would receive the £500-a-day fee.
The move comes amid furious complaints from some MPs that Commons food is now ‘overpriced’ and ‘literally uneatable’, with ex-Labour Cabinet Minister Bob Ainsworth even calling for the entire operation to be privatised as ‘it could not be worse’.
But last night, the decision to pay an outside consultant to advise on Commons food was condemned as ‘ludicrous’. One senior MP told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It is ridiculous to bring in some outside food-taster to advise us on what the soup tastes of and whether the meals in the Palace are value for money.’
MPs have been up in arms since the summer when prices for the notoriously cheap Commons food were increased to save £500,000. A bacon roll in Portcullis House that used to cost £1.30 is now £1.90. MPs are also livid over the new ‘all or as little as you can eat’ £15 flat fee for up to three courses introduced in the MPs’ dining room.
According to the job brief, Mr Hewett, from leading hospitality consultancy EP Business Evolution, will receive a ‘per diem allowance for the work, which is expected to require a few hours per week until the early spring of 2011’.
A spokesman for the committee insisted it was ‘normal’ for Commons select committees to draft in expert outside advice and dismissed the idea that Mr Hewett would be ‘going round, tasting the soup and saying more salt is needed’.
MPs have vented their fury about the catering to the committee, with Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt complaining that ‘several of my colleagues, including at least one Minister of State, have now boycotted the dining room’.
Millionaire Tory Margot James complained of ‘a very specific flinty style of Chardonnay’ which was ‘frankly acidic’.