To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the five most expensive hospitality events hosted by his Department and its agencies were in the last three years; and what (a) the cost and (b) purpose was of each.
The provision and offering of hospitality is governed by the Department's internal hospitality policy, which is consistent with the principles of Managing Public Money and the HM Treasury handbook on Regularity, Propriety and Value for Money at:
The guiding principle of the Department's internal policy is that gifts and hospitality must only be provided or accepted in exceptional circumstances where they:
are appropriate to the circumstances; and are modest and appropriate
token items such as promotional pens; or routine hospitality such as coffee and biscuits; or a light working lunch where there are external attendees, meetings are lengthy or internal attendees have travelled long distances.
Attendance at, and hosting of, hospitality events by Department and agency staff is recorded in local hospitality registers, in accordance with Ministry of Justice policy. These data are not collated centrally, and gathering information from local registers (including operational establishments) would be possible only at disproportionate cost.
Therefore, a list of the five most expensive events during the last three years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
However, at the start of the legal year the Lord Chancellor hosts a breakfast after a service at Westminster Abbey. This event is attended by senior judiciary from the UK and overseas and this event is likely to be one of the higher value events hosted by the Ministry of Justice. The expenditure for the past three years is as follows:
In 2008-09 there was a switch from the House of Lords Refreshments Department to the House of Commons Catering and Retail Services. The usual function rooms and catering services were not available and consequently the costs of staging the event were higher. The choice of menu/catering has since been reviewed and economies made, enabling a reduction in costs for 2009-10.