‘Scrap House of Lords discount dinners’ petition gains 130k signatures

© Oli Scarff / Pool
As the government considers scrapping free school meals for infants, 130,000 people have signed a petition calling for the House of Lords gravy train of subsidized food to be taken away.

Alex Satchwell, from Sheffield, said he started the petition on Change.org because he found it unfair that taxpayers subsidize meals for peers in the House of Lords while the Tory government makes dramatic budget cuts to Britain’s welfare state.

Some 774 peers enjoy discounted meals in the eight House of Lords restaurants and bars, which were said to be subsidized to the tune of £1.9 million in 2014. Official statistics put the annual subsidy at £1.3 million.

Satchwell’s petition has coincided with reports that Chancellor George Osborne is looking to scrap free school meals for children as part of the government’s austerity program.

The free meals policy, which was introduced by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has proven popular, as it is estimated to save the parents of children in years one and two of primary education around £400 per child.

However, the government has refused to rule out scrapping the policy, which is thought to cost between £600m and £800m per year.

Satchwell, 21, thinks it is unfair that Lords enjoy meals subsidized by the taxpayer while 1.1 million people rely on food banks across the country.

I first became interested in this when I heard that at Christmas they have a mass feast – then in the budget the government decided to cut £18bn, and so many people are using food banks, it just seemed completely wrong,” he said.

I think people are realizing that this is a complete lack of fairness. This is a stand out example about how the government is failing in that aspect.

They should take a packed lunch instead – everyone else has to,” he added.

Some 130,000 outraged citizens agree with Satchwell and have signed his petition demanding peers start bringing a packed lunch to work.

Menus released under Freedom of Information (FoI) reveal members of the House of Lords can enjoy roulade of pigeon served with celeriac purée, mushroom consommé and baby vegetables for just £13.

A bottle of Chilean merlot is a steal at £16.50.

Peers were caught complaining about the “down-market” dining experience in the House of Lords last year.

An FoI request by the Independent found one Lord complained about having to wait 15 minutes to be seated, an experience which lost “some of the finesse of the afternoon” and left their guests unable to “eat the beautiful cake selection” in time.

Peers were nearly frothing at the mouth after the introduction of a new coffee machine, which was branded “inferior.”

One Lord accused heads of the subsidized restaurants of serving “down-market” food like that found in high-street chains such as Prezzo and ASK.

Writing about a dining experience with his wife, the peer added: “There were two adequate pasta dishes which we ordered but I could have had these in a down-market establishment, e.g. Prezzo, ASK ... With fare like this the place will soon be deserted.”