Parliamentarians “gorging” on a maximum of one and a bit chocolate bars a week? I don’t think so.

chocolateYou have to wonder who thinks up freedom of information questions like “How many chocolate bars do the catering outlets in Westminster sell?” But the Sunday Times (£) reports that somebody has asked precisely that question and that the number of chocolate bars bought in 2013 and 2014 totals just under 200,000. This leads them to conclude that our MPs and Peers are “gorging” their way through some massive chocolate stash. It’s like we’re meant to see them as some sort of court of Henry VIII busting out of their breaches.

In fact, I was surprised that the amount is so low. Let’s think about it. There are 650 MPs and 800 members of the House of Lords who attend regularly. Even if we only count them, that’s 1450 people. That only allows them 69 chocolate bars a year each. It’s not even two for every sitting week. When you add in all of their staff (and most MPs will have at least one person in their Westminster office) and all the visitors to the place, it reduces that amount even further. Maybe they’d all be happier if they ate more chocolate, not less.

The article has the National Obesity Forum being slightly censorious about it and it also lists the most popular brands. Disappointingly, KitKats come top. I’d have thought there would be a bit more of a Nestlé boycott. They are followed by Twixes, Snickers, Maltesers and Mars Bars. I’m also slightly annoyed that Fairtrade chocolate accounts for only 10,000 out of the 200,000 total. It might be worth a campaign to get that up a bit. Something for the Liberal Democrat Fairtrade Futures to take forward?

After I scheduled this, I noticed, as you would expect, that chocoholic Mark Pack would get there first saying much the same thing.

UPDATE 1 pm:

Councillor Mathew Hulbert, Co-ordinator of Lib Dem Fairtrade Future, who successfully amended party policy to ensure support for Fairtradeat last year’s Autumn Conference, including the need for more of the Parliamentary Estate to stock Fairtrade items, says:

It’s very discouraging to hear that only a fraction of all the chocolate consumed is Fairtrade. Parliament should be leading the way in terms of promoting the need to buy items with the official Fairtrade label on them. Doing so helps Developing World farmers and growers to earn a Fairer wage and to live and work in better conditions. I hope Lib Dem Ministers will raise this matter within the Coalition and to the House authorities. I shall be seeking to talk to our new DfID Spokesman, Martin Horwood, about it at the earliest opportunity.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Philip Thomas 22nd Feb '15 - 2:23pm

    I don’t see it is any business of the government, or the house authorities, what chocolate bars people, even people in Westminster, choose to eat. I like fair trade chocolate, but if my employer told me it was mandatory I’d be pretty annoyed…

  • peter tyzack 23rd Feb '15 - 9:26am

    no, it’s a story because it’s not what you might expect. I have to control my consumption to no more than half a bar of chocolate a day, and clearly the employees in the Palace are not being looked after by their Members.. though perhaps there are other outlets meeting the demand, such as the kiosks on the tube stations.
    But, back to the original point, this question should have been dismissed as an FoI, as it would take up staff time to respond to what is clearly a frivolous query.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Feb '15 - 9:27am

    Ian, that’s a really interesting way of looking at it.

    Andrew, I hadn’t realised that. Partly, I guess, because I don’t really look at KitKats. I like they and Smarties so much but I can’t bring myself morally to have them.

  • Jane Ann Liston 23rd Feb '15 - 11:07am

    Next thing someone will be citing the low consumption of bars of chocolate as evidence that MPs are ‘out of touch’ with ‘real’ life!

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