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22nd Feb 2022

The Cabinet Office won’t tell you how much money Downing Street spent on cheese and wine – because it would cost too much money to figure out

The government don't know how much was spent on festivities

Ava Evans

The government don’t know how much was spent on festivities

Tallying up the total amount spent by government officials on cheese and wine would take too long, the Cabinet Office has said.

Responding to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Head of Information Security Nicolas Howard declined to answer the question, claiming it would cost too much, and take up too much time.

The Cabinet Office had been asked to tally up the total amount spent on cheese and wine in Number 10 from March 2020 to December 2021.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone has the right to ask any public sector organisation for information they hold. Amongst other let-out clauses, requests can be refused if the public body can prove it would take more than 3 and a half days to answer, costing the organisation more than £600 in time lost.

The Freedom of Information request followed allegations of parties being held and lockdown rules broken in Downing Street and across Whitehall.

It was most likely filed in response to reports of an alleged “cheese and wine” reception held in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown and a subsequent Christmas party held during in the second lockdown.

Currently, the Metropolitan police is investigating 12 events that are alleged to have taken place in Downing Street – six of which the Prime Minister is reported to have attended.

While the Cabinet Office are unable to produce receipts for the total spend on produce, the public have been promised it was not paid for by the public purse.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Government said no taxpayer money had been spent on food, wine, suitcases or fridges that had fuelled the alleged Downing Street parties during lockdown.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis replied with “no” after Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney challenged him on “whether there was a cost to the public purse from expenditure” on the items.

It’s also understood a fridge was brought into Downing Street to chill drinks brought to No 10 by staffers, aided by a large suitcase.

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