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Departmental Official Hospitality

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much was spent by her Department and its agencies on (a) alcohol and (b) entertaining in the last 12 months. (187955)

Generally, the Department for Transport (DfT) operates a no alcohol policy. In exceptional cases, where the Department is holding a special event or staff are attending a venue away from their normal office and working long hours necessitating an evening meal, some limited provision of alcoholic drinks at public expense may be permitted at the discretion of a senior civil servant. Spend incurred in such situations is not centrally recorded and this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The Department’s various accounting systems do not in all cases show expenditure on entertaining. Where this is recorded, combined spend at DfT(central) and the Vehicle Certification Agency was 18,638 in the last 12 months. This includes costs incurred during reciprocal events, the Royal opening of a new wing at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (Farnborough) and the hosting of an international conference on rail. The Government Car and Despatch Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency both recorded zero expenditure.

Entertainment costs are not recorded as a specific cost category within the accounting systems in use at the Driving Standards Agency, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Highways Agency and at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Such costs are charged to generic codes and could be extracted only at disproportionate cost.