Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

Minister's coffee demands 'froth'

Cup  - held by Tony Blair
Hot liquids were demanded every day by the then Home Office minister

Commons leader Harriet Harman has dismissed reports of a cabinet colleague's demands for cappuccinos and espressos in the office as "froth".

A memo from Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne told civil servants he liked coffee when he gets to work, soup at 1230 and memos readable in 60 seconds.

The Tories said the leaked document showed he had the wrong priorities.

But, to laughter, Ms Harman told MPs the fuss over the "cappuccino memo" was just a "lather" about nothing.

'Workaholic'

Mr Byrne, 38, has attempted to laugh off the leak of the document, entitled Working With Liam Byrne, which he put out in 2006 while working as a Home Office minister.

His spokesman described the notes as an effort to prepare staff for the "shock of their workaholic new minister and his rather extensive list of faults and foibles".

In the memo the former management consultant specifies that briefing notes should take up no more than one sheet of paper.

For the Conservatives, shadow Commons leader Theresa May told MPs: "I know these instructions were issued when he was immigration minister - perhaps no wonder then we discover this week that 300,000 visas have been wrongly allowed.

"Obviously officials were far too busy fetching the minister's coffee and heating his soup."

But to laughter from Labour MPs and groans from the Tories, Ms Harman said: "As you worked yourself into what perhaps I could describe as a lather about what has been called the cappuccino memo, I would reassure you it is all just froth."

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