Page last updated at 21:13 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 22:13 UK

Whitehall wine cellar worth 800k

Wine being poured
All but around 500 of the bottles contained wine, Ms Merron said

The government's wine cellar includes stocks of alcohol worth nearly £800,000, a minister has disclosed.

In a parliamentary answer, Foreign Office minister Gillian Merron said it holds 39,500 bottles of wine, spirits and liqueurs valued at around £792,000.

Ms Merron added in her reply to Liberal Democrat Don Foster that "small quantities" of beer were also bought in for official events.

Mr Foster accused the government of "living way beyond their means".

Ms Merron said that fewer than 500 of the bottles were spirits or liqueurs.

But the stocks did not include beer, which was acquired on an "ad hoc basis", she added.

Mr Foster said: "The government are living way beyond their means. They expect the rest of us to cut back but they still haven't given up their taste for the high life.

"Rather than wasting public money on expensive bottles of wine, it could be used to help get Britain out of its economic problems."

Mark Wallace of the Taxpayers' Alliance said ministers should not spend any money on restocking the cellar in 2009.

He added: "It's staggering that the Government has run up such a huge wine cellar at the taxpayers' expense.

"Given the tough economic conditions, they should commit to spend nothing on it this year and start using up some of the stock instead."

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