Ministers are spending more than £30,000 per year of public money on renting fig trees for a parliamentary courtyard, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The 12 fig trees, found in Westminister’s Portcullis House courtyard, have been rented from a private company called Plant Care UK since 2001. According to the Daily Mirror, the original five-year contract for the trees was worth £150,000, but newly released figures have revealed they are still being rented and come to a total cost of £370,000 to date – or £438,250 with VAT.
The figures were part of a Freedom of Information request made by the Taxpayers Alliance. Robert Oxley, a campaigner for the group, said: “It’s astonishing that parliament, faced with an overwhelming need to find savings, is handing over tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money each year just to rent a few trees”.
The released documents also showed that some MPs on the administration committee, which oversees services provided in Parliament, demanded an urgent review of the contract. The Daily Mail reports on how some ministers have now called for an investigation into whether so much should be spent on “opulent greenery” at a time of national spending cuts.
Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt told the Telegraph: “This contract was signed in a time of plenty but now it is not a time of plenty, so this should be looked at”.
Labour MP Kevan Jones said: “For this money you could have planted a small forest. Like a lot of things done in the Commons they get very little scrutiny”.
A Commons spokeswoman told The Sun that the contract was “under review” and could be cancelled in September. She added the trees were “not decorative” but part of the building’s design keeping the courtyard space warm in winter and cool in summer.
Tens of soldiers sacked for drugs use
Numerous Royal Navy soldiers have been sacked in the past four years for failing drugs tests, the Telegraph and Daily Mirror report. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed a total of 63 tested positive for illegal substances including cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy between October 2007 and July 2011, most of whom have been sacked following conviction.
Number of replica guns and knives seized at court revealed
KNIVES, replica fire arms and tools are just some of the items which have been seized by security at Crawley Magistrates’ Court in the last two years. The Crawley Observer reports: “Some 66 knives with blades less than three inches, four fixed blade knives, two replica fire arms, 61 tools, 202 cameras, 48 recorders and 107 alcoholic drinks were seized[since January 2010]“.