Just before Christmas, back in December 2010, the chancellor George Osborne (pictured) sat down to a sumptuous lunch with his predecessors, including Lord Lawson of the climate denial charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
At the time, Lawson was telling anyone who would listen that he advised Osborne to make savage cuts to public services as part of the Tory austerity drive designed to drag Britain out of recession following the 2008 banking crisis.
It seems very likely that Lawson would have regaled his luncheon companions with this latest obsession: climate change. The world, he would have inevitably argued, simply cannot afford to make the sacrifices needed to reduce our profligate use of fossil fuels.
The Treasury claims they have no minutes or agendas from what was primarily a party political meeting among old friends. And expensive lawyers working for the government department fought tooth and nail for three years to stop even the menu being published.
However, DeSmog UK can reveal for the first time the delightful meal that cost the taxpayer £355.99 and was wolfed down as the political heavyweights argued the merits of austerity for everyone else.
Osborne and Lawson enjoyed “fricassee of wild mushroom, roasted fillet of beef with a stilton and chestnut crust, pomme fondant and wilted spinach” followed by “a mincemeat lattice tart with clotted cream.”
While the menu might provoke the “politics of envy” among those queuing in the cold at food banks the length and breadth of Britain, it is unclear why the Treasury felt the original request was “vexatious” and that the menu should have remained a state secret.
The Treasury finally conceded the fight was pointless but remained steadfast to the end: “Although we consider our public interest arguments are soundly based, we do not consider that it is in the public interest for the Treasury to continue to defend withholding the menu.”
Three years ago, the venue was disclosed (the HMT Room) and the catering was shown to be provided by Charlton House, caterers to the Treasury. It was even revealed that there was a menu. So the menu was requested and the battle began.
A Simple Disclosure
The Treasury agreed there is a public interest in how Chancellor Osborne “goes about his role and the company he keeps… however we consider that the disclosure of what the Chancellor had for lunch has no bearing on these matters.”
Jack Alexander of Request Initiative managed the request on behalf of DeSmog UK. He said in a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office: “I do not want to seem obsessive or having caused an undue burden on the FOI system.
“But I feel that this should have been a simple disclosure and it is the repeated refusal which has pushed me to this level of complaint.” The ICO, it seems, agreed.