Eric Pickles: ‘I didn’t spend £10,000 extra on biscuits’

Tory MP defends his department’s refreshments record

The Conservative MP Eric Pickles has launched a staunch defence of his Government department after it was claimed he spent an extra £10,000 in just one year on biscuits.

Figures released at the end of last year suggested Mr Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government had forked out £40,000 on serving custard creams, ginger nuts and digestives at meetings.

This was up from £30,000 in 2011, and led Labour minister Diane Abbot to remark: “Nobody begrudges Eric the odd digestive but he needs to cut his biscuit bill.

“Thanks to his policies councils all over the country are having to cut vital facilities like libraries.”

According to local newspaper reports, the Brentwood and Ongar MP has now appeared on London’s LBC Radio to defend himself, saying he isn’t “playing a jammie dodger here”.

Mr Pickles said the huge increase was the result of an “administrative error”, and added that the biscuit budget was still lower than when Labour was in power.

He told LBC’s Iain Dale: “The figure was for part of our hospitality budget.

“When we have meetings, if people come from a long distance we’ll give them tea and biscuits.

“The rise comes down to one of my fine civil servants putting the wrong thing in the wrong column. It is still a 94 per cent reduction though compared to Labour’s spending in the department.

“I’m not playing a jammie dodger here. I even bring in my own tea bags to work. I wouldn’t accept anything from another person.”