This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Government Hospitality Cellar stock list'.


  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Foreign &
 
Commonwealth
 
Office
DOCUMENT ATTRIBUTES SECTION: DO NOT MODIFY TEXT BELOW 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
DOCUMENT ATTRIBUTES SECTION: DO NOT MODIFY TEXT ABOVE 
 
 
 
 
    
 
 
 
 


  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Foreign &
 
Commonwealth
 
Office
From:  
Deputy Director Protocol and  
Assistant Marshal of the  
  
Diplomatic Corps 
Protocol Directorate 
 
Room 1/56 
 
Old Admiralty Building 
 
London SW1A 2PA  
 
 
Tel: 020 7008 0989 
 
Fax: 020 7008 1024 
 
E-mail: xxxxxx.xxxxxx@xxx.xxx.xx 
 
22 July 2009 
Mr Alex Skene 
By e-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx 
 
 
 
Dear Mr Skene, 
 
 
 
I am writing to follow-up my  letter of 10 February, in which we informed you of the result of the internal 
review you had requested of our decision not to release details of the Government Hospitality wine cellar 
stock list.  I apologise for the length of time it has taken to respond while we have examined in detail the 
public interest issues involved, as well as considering what information we might be able to release, which 
would not compromise the commercial interests of both Government Hospitality and its suppliers, in the 
way that your request for a redacted stock list would.   
 
As previously explained, we are satisfied that the withheld information is covered by Section 43(2) of the 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000, which covers Commercial Interests.  Section 43(2) states: 
 
"2. Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, 
prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it)." 
 
Use of this exemption requires the application of a public interest test.  As I mentioned in my reply of 10 
February, one of the main factors in favour of release of the information is the public interest in 
transparency in the expenditure of public funds.  Against this is the potential for the commercial interests of 
the relevant public authority to be damaged, and the interests of its suppliers. 
 
I consider that the public interest is best served by withholding the redacted version of the stock-list in the 
form you have asked for because disclosure is likely to adversely affect Government Hospitality’s 
relationship with its suppliers.  As a public authority, GH has a duty to achieve the best possible value for 
money, and I believe that the value for money arrangements we have would be compromised by the 
disclosure of the stock details you have requested.   
 
 
 
 


  
  
 
    
 
 
 
 
However, we have given detailed thought to what information it is possible to release without 
compromising our ability to acquire wines on a good value for money basis.  I attach a list of some wines 
held in the cellar stock (Annex1), which outlines the range and variety of wines Government Hospitality 
has purchased over a number of years.  This list is illustrative only, and is not a comprehensive list of the 
cellar contents.  The list shows wines from various countries of origin, with a particular emphasis on wines 
from the French regions, which represent nearly 80% of the overall stock of the cellar. This is because 
wines from France have traditionally leant themselves well to an extended period of cellaring.  
 
When considering your request, both we and the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the 
Purchase of Wine (GHACPW) have taken the view that the public interest is not served by publishing a full 
cellar stock list, which would clearly indicate, in many cases, from where wines have been sourced.  As 
previously indicated the considered view of both the GHACPW and ourselves is that this would damage 
the ability of GH to achieve value for money in the future, and damage the commercial interests of GH’s 
suppliers. 
 
A demonstration of the level of value for money that the cellar can provide occurred recently over the 
wines used at the London Summit in April. You may have seen some coverage in the media indicating that 
the government used £1400 worth of wine at the 8 official dinners and lunches organised on 1 and 2 April.  
We calculate that, at a conservative valuation, it would not have been possible to acquire those wines 
directly in the London wine market for less than £6 000, more than four times the actual cost to the 
taxpayer.  For example, at least two of the wines used are not available to purchase in London now, but 
were bought by Government Hospitality nearly 20 years ago when young and have been aged in the cellar 
until ready for use. Government Hospitality’s policy of buying wines young and while relatively 
inexpensive delivers wines of greater quality and value for money than would otherwise be possible.  In 
order to preserve this ability to achieve value for money, and in order to preserve the commercial interests 
of our suppliers, we have released the limited list attached at Annex 1. 
 
If you are not content with this response, you may write directly to the Information Commissioner.   
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: 
 
The Information Commissioner’s Office, 
Wycliffe House,  
Water Lane,  
Wilmslow,  
Cheshire SK9 5AF. 
 
 
Yours sincerely, 
 
Jackie Barson