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article imageSpanish MPs to lose subsidy on 'gin & tonics' in Parliament cafés

By Anne Sewell     Jun 6, 2013 in Politics
Madrid - Turns out Spanish politicians have had access to discounted booze at the café and restaurant in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. Public outrage has prompted a committee to put a stop to the benefit.
However, they will still be able to enjoy discounted beer, wine and coffee at the Parliament cafeteria and restaurant.
The scandal became known last week when Spanish media reported prices at Parliament's nine restaurants that were as low as half of other bars and restaurants in the area. In cash-strapped Spain, this is a cause for upset by the general public indeed.
"There's no money for school lunches, but there is for gin," wrote Maite Estrada Salvador in a letter to El Pais last week.
Apparently charges were just €6.25 for the priciest spirit on the menu and €3.45 for the cheapest gin on offer.
It has been estimated that catering for the Spanish Parliament will cost more than $1.15 million in 2013 and social media in Spain is full of scalding comments on the scandal. According to some MPs, voters suggested sarcastically that they should work from inside the cafeterias.
With the Spanish government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, imposing higher taxes and cutting public spending on hospitals and schools in an attempt to stabilize Spain's budget, people are angry and, of course, many are out of work.
Alfonso Alonso, spokesperson for the Partido Popular told Reuters, "It makes citizens upset, and they are right, so the leadership has decided to change it,” adding that the situation branded MPs with a “frivolous image,” something the new measure aims to change.
A commission has unanimously agreed that after a new catering company has been chosen for Parliament in autumn 2013, market prices will be charged for most of the alcoholic drinks served in the building.
People defending the rights to lower prices state that these are available to all who visit the Parliament building, and not just MPs. Reportedly Parliament normally hosts around 400 staffers, 300 temporary employees and about 150 media professionals, along with police and other visitors.
However, this latest drinks scandal has damaged the already bad image of Spanish politicians even further. According to a recent poll, the MPs are seen as one of the country's four worst problems, along with the economy, unemployment and general fraud and corruption. Yet another survey reportedly gave politicians a 93% disapproval rating.
Even with the new catering situation, the MPs will still be able to continue to enjoy other cheap options at the Parliament, including a self-service menu for €9, a three-course meal with waiter service for €13.40 or a vegetable sandwich for €2.80.
And to go with their food, apparently beer and Rioja wine will still be served at €0.95 ($1.25) and €1.65 ($2.15) respectively, compared to roughly €1.90 and €2.40 elsewhere in central Madrid.
More about Spain, Spanish, Madrid, Subsidies, Meals
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