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Treatise on the origins of tableware

If you are invited for coffee and sandwiches at the Department for Education and Skills, check under the cups and plates to see where they were made.

An investigation by a Conservative MP has found that the DfES "could do better" at buying crockery, cutlery and glasses from British manufacturers.

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, placed a parliamentary question asking for the origin of the tableware in every government department.

Among those who replied was Stephen Twigg, junior education minister, who revealed that 90 per cent of the crockery which the DfES had bought in the past five years was produced in Britain. But none of the department's glassware had been made here and the cutlery's place of origin was unknown.

Mr Fabricant said he launched his investigation into the background of governmental crockery because of concerns about demand for British goods.

The head office of Arthur Price of England, which produces silver cutlery, is in the MP's constituency. Staffordshire is also home to the luxury tableware firms Wedgewood and Royal Doulton.

Mr Fabricant said he felt the DfES's commitment to British tableware was "middling" with room for improvement.

"Ministers say we should be buying British, so I wanted to see if the Government was doing that itself. My report on the DfES would be, 'Could do better - see me later'."

Many government departments, including the Treasury, said they had no idea where they had bought their tableware.

The civil servants with the greatest commitment to British goods were in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which bought all its crockery and cutlery and 80 per cent of its glasses from UK manufacturers.

The most curious response came from the Department for Trade and Industry, which said that government departments were not allowed to differentiate between European countries when they bought their crockery because of European Union procurement rules.

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