LONDON Britain's cost-cutting government plans to sell off some of its stock of fine wines to pay for cheaper bottles that will be offered to visiting dignitaries.
The move would save the taxpayer nearly 500,000 pounds by 2015, the foreign office said, defending its decision to maintain a wine cellar in these straitened times.
The wine in the cellar, located in the basement of the Lancaster House mansion in central London, has an estimated total value of around 2 million pounds.
"I seriously considered abolishing the cellar, but all the evidence shows that we will save the taxpayer money by keeping the cellar and reforming it so that wine purchases are self-funded through sales," said foreign office minister Henry Bellingham.
"The cellar has been part of government functions for nearly a century and through these reforms it will provide value for money, accountability and will continue to offer hospitality to important guests from around the world," he added.
The savings are a mere drop in the ocean when compared with spending cuts of 81 billion pounds over the next four years.
(Reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by Steve Addison)