Former members of the House of Lords can avail themselves of fine food and alcohol at knock down prices for themselves and up to six guests , it has been reported.

The details of subsidised dining for those who were no longer in Britain's upper house emerged from correspondence between former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft and clerk of the parliaments, David Beamish.

Ashcroft offered his resignation on 31 March 2015 and Beamish wrote back to him to say that the resignation could be considered a "retirement".

"The house committee has agreed that access to house privileges available to retired bishops should me made available to members who retire," said the letter by Beamish, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) by the Times.

Those rights include being able to use the library, the peers' guest room, the peers' dining room with up to five guests and the Barry Room with up to six guests.

The peers' dining room gets more than £700,000 for subsidised catering and Lords are able to enjoy fine dining at up to only a third the cost of that which members of the public have to pay, the Times reported. An FOI in 2013 listed a two-course lunch menu of £15.50. A pint of beer cost only £2.60 and a bottle of House of Lords claret £14.80.

James Price, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "It's bad enough that parliamentarians benefit from restaurants and bars that are subsidised. It is even worse that retired lords will also retain access to these perks, as well as access to the corridors of power.

"These subsidies should be phased out entirely, but former lords in particular should recognise that retirement should mean the end of the road for their benefiting from taxpayers' money."

But peers defended the perks, with Lord Tanlaw, who resigned in November after 46 years, saying: "The right to have a bite there sometimes or tea on the terrace, when we are in our dotage, is very generous. It's nice to be able to go back occasionally.

Lord Edmiston, a Tory donor said: "I believe it is important to encourage peers to retire when they feel it is the right moment. To cut them off from all their friends and contacts in the two houses of parliament after perhaps years of service would be poor reward."

The cost of the House of Lords is under scrutiny. In September 2017, it emerged that 115 peers who did not speak during debates in the UK Parliament's upper house were paid £1.2m in expenses while a further 277 who spoke five times or fewer received £4m.