Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
MBE AND MR
20. If they are using our facilities then I
do not see any reason why if they have got facilities which our
staff could use
(Mr Cox) That is all I know of up there. I am sorry
21. That is certainly something that could be
looked at and also the press, I wonder how that is utilised and
whether or not that could be opened up a little bit more. There
is a bar and a cafeteria and all sorts of things up there. I just
throw that in, Chairman.
(Mr Kaye) Yes.
22. There are other facilities which could be
opened up, going back to breaking down some of these barriers,
and if there is spare capacity why should people not be able to
use them which would alleviate some of the problems.
(Mr Cox) The press cafeteria gets quite busy on a
lunchtime, I use it quite a lot. I do not mean the restaurant
part but the bit you walk through.
23. Would you say that is fairly widely used
by members of the staff outside of
(Mr Cox) No, it tends to be Hansard, press and people
who work up in that area. The doorkeepers do work with the press
sometimes so they do not take any notice of us.
24. That is quite well used, is it?
(Mr Cox) Yes.
25. And the restaurant part of it?
(Mr Cox) I have never used that apart from one Christmas
dinner. The cafeteria part closes at quarter to five anyway but
at lunchtime that can get quite busy up there after one o'clock.
Tony Cunningham: I am just trying to look at
a whole range of things to open it up a bit.
26. One problem, of course, is that people do
not obey the access regulations as they are now and Members are
sometimes the worst culprits when they take more guests in than
they should. Have you any idea as to how that can be enforced
more and whether it should be by Refreshment Department staff
or by security staff?
(Mr Cox) Once upon a time at lunch times there was
a security officer outside what was the Strangers Cafeteria and
he used to monitor staff. He has got a bit of a problem with Members
because frankly if a Member has got four people and says "I
am taking them in", what can he do? He was there to check
that staff only took two guests in. We have now got the Jubilee
Cafeteria for that kind of thing.
27. How long ago did that cease?
(Mr Cox) The security officer?
(Mr Cox) Since it was modernised. When you walked
in there the shop was down on the left, there was a restaurant
to the right for Members and one for staff and there was always
a security officer by the staff door. Since that has been modernised,
1996, the security officer has disappeared.
29. I was wondering if Della has got any comments
(Ms Herd) Yes. It would be difficult for the Refreshment
Department staff to monitor access of every single person that
went through the venues. They do what they can at the moment to
try and stick by the access regulations but it would be very difficult
for the Refreshment Department to police that on a consistent
basis, especially during peak times, because they are called away
to provide the catering services.
(Mr Cox) I think it would be unfair pressure on the
30. Can I carry on about the difficulties at
peak times which obviously is the main problem. If you were looking
at the pricing of food could pricing differentials be used in
two areas really, one in pricing one place dearer than another
perhaps and whether you could have pricing incentives to try to
encourage people to go outside the peak lunchtime period? Have
you got any views on that?
(Mr Kaye) I work in a procedural office and again
when the House is sitting we cannot wander too far away, therefore
we are committed to eating in the main building. I can see a situation
where if somebody comes along at five to two and pays £2
and somebody comes in at one minute past two and they pay £1.20I
am looking round corners herehuman nature being what it
is there could be a feeling of resentment. Perhaps it is worth
a shot but I suspect there could be problems with that. Unless
you try you will never know, I suppose.
Mrs Dean: What about pricing different venues
Chairman: Pricing differentials.
31. Again, I suppose you could have the problem
that if you have got to eat in a certain cafeteria it would be
unfair to charge you more because that is a popular cafeteria.
(Mr Kaye) Yes, precisely. I am sure somewhere along
the line that someone will whinge about it as sure as eggs are
eggs. Unless you have a shot at these schemes and have a trial
period you will not know. Perhaps it would be worth a try, who
knows, it could be successful.
32. Any comments from either of you?
(Mr Cox) I think that is a better idea than dropping
prices during certain times of the day. As I was saying earlier
on if you go in at lunchtime and a sandwich is £1 but if
you wait until three o'clock and get it for 50 penceI know
those are unrealistic prices, I am giving you an exampleit
would be better to have the prices in different areas rather than
they go up and down in the Strangers Cafeteria or wherever. There
is also the afternoon snack which some people would use as their
main meal. That could be made lower and would encourage people
to go later in the afternoon rather than at lunchtime.
33. You would put that at a lower differential?
(Mr Cox) Yes. I am not sure what you charge for that
because I have never tried it.
34. Do you think they should be amplified? Do
you mean that that we are doing in the afternoon with the jacket
potato and so on?
(Mr Cox) Yes.
35. There are variations but it is that basic
(Mr Cox) I do not know how well that is patronised
because I do not use it but if it is not being used now maybe
lowering the price of that would encourage people, they would
say "it is a bit busy lunchtime but I will go for the afternoon
snack, not only is it quieter but it is cheaper". Maybe vary
it a bit rather than just a jacket potato and a sausage roll.
36. I am not sure whether there is a solution
to this problem which is that you get queues of people at the
tills in particular in the Terrace Cafeteria. Have you any thoughts
on how we could improve or develop the layout?
(Mr Cox) Yes, we have got a couple of ideas on that.
Very often the third till is not being used in the Terrace when
there are queues and sometimes there are not enough people serving.
We have also come up with the idea that maybe one of the tills
could be for sandwiches and takeaways so if somebody has got a
takeaway they are not holding up somebody who has got a meal that
is going cold while he is standing there.
37. That is a fair point. There is never enough
time in these sessions, we could go on and have a much wider and
broader discussion and we would gain from it but I think our time
for your session is rapidly coming to an end. Maybe this is too
much of a question at this juncture but if there were three things,
three policies, that you would urge on the Catering Committee
to respond to in the discussions we have been having and will
continue to have until we solve the problems, what would they
be? Three items that you could recommend to the Committee as a
major contribution to overcoming some of these difficulties.
(Mr Cox) The barrier in the Terrace Cafeteria is one.
Second, find out what is being under-used and open it up. The
third one I am struggling with.
(Mr Kaye) I would certainly recommend long service
pass holders to have greater access to the eating facilities.
I think that would go some way to alleviating the overcrowding
and with a trial period the Refreshment Department could possibly
monitor that. That is no criticism of the Refreshment Department
because I think they give good value for money.
38. That is a lovely, wonderful, positive note
to end on. Can I thank you very much indeed for coming Ron, Della,
Laurie. I hope you do not mind me speaking to you in these personal
terms but we all know each other very well.
(Mr Cox) No, Sir, and on behalf of the three of us
thank you for inviting us to put our views.
Chairman: It is our pleasure and we hope that
out of the deliberations we are having and the evidence we are
collating that we will find, I do not think a perfect solution
to all of our problems but a way through some of the most serious
difficulties and provide something better in the Refreshment Department
for your staff, which is what our aim and objective is. Thank
you very much.