Memorandum by the Secretaries' and Assistants'
The Secretaries' and Assistants' Council is
most grateful to the Catering Committee for this opportunity to
give evidence to their inquiry.
Members of the Council are aware of the pressures
now faced by the Refreshment Department at peak periods right
across the Parliamentary estate.
Initial concerns were raised regarding overcrowding
in the Terrace Cafeteria, though now this is also true of facilities
in Portcullis House and 1 Parliament Street.
The loss of the Westminster Hall Cafeteria means
that The Terrace Cafeteria is the only place within the main building
where all pass holders can eat. This is an important point particularly
when the House is sitting and those using it are often on timed
While many secretaries and assistants work general
office hours, few take a break of longer than half an hour and
staff are often present after 6 pm when the House is sitting.
Frequently staff arrive to find that they have to queue with hot
food for a long while to pay for their meal and then find there
is no place to sit.
MP's staff are disappointed that no refreshment
services are to be provided in either of the Norman Shaw buildings.
Our members do use the vending machines that dispense snacks
but we felt that they should not be considered as an alternative
to a proper meal.
We feel that the demands on the Refreshment
Department will only increase, as Members, their staff and staff
of the House, are concentrated on the Parliamentary estate north
of Bridge Street. This will have specific implications for Portcullis
House and No 1 Parliament Streetfacilities that are already
at full capacity.
We do not feel that any pricing alterations
(presumably an increase) will actually result in the "choking
off" of demand; it will simply shift the problem. Our members
would be outraged if this route was followed.
Our members are grateful for the opportunity
to entertain guests (their own and their employers') in accordance
with the present regulations.
We are unaware of any major abuses of this privilege
by staff, and do not feel that a reduction in guest privileges
would have an impact on the overall problem of overcrowding.
There has been some comment that temporary pass
holders should eat at different times. We do not think this practical
Norman Shaw Buildings
If there is to be no additional catering provision
within the Norman Shaw buildings, we would like to see more and
improved vending machines that will make a better choice of sandwiches
and snacks available. It would be appreciated if the machines
could be replenished during the day.
Would it be possible for the under used kitchen
facilities to be used for specialist sandwich making?
A majority of our members would like the partition
separating the Members' only area removed, allowing all pass holders
to use the full room. This would provide some of the additional
seating that is so urgently required without additional cost.
We would be most grateful for your consideration
of this point. We do appreciate that it might require an alteration
to the catering provided for Members elsewhere within the main
building, in order to relinquish this area. Members do have alternative
Member-only refreshment facilities available.
Bellamy's Club Room
There was some suggestion that the Club Room
might be made available to all pass holders, possibly as an extensive
salad bar and cold buffet. The committee may wish to consider
this but we do appreciate that though underused, it is the only
cafeteria style of catering designated Member-only, north of Bridge
There is a view that the smoking area should
be removed. Though there is some sympathy for this, it is unlikely
to free sufficient seating to offset the likely complaints, as
it is already well used.
Would it be possible for the former gift shop
to be used as a coffee shop similar to the Despatch Box or as
a sandwich shop, reducing the callers to Bellamy's Cafeteria?
The Debate Cafeteria is popular and at full
capacity. Seating has been increased but this has proved insufficient.
This has been aggravated by the entertaining of constituents to
light snacks at lunch time by some MPs' in the Debate Cafeteria
resulting in lunch tables being unavailable to others. This has
resulted in a distinct increase in the number of people taking
trays of hot food back to their rooms to eat because of overcrowding.
Could all year seating be provided on the North
Terrace of Portcullis House, similar to the Terrace Marquee?
We look forward to the opening of the Cafeteria
and hope this will alleviate the problem of insufficient seating
at peak times caused by MPs' entertaining substantial groups in
The Debate, Terrace and Bellamy's Cafeterias.
We would welcome an initiative to encourage
staff to use this venue more frequently. Perhaps something similar
to that used in the Debate Cafeteria when it was first opened.