Memorandum by the House of Commons Whitley
Committee Trade Union Side
The Refreshment Department do an excellent job
in providing food and drink for the many people who work in the
House of Commons, their guests, the press and members of the Civil
Service. However, there is a huge problem of overcrowding in many
of the House of Commons Refreshment facilities. We hope that you
will accept our suggestions listed below:
1. Norman Shaw North and Norman Shaw South:
There is no refreshment facility in these buildings, which house
large numbers of Members' staff, and, after the refurbishment,
will house many more Members and their staff. A cafeteria here,
similar to the one in Millbank, would greatly relieve overcrowding
elsewhere. We understand that recent decisions on who is to be
accommodated in NSS have led to a reconsideration of the space
allocation: we urge that this opportunity be grasped. The loft
area in NSS would seem to be a possible location.
2. Terrace Cafeteria: Since the closure
of the Westminster Hall cafeteria, the problem of overcrowding
in the Terrace Cafeteria has worsened substantially. This is a
point we made with some emphasis in oral evidence to your predecessor
committee. We ask for the partition in the Terrace Cafeteria to
be removed. The Members' area is often greatly underused and Members
have many other facilities at which to eat, whereas staff have
the Terrace Cafeteria only. If it was impossible to abolish the
Members' area, then we would suggest replacing the permanent partition
with a lighter one, which the staff would move each day to deal
with anticipated demand. For instance, on Fridays, the Members'
area is generally empty and the staff area grossly overcrowded.
3. Terrace Cafeteria layout: The hot drinks
area becomes overcrowded and needs more space, which would lessen
the general problem of overcrowding in the area. A single queue
serving area should be arranged, with self-service for vegetables
(as with salad).
4. Terrace Pavilion: Staff can use the Terrace
Pavilion on Mondays and Fridays only. Access should be allowed
throughout the week. This would lessen demand on the Terrace Cafeteria.
5. Bellamy's Clubroom: Ever since Bellamy's
coffee lounge was converted into a Members' Clubroom, the TUS
have campaigned for it to revert to its former use.
Many members of staff previously used the facility,
thus freeing up room in the main Bellamy's cafeteria. The clubroom
is greatly underused in its present form.
6. Bellamy's Gift Kiosk: Could this now
vacant area be converted into a sandwich and hot drinks outlet,
similar to the Dispatch Box in Portcullis House? This, combined
with the change to the Clubroom, would greatly help to alleviate
the problem of overcrowding in Bellamy's (which will worsen, if
no additional catering outlets are provided for Normal Shaw North
and South (see point 1)).
7. Westminster Hall Visitors Centre: Could
the centre remain open for staff, after the public have left for
the day? Otherwise the centre will be underused. We understand
that the centre will be selling snacks and sandwiches, so it would
be ideal for staff who want fast, take-away service.
8. Press Facilities: Precious space is being
set aside to cater for a relatively small number of political
correspondents, as distinct from a large parliamentary reporting
staff as was originally intended when the Press Dining Room and
cafeteria were established. Ordinary staff should now have access
to these facilities, so as to relieve pressure on the Terrace,
which, as we discuss in 2 above, is now the only general facility
in the Palace.
9. St Stephen's Tavern: Could this be used
as another outlet?
10. Security Staff and Contractors: Perhaps
a dedicated canteen for police and Security Officers could be
established? The Security Officers have quite extensive staff
rooms, and one might be converted. Could more portacabins selling
refreshments be made available for contractors, as was the case
last summer recess?
11. Pricing differentials: Pricing differentials
are a good idea in principlefor example, lowering the price
of meals outside the most congested timebut it might well
disadvantage the lower-paid members of staff who often do not
have the luxury of deciding when to take their lunchbreaks. We
are certainly against the raising of prices.
12. Access: The current rules on access
exacerbates tensions between Officers of the House and other members
of staff, as Officers have access to many refreshment facilities
from which other staff are barred. We favour the opening of these
refreshment facilities to staff across the House wherever possible,
especially as a number of these facilities are under-used.
13. Self-clear points: Self-clearing should
be the rule throughout the cafeterias. The turnover of tables
is slowed down by the amount of debris left behind.
14. Meeting/Reading areas: The use of cafeteria
as meeting/smoking/reading areas leads to problems of overcrowding.
Could possible alternatives be publicised, such as Bellamy's Bar?
15. Guests: The facility for staff to take
guests into RD outlets is greatly prized, and should be retained,
though we accept it is not unreasonable to exclude the very peak
time of 1245-1330.