Select Committee on Catering Minutes of Evidence

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 principle—for example, lowering the price of meals outside the most congested time—but 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.

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