8. There are now more people working in the
Palace of Westminster than ever before. On 1 February 2002, there
were 13,406 passholders, 5,605 (42 per cent) of whom held temporary
passes. Members of the
two Houses and their spouses accounted for approximately 2,460
passes; Members' and
Peers' staff held nearly 1,750 passes, contractors approximately
2,400 passes, the press around 450 passes, and Civil Service and
other Government staff just over 2,500 passes.
Many of these passholders would have cause to be in the Palace
of Westminster only very occasionally (e.g. civil servants). These
figures do not, of course, include guests.
9. It is difficult to forecast whether the number
of Palace of Westminster passholders is likely to change significantly,
assuming that no change is made to the types of people entitled
to hold a pass. The number of Members of the House of Lords may
decrease, depending on reform of the composition of the upper
House; but it may be that Members of a reformed House would be
more active and would be present on the Estate for more of the
week. Furthermore, excluded
Members of the Lords
might be entitled to continue to hold passes and use facilities
in the Palace. It seems perfectly possible that Members of both
Houses might want to employ more staff in the future.
Both Houses resolved last year to make more financial provision
for the employment of staff by their Members.
Total expenditure on Peers' expenses in the financial year 2001-02
was £10,014,470, an increase of 19 per cent on expenditure
10. The Refreshment Department may also need to adapt
to deal with the consequences of any reform of the structure of
the working week in the Commons. The Leader of the House has submitted
to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House suggestions
for earlier sittings on a Wednesday and a reduction in the number
of Friday sittings,
and we expect that proposals may be put to the House before long.
The possible changes outlined by the Leader of the House would
suggest an ever greater concentration of activity during the day
in the middle of the week, with more people using refreshment
facilities at lunch times but fewer Members present on the Parliamentary
Estate on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and on Fridays.
The Serjeant at Arms suggested that "we might be in for a
period of great peaks and troughs during the sitting week",
and others echoed his comments.
11. Levels of activity during Parliamentary recesses
appear to be rising, blurring the distinction between "term-time"
and recess. Witnesses
representing the Parliamentary Press Gallery told us that their
work was "less and less related to what goes on in the Chamber
and whether we are in recess or not",
and we heard that Members' staff now work longer hours during
recesses than formerly.
We were struck by the numbers recorded by the Refreshment Department
as using the cafeterias on the recess day selected for the survey.
12. Space is at a premium throughout the Estate.
The Serjeant at Arms has commissioned a review of accommodation
and the use of space in the House of Commons.
The final report from this review is expected in November 2002
and, although the review does not cover Refreshment Department
premises, our recommendations will need to be seen in the light
of the review's findings.
What determines where people choose
13. The Refreshment Department survey did not
ask customers why they used a particular cafeteria in preference
to another; but we have been able to build up a picture from comments
submitted in evidence. Quality of food and convenience are the
main determinants, although it is not clear which is the more
important. The Terrace Cafeteria is apparently favoured for convenience:
it serves acceptable food, most of it traditional in style, but
few people said that the food was an attraction in its own right.
Nonetheless, it fills fast at weekday lunch times, being the only
cafeteria in the main building open to Members' staff and the
majority of House staff. For those who want to take a short lunch-break,
the alternatives are seen as being either too far away (7 Millbank)
or too busy for a quick meal (Debate Cafeteria).
14. The Press Cafeteria is another example of an
outlet used for convenience rather than for the quality of food.
We were also told that security staff, who are distributed throughout
the Estate, preferred to eat in the area where they were stationed.
15. On the other hand, the Debate cafeteria attracts
custom because of the quality of the food served, perceptions
that it is freshly prepared and assembled to order, and because
of the ambience of the covered courtyard in Portcullis House.
In trading terms, the Debate has been an enormous success and
appears to be especially popular with Members' staff.
We heard that staff working in the Westminster offices of the
Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) favour the Debate because of the
"innovative" menus and the attractive surroundings.
The IPU also told us that "good quality food, accompanied
by good service, will always win out over location", and
it called for standards to be raised to a common level across
the Estate. The Debate is the most convenient cafeteria for all
those who work in Portcullis House and in the two Norman Shaw
buildings. Once Norman Shaw South is re-occupied, the total number
of Members and Members' staff working in these three buildings
will be at least 850.
Some 170 House staff are also based in these buildings or in 1
Canon Row. The catchment
area is therefore large.
16. It was also suggested to us that the range of
facilities now on offer provided an incentive to staff to eat
in the House rather than use commercial take-away outlets.
The steady shift of Members and their staff away from the southern
end of the Parliamentary Estate may accentuate this trend. Whereas
it might be fairly easy for someone working in 7 Millbank to walk
to a sandwich shop in Great Smith Street or Victoria Street, the
distances for those working in the main building or north of Bridge
Street are that little bit greater.
1 A Wednesday lunchtime and evening, a Thursday evening,
a Friday (sitting day) lunch time and a recess day lunchtime. Back
Ev 35. Back
Q 141. Back
95 of these seats are in the covered courtyard outside the cafeteria. Back
Information supplied by the Director of Catering Services. Back
Temporary passholders have restricted access to refreshment facilities
and cannot escort visitors within the Palace. Back
Includes 116 former Members of Parliament and 184 excluded Hereditary
Mostly temporary passes: also includes 163 Lord Chancellor's
Department staff. See Ev 52. Back
Q 95. Back
The term "Members of the Lords" is now used in preference
to the term "Peers". Back
See Q 95. On 5 July 2001, the House of Lords agreed to increase
from £37.00 to £50.00 the maximum amount which may be
claimed daily by Members of the Lords for secretarial expenses. Back
Official Report 5 July 2001 col. 466 (Commons) and 5 July
2001 col. 885 (Lords). The levels of allowances for Commons Members
are now based on an assumption that Members will employ three,
rather than two and a half, full-time staff. Back
Official Report [Lords], 20 June 2002, col. 191(WA).
This figure covers a wide range of expenses, not just staff costs. Back
Modernisation of the House of Commons: A Reform Programme
for Consultation (HC 440, Session 2001-02). Back
See Q 13. Back
Q 80. Back
See, for example, Q 153. Back
Q 74. Back
Q 125. Back
Q 43. Back
Ev 40-41. Back
Q 71. Back
QQ 23 and 116. Back
Q 76. Back
See Q 116. Back
Ev 36. Back
Ev 19. Back
Approximately 200 in Norman Shaw North, 150 in Norman Shaw South,
and 500 in Portcullis House: See Q 60. Back
In addition, 308 security staff are currently based in 1 Canon
Row; only a proportion of these staff are on duty at any one time,
and some normally work in the main building. Back
Q 41. Back