Report by Sir Colin
Shepherd, Chairman of the Committee
1. The Domestic Committee
structure which resulted from the recommendations of the team
lead by Sir Robin Ibbs
is relatively new and the 1992 Parliament is the first Parliament
in which the Catering Committee and the other Domestic Committees
have operated throughout.
2. The Committee has the
normal powers of Select Committees and some additional powers
to exchange information and meet concurrently with other Committees
and Committees of the House of Lords.
The Committee fulfils an advisory role on behalf of Members and
considers policy questions concerning the Refreshment Department's
services to Members and others working in, or visiting, the House.
Refreshment Department Modernisation
3. The most important matter
dealt with by the Committee in this Parliament was to progress
the modernisation of the Refreshment Department.
4. Our predecessor Committee
and the Director of Catering Services determined that the situation
in 1992 should not be allowed to continue. The Department's staff
had poor working conditions and disgraceful changing accommodation.
It was also decided that the House should seek to comply with
relevant Health and Safety, fire and food hygiene legislation.
5. On the instructions of
our predecessor Committee, the Director commissioned two surveys
during the Dissolution which preceded the 1992 General Election.
Therefore this Committee was able to study these reports as soon
as it was appointed.
6. In preparation for its
own Report, the Committee took both written and formal oral evidence
from as wide a range of opinion as possible, including Members,
their staff, House staff and the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
7. On 12 July 1994 the House
approved the First Report from the Catering Committee, Session
1993-94, "Refreshment Services for the House of Commons",
which recommended a major refurbishment programme for Refreshment
Department premises and outlets.
8. The work to be done has
been split into six phases (A-F), spread over six years:
Phase A (1994) saw the modernisation
of the Churchill Room kitchen.
9. Phase B (1995) involved
the modernisation of the kitchen in Speaker's House and preparation
for the combination of the Members' and Strangers' Cafeterias
into a single outlet. This latter work included the relocation
of the Strangers' Bar and Annie's Bar.
10. In Phase C (1996) the
Members' and Strangers' Cafeterias were combined to form the Terrace
Cafeteria. Servery counters in the Members' Tea Room were renewed.
A new kitchen was built to service both the Tea Room and the
11. At the time of writing
the modernisation programme is therefore half completed. Summarising
the remaining Phases, D (1997-98) will see the staff changing
accommodation modernised and E (also 1997-98) will involve moving
management offices, so as finally to achieve the modernisation
of the main kitchens (Phase F in 1999).
12. Another matter kept
under review throughout the Parliament has been the private dining
facilities. On 25 January 1995, after long and careful consideration
of the principle and operation of these facilities, the Committee
made major revisions, the most important of which was that Members
hosting such a function would have to declare a relevant registered
interest. The decisions reached were announced to the House on
13. In December 1995 the
Committee agreed to a new procedure for booking the private dining
facilities, in particular, the introduction of a ballot system
for booking certain outlets during the months of peak demand.
In January 1996 a letter was sent to all Members of the House,
advising them of the new arrangements.
Members' and Strangers' Dining
14. A highly successful
experiment was the lunchtime exchange of the Members' and the
Strangers' Dining Rooms. After a trial period of one year, all
Members were invited to comment on the experiment, and there was
an overwhelming response in favour. The Committee agreed that
the lunchtime exchange would continue, to be reviewed annually
as part of the Committee's consideration of the Refreshment Department's
15. In a Report issued in
which was approved by the House on 12 July 1994, the Committee
recommended that the Westminster Hall Cafeteria be converted into
a Visitor Centre offering light refreshments and toilet facilities,
once it was certain that the present lunchtime users of that Cafeteria
could be accommodated elsewhere.
16. The necessary accommodation
for users of the Westminster Hall Cafeteria should be provided
by another major project - the provision of Refreshment Department
facilities in the New Parliamentary Building, which is due to
open in 2000.
Westminster Hall Souvenir
17. An interesting joint
venture with the House of Lords was the opening in October 1995
of a temporary souvenir kiosk in Westminster Hall, an idea first
proposed by the Committee in its Report "Refreshment provision
for Line of Route Visitors".
Items from both Houses are on sale.
Relations with other Committees
and the House of Lords
18. The Committee held two
concurrent meetings with the Administration Committee during the
Parliament to discuss the matter of access to the Terrace and
the Terrace Pavilion. The Committees agreed that members of the
Parliamentary Press Gallery and Lobby Correspondents should no
longer be permitted access to the Terrace, except as a guest of
19. Although the Committee
has not held any concurrent meetings with the House of Lords Refreshment
Sub-Committee, there have been informal meetings between the Chairmen
and relevant officials to discuss matters of mutual interest,
in particular the Westminster Hall Souvenir Kiosk.
20. The Committee does not
seek to change any of its responsibilities. There have not been
any significant problems of overlap between the Committee and
other Domestic Committees.
21. The Committee has not
experienced any difficulties in obtaining a quorum for any of
22. The Committee is supported
by its Clerk and two (part-time) Personal Secretaries. All have
other responsibilities. The Committee has not appointed Specialist
Advisers. Despite the minimal level of support it is not proposed,
given the continuation of the present workload, that staffing
levels should be increased.
43 Report on House of Commons Services HC (1990-91) 38. Back
44 SO No 125. Back
45 HC (1993-94) 75-I. Back
46 Official Report, 1 February 1995, c 670-2. Back
47 First Report from the Catering Committee, Session 1992-93, "Refreshment Provision for Line of Route Visitors", HC (1992-93) 307. Back
48 ibid. Back