Select Committee on Catering Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Secretaries' and Assistants' Council

  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 lunch breaks.

  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 Street—facilities 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 or appropriate.


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?

Terrace Cafeteria

  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 Street.

Bellamy's Cafeteria

  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?

Portcullis House

  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?

Westminster Hall

  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.

Millbank Cafeteria

  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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 17 July 2002