Select Committee on Catering Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 57 - 59)




  57. Mr Cummins, Mr Walker, welcome. As I have just thanked the preceding party that have been to give evidence, we do thank you very much for coming and giving your valuable time because we know you are both extremely busy. As you know, the purpose of this inquiry is to seek to improve our refreshment facilities. We recognise there are particular problems and they exist in certain parts of the Parliamentary Estate rather than in all. We have obviously identified cafeterias as being particularly problematic in terms of the numbers of people who want to use those facilities. We obviously want to invite you to help us, if you would, to make the proposals that will bring about the changes that we seek on behalf of your staff and the Members of the House and everyone concerned. Is there anything you would like to say, Mr Cummins, Mr Walker, just in a few sentences, to begin this part of the inquiry?

  (Mr Walker) Mr Chairman, on behalf of the Board of Management, could we say, first of all, we very much welcome the inquiry and are delighted to be able to give evidence to you. I think it is time it was done and we particularly welcome the fact that you are looking at an assessment of the current demands to find out what demand there is for certain services. We hope, of course, that this will include a full breakdown of users, not just Members and their staff or House of Commons staff but peers, their staff, House of Lords' staff, and contractors and so on, so that we have all got a better basis of information on which to make some of the judgments we have to make as well as the recommendations that the Committee has to make. Could I just say something about the Board of Management's role in this? Under delegations from the House of Commons Commission, which is the employer of all the staff in the House of Commons service and, also, the Clerk of the House, who is the contractor for all of the contractors who are on site here, that the Board has to balance the needs and desires of our staff, the needs and desires of Members and their staff, the business requirements with regard to short-term and long-term contractors and everyone else who is on site here. The Board therefore has a management and a balancing role to do, it is not simply a question of representing those with whom we are most immediately concerned, which is Members and their staff and, of course, our own staff. I think that is all we wanted to say to begin with, and perhaps you will ask us whatever you would like to know, as you wish.

  58. Obviously, as the Board of Management, we are aware that you play a very distinct and important role within the structure of the House of Commons. Mr Cummins, would you like to make any initial comment following Mr Walker, before Members pose any questions to you?
  (Mr Cummins) Thank you, Chairman. All I would like to add, really, is that the Board are very conscious of the need for adequate and proper Refreshment Department facilities, obviously, for, as Andrew said, all those who work in and, indeed, visit the House. For example, we welcome the introduction of the Jubilee Cafeteria with regard to looking after our visitors. That is a very welcome step and we look forward to seeing how that progresses in the future. Apart from that, the Board are very conscious that there is a redistribution, for example, of accommodation in progress at the moment, and I would like to say a few words later, maybe, about how that redistribution of accommodation will affect the possible loading of Refreshment Department facilities in and around the Palace. The Board has also recognised that there may be some areas of the Palace, for example, which are under-used. Also, it might be appropriate at the same time to draw comparisons with the facilities in the House of Lords, which also, we feel, at some times of the year—certainly during recesses—bear on our own House of Commons capacity to feed people at busy times.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

Mrs Dean

  59. Following on from that, could you tell us what you feel the effect will be of Members and staff moving to the northern end of the estate?
  (Mr Cummins) Yes, indeed. Mr Chairman, in essence, over the next six or eight months, and certainly by the spring of next year, there will be an exodus of Members from, for example, 7 Millbank and other parts of the Palace into the area north of Bridge Street. In October we plan to fill up the top floor—the fifth floor—of Norman Shaw North, where at present sleeping accommodation is taking up office space. We are putting about 15 Members and 15 staff, in total about 30 people, into the top floor of Norman Shaw North in October. Thereafter, Norman Shaw South, as I am sure the Committee is aware, has now been allocated to the use of Members and their staff in the future. That building will be finished in January or early February next year, and there will be a significant move of staff into that building by, certainly, the early spring of 2003. The sort of figures we are looking at is that overall in Norman Shaw North and Norman Shaw South, topping those buildings up, we are looking at a total of some 79 Members and 101 staff—ie, about 180 more mouths to feed, if I can put it that way—appearing in the Norman Shaw South and Norman Shaw North area. That will, I think, have an impact on those outlets such as, certainly, Portcullis House and, maybe, 1 Parliament Street, the Bellamy's area, for looking after those Members and staff from next year.

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