Memorandum by "Prospect" Union
(Commons Library branch)
"Prospect" (Commons Library branch)
welcomes the inquiry into the increasing problem of overcrowding
in certain House of Commons Refreshment facilities. It understands
that the Catering Committee has a difficult task in balancing
the needs of different sets of users and hopes that its suggestions
will prove useful.
The problem is the high level of demand for
cafeteria facilities open to all pass-holders, in particular in
"Bellamy's", the "Debate" (Portcullis House)
and the Terrace Cafeteria. These facilities are regularly over-crowded
The difficulty arises not in the overall capacity
of House of Commons Refreshment facilities but in the highly restrictive
access policy. This means that a large proportion of staff is
restricted to a small number of catering facilities. As these
areas are also popular with "officers" who have the
right of access to a large number of other facilities, there is
not enough room to seat all of them at lunchtime (particularly
from 1 pm-2 pm). Essentially the current policy is trying to force
a quart into a pint pot.
Clearly, the central solution to this problem
is the reform of these access rights.
Prospect is opposed in principle to caste divisions
between "officers" and other staff concerning access
to catering facilities and regards them as archaic, divisive and
unnecessary. While it understands that Members need their own
refreshment facilities, it would like to see the abolition of
all these restrictions between staff. In the short-term however,
it would like to make the following suggestions:
1 Derby Gate
1. Abolish pass restrictions between staff
in the "Club Room" in 1 Derby Gate. This room is clearly
under-used. Opening it up to all users could do much to relieve
the problem of overcrowding in Bellamy's.
2. Since the Bellamy's gift kiosk now appears
to have closed, could it be turned into a takeaway sandwiches/snacks
outlet similar to the "Despatch Box" in Portcullis House?
This could help to reduce queuing times in Bellamy's.
Abolish pass restrictions between staff in the
"Adjournment" in Portcullis House. Again, this facility
is under-used. It is particularly frustrating for staff queuing/trying
to find spaces in the often over-crowded "Debate" cafeteria
to see so many empty tables in the "Adjournment".
The "Adjournment" could either remain
a brasserie-style restaurant, but accessible to all photopass
holders, or become a self-service cafeteria.
The Terrace cafeteria is often overcrowded at
lunchtime. This problem has become particularly acute since the
closure of the large Westminster Hall cafeteria. For many members
of staff, this is the only Commons refreshment facility they have
access to in the Palace. Prospect suggests that the reserved seating
area for Members could be reduced or abolished. This area is rarely
full. It seems reasonable to have at least one facility in the
building open to all pass-holders.
If it is really felt necessary to maintain these
divisions between staff at all, they should only apply in the
Palace where there are already many other facilities open only
to Officers and Members. It seems appropriate for these 19th Century
divisions to be consigned to a 19th Century building.
1. By ensuring that all cafeteria tills
are staffed throughout the busy periods, queues could be significantly
2. Regular statistics on usage of refreshment
facilities would be very useful in highlighting those areas which
are under-used or overcrowded. This might allow remedial action
to be taken as soon as possible.
3. The Catering Committee's press notice
on 8.2.2002 referred to "pricing mechanisms" as a possible
area for reform. "Prospect" understands that prices
are usually higher in areas restricted to Officers and Members
and this may partially explain why some of these facilities may
be under-used. It hopes that prices will not be raised in cafeteria
facilities open to all pass-holders in an attempt to limit demand
in these areas.
25 February 2002