Catering Services in the House of Commons

Written evidence submitted by Wendy Wilson, Branch Chair, FDA union

Thank you for your invitation to submit written evidence to the Administration Committee’s review of catering services in the House of Commons. The FDA represents over 120 staff in the House of Commons. The following submission reflects comments made by FDA members in response to your terms of reference.

· The standard of service in House of Commons catering outlets is generally considered to be high. FDA members appreciate that catering services operate in a demanding political environment, where they are subject to greater scrutiny than the average work canteen.

· Overcrowding is a problem at peak times, particularly in the Debate cafeteria at lunch times. Overcrowding does not only occur when the House is sitting, but also during recesses when other outlets are often closed for refurbishment and staff have a more restricted choice of where to eat.

· Many of the outlets in the House of Commons are used as meeting venues as well as places to eat. A range of outlets is needed to suit the different types of meeting with Members/staff/external guests etc. However, more could be done to differentiate between the various catering outlets serving different needs. For example, some outlets could offer a more diverse and elaborate menu with others serving plainer food at lower prices. This would increase choice for staff.

· Improvements in labelling and nutritional information have been welcomed, but could go further. For example, meals could include calorie counts and an indication of what exactly is meant by the colour coding system for low/medium/high fat content.

· FDA members would also value more information on the sourcing and quality of ingredients, for example are all eggs free-range? Which ingredients are fair-trade? From which countries are seasonal ingredients sourced?

October 2010