Catering Services in the House of Commons

Written evidence submitted by Sian Norris-Copson, Chair, Members and Peers Staff Association

Thank you for giving the Member’s and Peer’s Staff Association (MAPSA) the opportunity to submit evidence to the Catering Services Review; my apologies for the delay in getting this to you but, as you know, I have been away.

We have received the following comments from our Members, by far the largest number were concerned with the price rises:

Price rises

There is general disappointment that the catering price increases, in an attempt to show that "MPs don’t have their snouts in the trough", have disproportionately affected the staff, at a time when the MPs’ staffing budget has also been cut.

"We should ensure that popular and busy staff restaurants do not cross-subsidise under-used restaurants reserved for Members. The recent price rises have put many items well above the prices available outside the Palace and we distrust the basis of their benchmark based prices."

"Prices should reflect the volumes sold and the utilisation of the outlet, which is invariably very high for those outlets open to staff."

"It is also worth mentioning that, in advance of the quality cuts and price hikes, the Refreshment Department removed the feedback section of their section of the intranet. Presumably therefore we are expected to like it or lump it?"

Opening hours and access

"It’s a shame that Bellamy's Café is closed during recess, as it’s always very popular during term time."

"Would it not be better for fewer outlets to remain open as long as they do, and then prices can be kept lower? Surely there is no need for both the Debate and the Terrace to be open into the evening?"

"There should be wider access to the Adjournment and Members' dining room for staff and their guests when there is availability – not just on set days of the week."

"There is also an argument for allowing visitors into the Debate Cafeteria when Parliament is not sitting and the range of catering outlets is severely reduced."


" ..some of the catering staff on the tills / behind the food counters often look as miserable as if they are attending a funeral!"

Quality of food

"Food across the cafeterias is generally very good."

"The standard of food at the Terrace remains great and they should be complimented on their work!"

"The depressing menus at the Debate are getting worse (cabbage and chorizo soup is appetising to no-one); quality at this outlet continues to decline as prices rise."


Several people suggested making the Debate in PCH self-clearing, or as self-clearing as possible, along with tables outside the Debate.

It was also felt that people should be reminded to restore their tables and chairs if they have combined them to party size.

Bellamy’s Bar

There are many comments about the loss of a Bellamy’s Bar, the complete lack of consultation, and the "waste" of taxpayers’ money involved in turning it into a crèche. Other comments include:

"With the closure of Bellamy’s, there is an argument for opening up access to one of the other bars in the House of Commons on peak nights (Thursday / Friday) to prevent overcrowding in the Sports and Social. As Parliament is rarely sitting at those times, I would suggest easing access restrictions in the Strangers Bar on Thursday/Friday nights would be in order."

We look forward to hearing your comments as a result of our consultation submission.

October 2010