Catering Services in the House of Commons

Written evidence submitted by Selina Short, Members’ staff

I am writing to put forward my views on catering for staff in the House of Commons. I think that the increased prices in the canteen is to high for most people working in the house of commons to have a decent meal at lunch time. Most people in the House of Commons do not earn very much and unless micro waves are provided for staff, I think the canteens should provide a decent / healthy lunch time hot meal at a subsidised rate, for House of Commons and MPs staff. Currently the hot meal with vegetables in PCH is around £5 which is a lot for people earning £19,000 or £20,000 per year.

It does not make sense to charge the same market prices as around Westminster because the House of Commons catering outlets do not pay market rents and nor are presumably profit making.

I do agree that visitors should however pay open market prices. It is of course an honour to be invited to have lunch in the House of Commons or House of Lords and I see no reason why it should be subsidised.

The solution to this would be that HOC and HOL pass holders pay a reduced rate. Of course eventually a new system could be introduced where the pass is scanned (e.g. at AXA and Prudential). However, in the first instance, and at no great cost, it would not hard to set up as it just requires separate prices to be imputed into the tills and to be given on showing of the a parliamentary pass. Personally I would suggest a 50% reduction on market prices (rounded up to the nearest penny) charged to guests.

There would be a problem with volunteer staff but there is already a pass system for interns which could just be extended to include food.

MP’s earnings are not relevant to the cost of lunches as there a far more Staff who work within Parliament on low wages.

Andrea Leadsom MP, for who I work, was happy for me to write to you on this subject.

October 2010