Catering and Retail Services in the House of Commons - Administration Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Unite (T&G) Parliamentary Staff Branch

The Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch is a trade union representing over 400 members of MP's staff from all political parties, based in both Westminster and constituency offices.

We have consulted our members and would like to bring the following issues regarding catering services in the House of Commons to the attention of the Administration Committee:

1.  Annie's Bar

(a)  The decision to place the House of Commons crèche on the site of the former Bellamy's Bar means that one of the amenities available to staff has been removed.

(b)  One of the most under-used resources on the Parliamentary Estate is Annie's Bar, which has been shut for many years and therefore does not provide any revenue for the Estate. This is a fully-fitted bar on prime real estate and it does not make sense to keep this amenity closed.

(c)  There is a clear market for another bar - following the closure of Bellamy's Bar, the Sports and Social Bar is often filled to capacity. With bar prices on the Estate now increased in line with the high street, it is likely that this could be a profitable venture.

(d)  Therefore we recommend the Administration Committee look into bringing Annie's Bar back into use for MPs' staff, MPs and guests.

(e)  The bar could either be leased to the current managers of the Sports and Social or it could be operated as a workers' cooperative.

2.  Loyalty Scheme

(a)  The catering price increases have hit the staff of MPs' particularly hard. Most of our members are on modest salaries - the average salary is around £20,000. This is far below the market-rate for the jobs that we do. Many staff have also had their salaries reduced because of the cut to MPs' staffing budgets by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

(b)  In the past, these lower-salaries were often off-set by cheaper food prices on the Estate. However, following the catering price increases, one of the few remaining perks for staff has been removed. This affects not only the staff of MPs, but also cleaners and other comparatively low-paid staff on the Estate.

(c)  Many of our members have told us that they are now purchasing their lunch off the Estate, at the nearby Tesco and other retail outlets. Indeed, some items of food and drink are now cheaper if bought off the Estate. For example, a bottle of Coke in the Debate costs £1.50 compared to £1.04 at the nearby Tesco. Over time, this will lead to a decline in the revenue collected on the Estate.

(d)  Therefore, we recommend the Administration Committee look into adopting a 'loyalty card' scheme for staff who work in Parliament. By offering modest discounts, staff will be encouraged to continue to purchase food on the Estate and this will halt any decline in revenue.

3.  Publicising greater access for MPs' staff

(a)  On certain days, MPs' staff are able to access some services that are usually reserved for Members. For example, MPs' staff may book tables in the Adjournment Restaurant on Thursday evenings.

(b)  However many of our members are unaware of these arrangements. We believe it would be in the Estate's interest to more widely publicise opportunities like these, where staff can have greater access to catering services on the Estate.

4.  Terrace access arrangements

(a)  Some of our members have expressed concern that the access arrangements on the Terrace are being applied inconsistently when staff try to take interns who are non pass-holders onto the Terrace.

(b)  MPs' staff are grateful for the opportunity to access the Terrace for lunch on Fridays and during Recess periods. However, on some days staff with interns who are still waiting for their pass will be allowed access, and on other days they will not.

(c)  This is unfortunate because it means that many staff are unsure of their rights and it denies interns one of the benefits of working in Parliament.

(d)  Therefore, we would like House authorities to consider giving access rights to staff interning for Members.

October 2010

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