Catering

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1967.

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Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington 12:00 am, 23rd January 1967

asked the Lord President of the Council what was the actual financial loss in the last three years of the Members' dining room, the special functions in private rooms, the Press catering section, the Members' cafeteria, the bar, the Harcourt Room, and the Strangers' dining room and cafeteria, respectively.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

asked the Lord President of the Council when he will report to the House on the investigations made by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) into the reasons for the losses of the Refreshment Department.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

As I have said in answer to Questions on a number of previous occasions, the finances of the Catering Department are at present under urgent review and I think it would be advisable to await the results of this investigation before detailing figures in the way requested. A full statement will be made as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I, at the request of interested parties connected with the Catering Department, deferred this Question for nearly two months? Surely on a question of this sort the House is entitled to the information? If we are sustaining losses can we be told what they are for the respective departments?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I fully appreciate what my right hon. Friend feels about this. I am most anxious not to mislead the House. I want to be absolutely sure that when we break the losses up between the various departments we are giving precise figures. At present I cannot do this.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Was not this department paying its way in the early 1960s? Surely the appropriate House Committee must bear some responsibility for these losses today?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I suggest that is quite a different question.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Are we to assume that matters in the Refreshment Department were as serious as the length of the inquiry would seem to indicate? Could my right hon. Friend say at this stage if the numbers on the payroll exceeded the number of workers?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I cannot possibly answer the last part of that question without notice. My hon. Friend should put that question down for answer. As to the first part of his question, I do not want to under-estimate the seriousness of the situation.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in view of the prices charged by the Refreshment Department and the fact that the department is not subject to many of the normal overheads that an outside restaurant would have to bear, many of us find it difficult to understand how these losses have occurred? Will he say who is responsible for undertaking the review and whether he has thought of bringing in management consultants to look at these finances?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

We have thought very seriously of bringing in consultants. In one sense we have done so, from the Treasury. It has looked at the situation from the O. & M. point of view. I do not want to go any further before the Committee reports as a whole, but I do not want to under-estimate the seriousness of the situation.

Photo of Mr Frank Taylor Mr Frank Taylor , Manchester Moss Side

asked the Lord President of the Council on how many occasions during 1966 catering in the House of Commons has been carried out by outside organisations instead of by the catering staff; and what reasons exist for this.

Photo of Mr Frank Taylor Mr Frank Taylor , Manchester Moss Side

May I ask the Lord President to inquire into the circumstances of the completion of Star Court on 1st December, when I understand a party took place, and when, as I further understand, an outside catering firm came in?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I had guessed that this might possibly be the basis of the Question, but I would claim that one could not say that the party which took place to celebrate the completion of the building occurred in the House of Commons, since the House of Commons had not taken that particular building over at that time.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

asked the Lord President of the Council what consideration has been given to a departure from the manufacturers' recommended prices for the sale of tobacco and spirits to the Members of this House.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

May I take it that it is so demonstrably clear that the profit margins on these particular commodities are fair and reasonable that this important Committee of the House thinks that they should be maintained, not only for the Kitchen Committee, but for very many retail outlets throughout the country?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

All that I said was that we had no idea of carrying out the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, which does not by any means coincide with his second statement.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Since smoking cigarettes is now regarded as a direct consequence of cancer—[Laughter.]—as Euclid said, vice versa—since this House warns Members and others against the practice, why do we sell cigarettes?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

Despite the macabre nature of this subject, that is a further question which my hon. Friend should put down for answer.