HC Deb 20 May 1946 vol 423 cc34-5
77. Mr. W. Shepherd

asked the honourable Member for Walthamstow, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether he will give an assurance that employees of the House of Commons have available to them canteen facilities at prices which compare with the normal level of such prices in ordinary industrial occupations

Mr. McEntee

There are many staff canteens within the Palace of Westminster but only one of these is controlled by the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons, and the accommodation in that one is very limited. The Committee are aware of the inadequacy of facilities for the staff, and would be glad if a unity of control could be effected, so that more space could be made available and better facilities provided. Our prices compare favourably with those of popular cafes,and tea shops outside, but under existing conditions the Committee regrets that it is not possible to reduce prices or to improve the staff accommodation.

Mr. Shepherd

In view of the fact that the wages are not higher than those which are paid in normal industrial occupations, and the hours are often more varied, will the hon. Gentleman see what steps can be taken to provide conditions here approximating to those outside?

Mr. McEntee

The question of the wages of the staff is not the concern of the Kitchen Committee, neither is it our concern to provide low prices for people who are inadequately paid, if such exist. We are now providing meals as cheaply as they are provided outside in tea shops and that type.of place, and we are certainly not going to reduce prices below those which will cover the expenditure.

Earl Winterton

Could the hon. Gentleman say who are the other authorities who control these canteens? Is it the Lord Great Chamberlain's Department?

Mr. McEntee

Any hon. Members who read the report on the accommodation in the Palace of Westminster will know that it was reported that some 22 canteens were available in the Palace of Westminster. Nearly all of them are staff canteens and they are controlled by various people, but the main control is the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons, and a Committee sitting in the House of Lords controlling their own canteen. An attempt, was made to amalgamate the control, but up to now it has not been successful.

Mr. Marples

Could not they be nationalised?

Mr. Sutcliffe

Would it not be a definite advantage if all the canteens were brought under the control of the Kitchen Committee?

Mr. McEntee

My own personal opinion, of course, is that it would be an advantage. An attempt has been made to amalgamate the control, but up to now we have had no success.