HC Deb 17 March 1949 vol 462 cc2303-41

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £41,955, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for the salaries and expenses of the House of Commons, including a grant in aid of the Kitchen Committee.

4.21 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

When the Debate on this Estimate was carried on a fortnight ago, there was a somewhat regrettable display of heat. I hope that those hon. Members who serve this House on the Kitchen Committee will appreciate that those of us who have some doubts about this Estimate have not the faintest intention of attacking them. But I would point out to them that, when this House is discussing a Vote which directly affects its own comfort and amenities, it is surely an occasion upon which there is a duty on hon. Members to be particularly vigilant in discussing and watching these items. It is in that spirit that I ask one or two hon. Members opposite to understand why these criticisms are being made.

There was, in particular, during that Debate a statement by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), who fills the position of Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, which really did carry the case too far. The hon. Gentleman, who I regret to see is not now in his place, said: Is it any less necessary that they— by which the hon. Gentleman means hon. Members of the House— —should be fed than they should be handed a slip of paper by a messenger to tell them that somebody is waiting for them outside; or is it any less necessary than that they should be reported—and very well reported—by the Official Reporters in the Gallery? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 2162.] He was seeking to put the Kitchen Committee in the same position as the other services of the House, which are, in my view quite properly, provided at the expense of the taxpayers, and, therefore, he was putting the case for the Supplementary Estimate far too high. His argument would have been material had he been arguing, which the hon. Gentleman was not, that the whole cost of feeding hon. Members should be borne by the taxpayer. That argument was not adduced; all that was asked for was a subsidy towards it. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman made the issue far from clear. He then suggested that all those who perform a function in this House, along with the Official Reporters, should be treated on the same basis, and that he should provide meals for everyone. While it is no doubt highly desirable that meals should be obtainable in this building, it cannot be suggested for a moment that the business of Parliament would come to a standstill without such a provision. It would be extremely inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it is quite a different thing to say that such a service is essential. It is therefore a quite different matter from the services to which he referred.

It would be unfair to put the whole cost of this Supplementary Estimate on the arrangements for the staff. and that was the argument which was adopted by the Financial Secretary. In a way, it is possible to take one item from one side of the balance-sheet and say that that item is responsible for the deficit, but that is, surely, a very unreal way of dealing with a matter like this? An essential element in the cost of food is the element in respect of the cost of preparing and serving it, and it is equally a fact, whether such a thing is desirable or not, that, were more to be charged for that food, the deficit would be less. I hope we shall not continue the discussion on that basis, for that is a very unreal attitude to this matter, because it is a wholly arbitrary separation of one particular item.

Mr. Haydn Davies (St. Pancras, South-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I am sorry that the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee is not here, but I think there is some misunderstanding about the point we were making. It was agreed that to keep the staff all the year round would cost £18,000 while the House was in Recess, and that is why we are bound to have a deficit, though making a profit while the House is sitting.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I fully understand the argument, and it is put very clearly by the hon. Member in Column 2159 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. In reply to it, I would say that, to the best of my recollection—and I speak subject to correction—when this change in the conditions of employment of the staff was put forward, there was no general understanding that it would be implemented at the expense of the taxpayers. There was no such general understanding, and there is very much doubt whether it would have been so universally accepted had that been made quite clear.

Secondly, the hon. Member is not really applying his mind to this. Admittedly, the task of the Committee has been made more difficult. No one could exclude that fact, any more than they could exclude the fact that the Committee's work is made much easier by the free provision of premises. Nevertheless, it does not necessarily follow that if, in fact, there were less amenities in other directions, the deficit would be less. Surely, the hon. Member appreciates that point, and therefore we are entitled to approach this matter from that point of view. But are we entitled, in the situation of today, to ask the taxpayer to find a substantial sum to support the amenities provided for hon. Members of this House? Are we entitled to ask the heavily-taxed people of the country to submit to taxation for that purpose?

Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)

The hon. Gentleman has on two or three occasions used the phrase "amenities for hon. Members of this House." Would he bring out the fact that, as compared with the number of people taking advantage of these amenities, hon. Members of this House in fact constitute a minority?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am coming to that point, and I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is perfectly true that other people participate, but the argument, as I understood it, put by the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, was that the justification for the provision, in the first place, was that it was necessary to enable hon. Members of this House to perform their duty, and, only secondly, that it was necessary for some other persons, some 1,200 of them. If it is suggested, as it now is by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton), that part of the deficit is due to providing services for people other than hon. Members of this House, ought we not very carefully to scrutinise this Estimate and determine whether we are entitled to charge the taxpayer for the provision of amenities for these other persons?

Let us examine this matter further. As I understand the Report of the Kitchen Committee, they contemplate equipping and running a new room for the Press in the new building. Why should the Kitchen Committee have to bear a loss in catering for other people? Should not the room be handed over to the Press, and the members of the Press be allowed to make their own arrangements. without effect on the finances of the Kitchen Committee or on the taxpayer? If this matter is to be run at a loss, it is the duty both of the Financial Secretary, as recommending this Estimate, and of the Kitchen Committee to reduce the number of persons who swell the total of the figures to which we refer. We are not entitled to say, as was said by an hon. Member a fortnight ago, that because the Serjeant at Arms permits certain people to use various amenities of this House that are maintained by the Kitchen Committee, that automatically gives a blank cheque on the taxpayer in respect of those persons.

We heard earlier this afternoon of a further reduction in the domestic ration of meat. People outside feel that it is quite wrong at such a time—and I stress at such a time—to provide this very substantial subsidy towards the provision of meals within this building. It would not be right to challenge the attitude of the Kitchen Committee further than to say that we had no intimation whatsoever in the Debate a fortnight ago, either from the Financial Secretary or from the two representatives of the Kitchen Committee who took part in the Debate, that this Supplementary Estimate was being introduced in a somewhat penitent mood and with a promise of being better in the future. We had no such indication, and I notice that the Financial Secretary is quite frank about it now. He indicates, as I think those movements of his head indicate—they are both lateral and vertical—that there is no such intention.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I have the record for nearly 100 years to go by, and right throughout that period, when conditions for the staff were terrible, the taxpayers still paid most years a subvention to the Kitchen Committee of this House.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like to analyse what he says. In the first place, I take it that it is not being put forward by a Socialist Financial Secretary that because a thing has been done in the past, that is an argument for continuing to do it now, regardless of expense.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It is an argument for being cautious when one is asked to give a promise for the future.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not ask the Financial Secretary to give a promise for the future; I only ask for some indication from him that he recognises that a subvention on this scale is highly undesirable, and for some indication that he, and those on whose behalf he is asking for it, realise that, and are taking steps to reduce the need for the future.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to adopt the argument that certain grants were made in the past: but that is not a conclusive reason for doing it now, for two very good reasons. The first reason, it seems to me, is that we are now asking it of the taxpayers when taxation is infinitely higher than it was in those days, and, secondly, we are asking for it now when hon. Members are paid very much more than they were in those days. It seems to me that both these entirely new factors in the situation alter the argument. All I am really asking the right hon. Gentleman —and I am sure this will be a matter of some interest to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—is this: if he gets this Supplementary Estimate, can he give any undertaking that in the future we shall not be met with similar demands year by year? Can we have some indication of that, or is this put forward as being something perfectly satisfactory in itself? Have we any undertaking that an attempt will be made to economise?

It would be a little offensive to go into the details of the Kitchen Committee's expenditure, but at a time when, for example, new liveries for the staff are being provided, and when the annual dinner is taking place, and so on, it seems quite wrong that this demand should be made without any apology or excuse. Therefore, I hope that before this Estimate is granted, we shall hear, both from the Government and from the Committee responsible, that a genuine and real attempt is being made to secure that, in the future, even if this was not done in the past, certain elements in the provision of meals in this place shall not indefinitely be laid on the shoulders of the taxpayers.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Collins (Taunton)

The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) remarked on the fact that when this matter was debated on 18th February he noticed a regrettable display of heat among my hon. Friends who spoke on it. I think the Debate was more remarkable for a regrettable display of inaccuracy, particularly in the statement made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). However, I want to say at once that, speaking as a member of the Kitchen Committee, I think it proper to point out that it appears at the moment that—assuming a continuation of present conditions which confine and constrict the activities of the Kitchen Committee—there is no prospect of any sensible diminution in this deficit, unless the conditions are substantially altered. It would be quite dishonest, therefore, for me to remain a member of the Kitchen Committee and not to make that perfectly plain. Whether hon. Members think that these conditions should continue is quite another matter.

I shall certainly try to avoid any heat and to put the matter as I see it. The right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough contrived to make it appear that hon. Members in this House were given a subvention of 5s. per Member per day during the Session. There was only a slight inaccuracy—if I accept his submission—of about 100 per cent. It would work out at 2s. 6d. per Member per day during the Session. But to put this cast of countenance on this situation is really intellectual dishonesty, and I hope we can get away from that kind of thing. The position that has been created arises from a decision—I think a proper decision—by hon. Members that the staff should be paid all the year round, that tipping should be abolished, and that there should be a superannuation fund. I think that those conditions are the minimum which we ought to ask the staff to accept.

It cost £6,400 to abolish tipping, and because we are only catering for 35 weeks in the year, and for, approximately, only four days a week during those 35 weeks, an extra cost of £11,000 is incurred for wages dining a period when we have no possible chance of earning anything. With the superannuation costs, that comes to rather more than £18,000, and the Estimate for the two years is £28,250. That leaves a margin on actual catering—a profit, if one likes—of some £4,000 during the year. That, as far as my examination of the records goes, is considerably more than has ever been made in any one year during the last 100 years.

Therefore, it is fair to say that, in so far as hon. Members are paying for the food they receive, they are certainly paying the full cost, and paying prices which are equivalent to or higher than those paid for comparable food and comparable service. I certainly make no complaint because I think the service is excellent compared with similar surroundings. In support of that, I would point out to hon. Members that members of the Kitchen Committee—it is a Select Committee, an all-party Committee, and its discussions are not conducted, on party lines—have very seriously considered this matter for a long time. I think I can speak for all hon. Members when I say that the veriest shadow of an idea that the taxpayer is contributing directly or indirectly to the payment for our food is most distasteful to all of us.

It would be possible easily to wipe out this £14,000 a year by saying that each Member must contribute approximately £22 a year. Some Members might not find that in any way a hardship and would gladly do it, but the point is that it would not be equitable. It would be idle to suggest that this loss is incurred solely by Members of Parliament. Such a plan would mean that all the other 1,200 persons who have the right to the catering facilities in this House, quite apart from the visitors, ought to be brought into it.

When we look at this problem the first thing we must say is, "Can we cover the loss by increasing the prices for food?" I think the answer to that question must be, "No." The prices have been increased on two or three occasions and it is well known that the income from all the Catering Departments in this House has declined substantially and is still declining, with the sole exception of the Members Tea-Room where the income has increased slightly. I submit that that is because a number of Members find that they cannot afford to have lunch or dinner in the dining room and, therefore, have to content themselves with snacks and what the Army used to call "tea and wads;" they cannot afford at all times a proper meal. That seems a reasonable assumption. In other words the law of diminishing returns is already operating. If we raise the prices any more it means the loss does not become less but becomes considerably more. I think that is a logical assumption.

We have, therefore, to ask ourselves, assuming that there is no Supplementary Estimate, how can we close the gap? Particularly in view of what was said by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, I want to emphasise that this is no new thing. In 1936 a subvention of £5,000 was sought and in 1937 another large subvention was sought. Continuously for 100 years various sums have had to be requested. I must repeat that in those years there was not one penny of this additional £18,000 for wages, superannuation and the cost of the staff. It would be idle to charge the Kitchen Committee with inefficiency or with not having gone thoroughly into this matter and I do not know that hon. Members do make such a charge.

Assuming, then, that we cannot close the gap by raising prices, I should like to know whether hon Members would say—and particularly hon. Members opposite—that we should close the gap by reducing wages and presumably reintroducing the tipping practice, which most hon. Members thought was a very wrong practice in this House and which they decided to bring to an end. Possibly we could do it that way. If we did, we should have to casualise our staff again, sack them every Friday hoping that they might come back on the Monday and sack them every time there was a vacation. If that were thought desirable, I believe the Kitchen Committee could come along and say, "We have closed the gap and balanced our accounts." No doubt it would be suitably concealed that we had balanced them by taking it out of the staff.

I believe that would be extremely undesirable, and I do not think the House as a whole would agree to it. After all, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said, "Do not charge us with wanting to do anything like that." I put it squarely to the hon. Member: if we are not to do that we must go ahead and see what alternative there is. Does he want us to have American teas on the Terrace every Saturday, charging 5s. a head, or perhaps 7s. 6d., with the Father of the House as an extra attraction? No doubt we could earn money in that way. It has occurred, although perhaps not seriously, to members of the Kitchen Committee. We could earn money, I am quite sure, by commercialising the Palace of Westminster to some extent. I find that idea quite distasteful. Nevertheless, it is an idea; we could earn money and we could possibly close the gap so that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames would not have the painful duty of raising this matter and asking us what we are doing about it.

All these matters have been discussed in the Committee. We have honestly tried to see whether there were ways and means of running the service so that there would be no gap at all. Looking at it as a business proposition, realising that no private enterprise firm in this country will take it on; realising that it would be a hardship to the 1,200 members of the staff who have access to these catering facilities if we were to say that in future the catering facilities will be only for Members of Parliament and that the remainder can go out and fend for themselves. I am bound to say that I think we have to come to this point: if we are to stick to the wages at present paid and if we are to try to give the best possible service and to maintain the prices at as high a level as we can before the law of diminishing returns operates, we shall still have a deficit of the approximate order of the one we have now.

How are we going to deal with that? Are we going to ask each hon. Member to pay £22 per annum and close the gap that way? That might be one way. Or are we going to take this course—to agree that this is a special expense out of which the hon. Members of this House and the staff do not profit in any way at all? I think, in fact, we are providing a necessary service. I submit that if that view is held, as I believe it is held by all or certainly nearly all hon. Members of the Kitchen Committee, after full consideration, then it would be wrong and somewhat less than honest for hon. Members to challenge that view, although they have a right to challenge it, and certainly wrong for them to suggest that in any way whatever the meals of hon. Members are paid for directly or indirectly by the taxpayer.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) started his speech by accusing me of having made a great many inaccurate statements. I have been waiting to hear what they were. I hope he will point them out to me.

Mr. Collins

I mentioned one inaccuracy when I said that the right hon. and gallant Member had said that in his view it worked out at 5s. per Member per day during the Session. I pointed out that, even accepting his moral basis for such an argument, his arithmetic was wrong to the extent of 100 per cent.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

The hon. Member for Taunton had better go back to school.

Mr. Collins

The Estimate is for £28,250 and is for two years. It is roughly £14,000 a year, and if the right hon. and gallant Member will work it out again, as I did two or three minutes ago, he will find that it works out at about 2s. 6d. a day. The inaccuracy, therefore, is quite substantial, but I do not want to delay the Committee by retailing all the right hon. and gallant Member's inaccuracies.

Captain Crookshank

For the simple reason that there is no "all." As for the excuses which the hon. Member tries to make for his inaccurate reply, what we are concerned with is that the deficit this year has to be collected from the taxpayers now, and that is represented by the figure that I stated for the period.

Mr. Haydn Davies

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us when he last had this 5s, free dinner here, because as a member of the Kitchen Committee I should be interested to know?

Captain Crookshank

What a silly question.

4.51 p.m.

Captain Marsden (Chertsey)

I also am one of the Kitchen Committee. The Kitchen Committee is a Select Committee, which is comprised of Members from all parts of the House. On that Committee, as on every other committee of the same sort, I endeavour to subordinate party politics, and try to work, as, I think, the other Members do, towards a common object for the common good. I say frankly that we on the Kitchen Committee have been rather hurt by the various innuendoes and insinuations that have been made in the House and in the Press and by other people for a great deal of time. There has not been put forward a single suggestion for economy which we on the Kitchen Committee have not thought of already. If anybody can think of something fresh, let us have it. There was the suggestion mentioned by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins), with whose words I agree, that we should open our Dining Room as an open restaurant for the public while we are in Recess. In the Royal Palace of Westminster! What an idea! What sort of signs are we to hang out? There might be something in it if we had no greater idea of the dignity of the House. Again, we are under no licensing laws or hours, and the fun that people might have downstairs all night, I leave to the imagination of hon. Members.

We do not want to close the gap in that way, but in a sensible, reasonable, dignified manner befitting this House. I can assure the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that we shall come back to this question every year; indeed, we are bound to come back to this question so long as it exists. It all comes back to the staff. I get around, and I do not know of any better staff anywhere, than the staff we have in here in every department and in every room. I think that the standard has gone up and that the service has improved since 1945. Before then, curiously enough, every suggestion for the betterment of the staff and for permanent employment of the staff came from Conservative Members—even for the permanent employment of the staff. When the present Parliament started, the matter was not put to the vote in the House. What it was intended to do was announced in the House.

It was announced that there was to be permanent employment of the staff through the 52 weeks of each year, and that tipping was to be abolished. The announcement was received in the most favourable manner by everybody. Who, did hon. Members suppose, was to pay for that? It had been suggested before. Did hon. Members think that that cost could be paid from the charges for food and drink? They should have watched the matter more closely. They would not have thought that, had they seen the figures. It is utterly impossible. It is most unfair to say that anybody is eating at the public expense. During the time the House is sitting we make a profit—and we have made a profit. Directly the House is not sitting, money trickles away at the rate of about £700 a week. That is included in that figure of £28,000 we are now asked to vote.

There seems to be a complete misapprehension about these things. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames mentioned the messengers and the HANSARD staff. Perhaps they were not very good instances to bring forward as typical. But there are others. Members have free telephoning. Are they always telephoning on Government or political business?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend would not like to give a false impression. The telephoning is telephoning in the London telephone area only. It would be a pity to give a false impression about that.

Captain Marsden

Yes, in the London telephone area. If, Sir, you had been sitting in the telephone booth in which I was sitting earlier today, and had overheard the conversation in the next booth as I did, you would have realised that these telephone conversations are not all on political lines. What sort of letters are written in the Library and elsewhere? Are they all on business? We know perfectly well that they are not. Are all the books in the Library political books? No; there is a big section of fiction, and large numbers of magazines of all sorts that have nothing to do with politics of any sort.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Members get their speeches from them.

Captain Marsden

Members accept these provisions, because they have always been there, and they are accepted naturally as part of the set-up. We on the Kitchen Committee live with this question of the deficit. All we ask is that all other hon. Members should fully appreciate the position in which we are. The Press room was referred to. I can assure hon. Members we do not want to be responsible for the Press room. The Press are very difficult in the way of eating and drinking. On the first day of this Session the tables were laid for dinner in the room provided for the Press, and dinner was ready for as large a number as wanted it, but not a single one turned up. Because of the most modern methods of refrigeration, I do not say the food was lost, but all the staff were there and were paid to be there, and no money was coming in. So far as the Kitchen Committee are concerned, we would willingly hand over the new Press room to the Press—willingly.

Reference has been made to the £1,000 a year which we are paid. If hon. Members turned up the evidence given before Mr. Tom Smith when he was Chairman of the Select Committee, they would know that one of the reasons why the salary of hon. Members was kept down to £1,000 was, that at that time we had a lunch for 1s., a fixed price lunch. Now, that lunch is 2s. 9d. It has had to go up that much as part of the effort to cover the deficit.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the proceedings of a Committee of which I was a Member, perhaps he will allow me to say that he has no authority to state what were the considerations that led that Committee in private session to come to a conclusion.

Mr. Haydn Davies

I was also a Member of that Select Committee, and that fact was revealed in our Report—that one of the reasons for our recommending £1,000, was the fact that cheap food was provided in the House.

Earl Winterton

I was merely taking exception—I think it is the proper thing to do—to any attempt to repeat the proceedings of the Select Committee which were in private. It is an important matter.

Mr. Collins

Is it not a fair inference, if a salary is fixed at any figure, that discussions must have taken place on the question whether that figure should be higher or lower? That is a perfectly proper inference.

Captain Marsden

I am glad of that stand-easy, because I was becoming a little hoarse. I am perfectly ready to give all sorts of secrets of our Kitchen Committee. The more the House as a whole knows the facts the better. We wish the House as a whole to know them. However, I was referring to the Press room. We should willingly turn it over to the Press, with the greatest of pleasure. When our salaries were stabilised, the low cost of living in the Palace of Westminster was taken into consideration. That cost has gone up considerably since then.

However, whichever way we look at it, it comes down to the question of the staff. I do not think that hon. Members who are in close touch with the situation will deny that if we got rid of the staff every time there was a Recess, we should not get them back when we met again. That is absolutely certain. Our staff, some of them highly experienced—they improve while they are with us—would be snapped up by outside firms at once if we were to let them go. Then, what would the House say and very rightly say, about the Kitchen Committee when they found there was no staff? What will happen during the General Election and the Summer Recess that will follow on when there will be a very long gap? Unless the staff are on a permanent basis, they will be without any pay. It will mean that when the House returns they will not find the staff queueing up for their jobs, but that they have been taken over by firms in London and elsewhere who are looking out for good staff.

The suggestion has been made that the staff should be taken on the Vote of the House of Commons. That would be a fair solution, and I hope Members will consider it. We are not discussing that, however, but the question of making good the deficit which was incurred, not while the House was sitting but when it was in Recess, merely as a result of paying a good staff adequately throughout the whole year. We make money with difficulty while the House is sitting for a 4½-day week, and then we hear these alleged business men, who are successful in their own spheres but know nothing about catering or kitchen committees, saying that we should handle the situation in a businesslike way. "How easy it would be for us," they say, "if our overheads were taken care of as in your case. "The fact is that we are in a peculiar position and do not get the same advantages as outside firms, except that we can sell drinks for a little longer. Outside firms can make money on the holidays to offset their bad days, but that is a time when we are shut up altogether.

I hope that this matter can be settled, otherwise we shall go on year by year having a deficit under these conditions. I have jotted down two sets of figures for the benefit of those who think we should raise our prices. The suggestion that we should raise prices is a most futile argument. If a thing cannot be sold at 1s., how can it be sold at 1s. 6d.? The obvious answer is to sell the thing at 6d. and get rid of the stocks. The same applies in the case of other catering establishments. If people will not buy more meals at present prices, it is obvious that they will not buy more meals if prices are increased. The total number of meals that are served are approximately the same over a given period but the same number of meals are not being provided in the dining rooms because more Members are being catered for in the team rooms.

I would point out that there are 14 places in the House for which the Kitchen Committee are responsible. Owing to the remoteness of many of these places for eating and drinking purposes, a staff of no fewer than six is required to convey food and drinks about the building. Who in the world could make money in a situation like that? In the year 1947–48 we made a gross profit of £21,736 on wines, spirits and beer. Is that not enough profit? Personally, I think the prices are too high, and we realise that from the way the sales are going at the present time. During the same period we made a gross profit of £15,607 on provisions. We really cannot put up prices any more.

In conclusion, I wish to say that we in the Kitchen Committee have explored every possible avenue for making economies. We have thought of all sorts of suggestions, and I have thought of one or two, but as soon as we make them, a howl goes up from Members and we have to drop them. We invite suggestions for further economies, but every suggestion we have received so far has involved more expenditure. It is only fair to the Kitchen Committee that the amount being asked for should be granted. I ask Members to remove from their minds the idea that there is anything political about this. There is nothing political about it at all, and I have never heard any suggestion of politics made in the hardworking Kitchen Committee; if there were any suggestion of that kind, I, for one, should clamp down on it. We do our best, and if there is a vote against this expenditure, then it is a vote of censure on the Kitchen Committee, although I do not think Members as a whole will feel justified in taking that action.

5.6 p.m.

Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)

The speeches we have heard have emphasised the fact that we are a hardworking committee only too anxious to do the right thing by Members and the taxpayers. We want to give the right sort of service both to the personnel of the House of Commons and to the Members. There was an implication in the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that the Government were taking one line and the Opposition another on the question of the taxpayer being made responsible, through the Treasury, for this £28,000. The hon. Member is not right in thinking that. The Special Report of the Kitchen Committee has not tried to hide anything, but sets out the whole of the facts, the problems, the difficulties and the possible solutions.

The Kitchen Committee unanimously passed a resolution asking that a deputation should be sent to the Treasury, and that deputation, which consisted of the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite), the hon. Member for South-West St. Pancras (Mr. Haydn Davies) and the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), as well as the Chairman, went to the Treasury to ask for this grant and came back with an unanimous report. I would emphasise that it was a delegation not from one side but from the whole Kitchen Committee representing the whole House. Following that deputation, the Financial Secretary indicated that the Treasury were willing to make this subvention of £28,250 for two years.

It is very important that the House and the country should realise that what is being done by the Kitchen Committee has nothing to do with party politics. The Kitchen Committee consists of members of the Government, the Opposition, independent Members, and so on. The vote of that Committee that the Treasury should be asked to find this money was unanimous. Any suggestion or implication that the Government wish to use the taxpayers' money to feed Members of the House of Commons is completely false. I hope no one will get the impression either that Members of Parliament do not adequately pay for all their meals, or that the Treasury should intervene to provide these services, and I very much hope that the unanimous decision of the Kitchen Committee to ask the Treasury for a subvention will be accepted.

5.11 p.m.

Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing, East)

It is very gratifying to me that it is generally accepted on both sides of the House that this is a non-party matter. I am not and never have been a member of the Kitchen Committee, but I think the cause of the increased expenditure should be put clearly so that it can be properly appreciated by the general public. For many years I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and in that capacity I noticed that before the war there was generally a loss each year on the work of the Kitchen Committee. If my memory serves me right there was a loss of £5,000 for 1936.

What is the position today? Surely it is that, save for the fact that the Government decided to pay salaries and wages to those engaged by the Kitchen Committee when the House was not sitting, i.e., 52 weeks per annum, the accounts of the Committee would show not a loss but a profit. That is very creditable to the Kitchen Committee. I do not wish to make any case against payment of salaries and wages when the House is not sitting, but I want to make it quite clear that that cost amounts to £14,000 to £16,000 per annum, whereas the loss sustained by the Committee averages £11,500 per annum. As I see it, except for that charge the Kitchen Committee would show a profit at present of between £2,000 and £3,000 per annum.

Members of the Kitchen Committee are not engaged in trying to make a profit. They are there to see that Members get full value for their money, and that no money is wasted. This loss which is shown is a matter which will come up every year unless it is proposed to charge prices which would be prohibitive and equally would not compete favourably with those charged in places outside this Palace. If we are not prepared to continue on the basis of present prices, which I regard as reasonable, the only alternative is to charge the salaries and wages paid when the House is not sitting to some other account. I hope it will be possible to find a means whereby the Recess wages account can be debited to another Vote. I hope that the question of the unbalanced budget of the Kitchen Committee will not be regarded as an annual question, but that a means may be found of finally disposing of it. The Committee have done excellent work in my opinion, and I cannot help feeling that a Committee which comprises Members from all parts of the House should receive our acclamation rather than condemnation.

5.17 p.m.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I cannot follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) in the concluding sentence of his speech. Just because a committee is composed of Members from all parts of the House, I do not see why that committee should be exempt from criticism. I fully realise that the Kitchen Committee is a difficult Committee to discuss, because they are there to be shot at. He who strikes at the stomach of a Member of Parliament strikes at a tender spot. People grumble, say what a rotten Committee it is, that the Meals they put on ought to be better, and so on, but there must be a middle way by which criticism can be reasonable, helpful and constructive.

I want to make what I believe to be a constructive criticism. For various reasons, which I will not go into now, I believe the Kitchen Committee charge far too much for wines, with the result that no one buys any wine. The profit which would otherwise be derived from the sale of wine does not thereby accrue. I think I am right in saying that no bottle of French wine can be bought in the House under 25s. Any good wine merchant would say that there was better wine than that at half the price. I am in the trade myself, and I take full responsibility for that statement. If that is true—and I believe it can be shown to be true—I think the Kitchen Committee ought seriously to consider whether they should not get rid of their present stock, even at a loss, and buy good French wine, which can be sold at 12s. 6d. to 15s. a bottle. That would tend to increase the profit that they would make and decrease the loss, which, I am quite prepared to admit, must be inevitable so long as Parliament does not sit all the year round.

A lot of the food produced here is very good, but some of it is not so good. The service, however, is extraordinarily good. I pay my tribute to the waiters and waitresses—I think we ought to do that. I never receive anything but courtesy and, even more than that, kindliness and helpfulness. Now that tipping has been abolished it is clear that that sort of service proceeds from a wish to help hon. Members rather than from what might have been expected—a desire to receive larger tips. The Kitchen Committee deserve congratulation on much of their activity, but they need to be told that the House is watching them closely. I hope they will bear in mind what I have said about wines, because I can assure right hon. and hon. Members that it is correct.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

I should like to say a few words which perhaps will help hon. Members to come to a decision. I became Chairman of the Kitchen Committee after Lord Morrison ceased to be Chairman, following very closely Mr. Bracewell Smith as he then was and other Chairmen, several of whom had experience in hotel work and with great experience of catering. I think I am possibly the first member of the Kitchen Committee who ever took the trouble to go into the Library and trace the Kitchen Committee as far back as possible. I traced it back to 1848–101 years ago. Year by year up to the present time there has been a loss on the accounts of the Kitchen Committee, except for nine years. In 92 years, therefore, the Kitchen Committee has had a loss and on only nine occasions has there been a profit.

Only on one occasion did the profit reach four figures. I am not quite sure, but I think I am right in saying that in that year the Kitchen Committee were able to show the comparatively high profit which they did because they sold a considerable quantity of the wine stocks from the cellars in what was a very good market from their point of view. All these things are recorded and they are open to inspection by any Member who cares to go through the accounts of the Kitchen Committee which are available in the Library.

From 1801 there have been various methods of running the catering department here. There has always been a Kitchen Committee, but the Committee did not always do the work. It was let out in various ways. On several occasions they employed a gentleman who came from one of the clubs, with experience in catering, and on every occasion when such a person was employed as a kind of manager of the Kitchen Committee, either he resigned because of the loss he made, despite the fact that he was getting a subsidy from the Treasury, or he did the job so badly and supplied wines of such quality and at such a price that the Kitchen Committee got rid of him. Then they tried another method and a contractor from outside was brought in. The contractor gave it up after a very short time, in spite of the very considerable subsidy that he was getting from the Treasury; he could not make it pay.

Then they brought in some wine merchants; first there were three and then four. They were each given a cellar; the kitchen manager—he was called the keeper of the kitchen—retained for himself a certain agreed share of the price of the wine, and at the end of the week paid out to the wine merchants the amount due for the particular wines which were sold from each of their stocks. But again there were complaints, and that arrangement did not succeed. Then the job was offered to one of the largest catering firms in the world. This firm to whom the job was offered has the distinction of having had on the Kitchen Committee a past chairman of the firm. He had ample opportunity of knowing whether or not the Kitchen Committee could make a profit. He came to the conclusion that it could not, and I presume that he advised his firm accordingly. At any rate, the firm refused to take on the catering in this House.

With some business experience, though not in catering particularly, my view is that it is utterly impossible for anybody in any circumstances that we can imagine at the present time to make the catering in this department pay. A couple of weeks ago we had about 40 people dining at night. On another night we may have several hundreds. But we have to keep a staff here every night in case people turn up. As every Member knows, on several nights recently the House rose early and people went home. Consequently we were left with a considerable amount of food which we could not sell that night and much of which we could not sell at all. In addition, the waiters and waitresses were there; the whole of the staff were there and they had to be paid.

There is no doubt that before this Parliament, the staff of the Kitchen Committee were a sweated staff. Every Kitchen Committee whose report I have read, admitted that fact. They all said that the conditions of the staff ought to be improved, but none of them was willing to face that fact and improve the conditions. Let me compare the conditions of the staff in those days with the present conditions. Formerly the waiters and waitresses relied almost entirely on tips. When the House rose, the waiters, with the other members of the staff, were sent away. They received short notice and were invited to come back if they cared to do so, at the end of the Recess. At that time it was easy to get staff because there were large numbers of people out of work. It was always easy to get additional staff at a few hours' notice, and indeed at a few minutes' notice. By getting on the 'phone the manager was able to get hold of several of them. Indeed, he often did so. Does anybody believe, that if the staff were sent away now, say, during the long Recess, we should get them back again? There is plenty of work for such people now, and every member of the House of Commons kitchen staff could easily get work in hotels in London and elsewhere. It would be impossible for any manager running the department to get a staff together quickly as has been done in the past.

As to prices, we raised the prices as steeply as we could. It has been said that the wines are too dear. Perhaps they are, but it is rather unfair to compare the prices of wines sold in the House of Commons with the prices of wines sold by wine merchants. The wine merchant sells them to an hotel, and the comparison surely is the price charged to the hotel as against the price charged in the House of Commons.

Mr. Nicholson

Yes, that was precisely the comparison that I was making. Perhaps I was not allowing the House of Commons the full profit which a hotel is allowed, but I was allowing a satisfactory profit—a much more reasonable one, and quite an adequate one according to my calculation.

Mr. McEntee

I should be prepared to admit that some of the wines we sell now are perhaps rather dear, but it depends entirely on the comparison. If we compare them with some of the better hotels in London they are very cheap. If we compare them with some ordinary public house or perhaps a small restaurant, they are possibly dear. It is entirely a matter of comparison. The prices of many of the things we sell we dare not reduce, otherwise we should show a still greater loss. If we increased the prices further. we should also show a loss.

I wish that hon. Members who have not done so, would get hold of the recently issued special report of the Kitchen Committee which is available in the Vote Office. If hon. Members will read that, they will see that our takings for the past year, as compared with the previous year, have gone down very considerably. There are Members sitting on the Front Benches and in all parts of the House who have complained to me about high prices. Only yesterday, one hon. Gentleman, who has put many Questions to me in recent weeks, wrote on the back of his bill something to the effect that it was highway robbery to charge him 1s. for a piece of cheese. If hon. Members knew what we have to pay for that cheese, I do not think they would consider it highway robbery. At any rate, if we did not serve the cheese at that price, we should lose still more money, and if we do not serve it at all, we lose all the profit on it. I ask Members to read that report, and I hope we shall get an opportunity of discussing it.

I should like them to read also one other report which we issued. I went to a great deal of trouble to get the facts and figures in connection with it. It is the 1946 Report, which is available in the Vote Office. In that report we pointed out that it was the expressed desire of this House, not by a vote of the whole House, but by many individual Members speaking in the House, that the Kitchen Committee should improve the conditions of the staff. The then Chairman came forward and said he had been asked a Question by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) as to what the Kitchen Committee were proposing to do with regard to the conditions of the staff. He replied that the Kitchen Committee were suggesting that tipping should be abolished, that a cheaper meal should be put on as requested by Members, that the staff should be paid for 52 weeks in the year. instead of 36 or 37 as previously, and that a superannuation scheme should be initiated for the Kitchen Committee staff, who were the only staff in the building who did not come under some form of superannuation.

The then Chairman later reported to the House that the Kitchen Committee had decided to abolish, tipping. There were general "Hear, hears," from all parts of the House. He also told the House that they had decided to pay the staff for 52 weeks in the year. That again was met with the approbation of apparently everyone in the House. He said that they had not yet done so, but they were in touch with the Treasury and were trying to draw up a satisfactory superannuation scheme for the staff. All those things were done. Every hon. Member who was in the House at that time must know that we could not do this without heavy cost. It cost approximately £6,400 to abolish tipping, approximately £11,000 to pay the staff for 52 weeks in the year as against the previous 36 or 37 weeks when the House was sitting, and it cost approximately £4,500 to institute the system that is now operating to enable the staff to get superannuation, such as other employees in the House get. The total cost is well over £20,000. That loss has increased rather than decreased because the superannuation scheme has naturally gone up, and it will do so until the end of this year.

How does anyone in the House expect us to meet these costs? They can only be met by doing all that we have done. We have increased the sales enormously, except for this year when they have gone down, and we have increased prices as high as we can. There is not a meal sold in this House by the Kitchen Committee that does not show an actual profit on the meal as against its cost. I say that because of the statements which have been made both in the House and outside that Members of this House are eating at the public expense. The Members of this House practically instructed the Kitchen Committee to do the things which I have been mentioning, and we did them. Having done that, I say that it is the duty of this House to see that we are given the means of meeting the extra expense which has been imposed on us by the House itself.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

I do not think it is quite correct for the hon. Gentleman to say that it was imposed by the House itself. It is perfectly true that when the proposal of the Kitchen Committee to pay the staff all the year round was mentioned in the House there were "Hear, hears." But the statement which has just been made by the hon. Member, and also on a previous occasion by the Financial Secretary in reply to a Question, was that this House had approved it. There is only one way in which this House can give approval to anything, and that is by a resolution. and that has never been done. I think that we ought to be a little more correct in the language which is used.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I should like to carry that a little further. This afternoon I made a statement about holiday travel. Do I understand that the House did not approve it?

Mr. Keeling

Certainly it is not correct to say that the House approved a proposal of the Kitchen Committee, unless they did so by resolution.

Mr. McEntee

I said earlier that it was not actually approved by a vote, but that it was approved by general acclamation on every occasion that the matter was discussed in the House. There is no record, but I have gone very carefully into this matter and have spent many hours doing so, and there was not one solitary speech made against the decisions suggested to the Kitchen Committee; and when the Kitchen Committee reported to the House, their report met with the general approval of all present, although not by actual vote.

It is rather a pity after 101 years to bring up this question of the Kitchen Committee loss as if it were the first time in history that it had occurred. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) was a member of the Kitchen Committee, and he was a party to every decision which we made. He was a party to our going to the Treasury. He voted for the deputation which was sent to the Treasury, and he approved of the proposals when we came back. There is no record of any member of the Kitchen Committee at any time voting against the decision of the Committee to approach the Treasury to ask for the grant which we are now getting. I hope that Members will look at the report, because a suggestion is made there for a solution of this matter, once and for all. If we cannot decide on that, I think that the Kitchen Committee are justified in asking the House to suggest some means by which it can be done.

We have mentioned three possibilities. One suggestion is that we should go back to the old days of a part-time staff—a badly paid and sweated staff. We lived on them, in my view, far too long. If we do that, what will happen? The staff will, of course, walk out, and we should not get a staff in London to work under conditions any worse than we have at the present time. Another suggestion is that we should increase prices. We have increased prices, and the result has been a bigger loss. As I have said, Members on both Front Benches and in many parts of the House are telling me almost every day that our prices are too high. I agree that in many respects they are too high, but we dare not reduce them, and we dare not increase them. It is the responsibility of the House. They have to find a way out, and we suggest, after very careful consideration, that the cost should be put where it was for many years, namely, on the Vote of the House of Commons in the Department of the Serjeant at Arms. That may he a way out. It is the way we suggest, and it is the only way that occurs to me which will be satisfactory.

I hope hon. Members will not consider this as in any sense a party matter, because I can assure them that no member of the Kitchen Committee has ever treated it as such. There are many experienced people on the Kitchen Committee now, as there have been in the past, and we have done our level best to give a good service, and I think we can say we have given it, at a reasonable price—as reasonable as we could make it in meeting what I would call the decencies of workmen, to enable our staff to live under decent conditions, as they are doing now for the first time in the history of the staff of the House of Commons

I appeal to hon. Members not to be small or niggardly about this, and I ask them to remember that when they help the mean criticism which we get outside in a certain section of the Press, they are bringing this House into discredit. We ought to make comparisons, as I have done—and it time permitted I could give many—with Parliaments in all parts of the world. I know of no Parliament in the world of any size today in which the Members arc treated worse than the Members of this House, not in regard to the food they eat but in regard to their general amenities, their conditions of work and their services. I hope we shall remember, too, as we ought to do, that this is one of the greatest Parliaments in the world, and if it is to serve, as it ought, the interests of the nation we should stand up for our own dignity and the conditions in which we work. Many of us could earn far more money in outside business life than we do by being Members of Parliament. I believe that I could myself, even at my age. We ought to remember that we are doing a very great job for a very great nation, and we ought not to be niggardly about the means of enabling us to carry on our work here.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

The hon. Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. McEntee), whose speech we on this side much respected and who has given long service to the House, concluded by saying that this is one of the greatest Parliaments in the world. It is the greatest Parliament in the world, and for that reason we have to consider very carefully what we are doing today. I do not want to make this a party matter; I can speak only as a Member of the House of Commons and say what I feel about it. Probably two years ago, or even before that, we should have placed the salaries of the staff under the Serjeant at Arms Department Vote, but the fact is that we did not, and in the last two years the public has been presented with this undesirable spectacle, which it is difficult to explain: that our stipends were raised from £600 to £1,000 a year. The public will now say that we are asking them to subsidise our menu. Whether we like it or not, that is what has happened, and I, for one, cannot support it.

I cannot altogether accept either what has been said about the too harsh conditions of the catering staff in the past. If there were some—and no doubt there were—I am very sorry. I am entirely in favour of their positions being regularised, with pensions and that kind of thing. But the hon. Member for West Walthamstow must not make too complete a case of that. In the past during Recesses many Members of the House went to seaside hotels in the Summer, only to be served by waiters from the House of Commons, who were also enjoying a change, and who ensured that we of the House of Commons got a better deal at Gleneagles in the way of the best piece of joint. In those days it was all very friendly. It was quite all right, because at Gleneagles we were only robbing the rich. I say that only jokingly and by the way.

I am not sure that the entire staff could be maintained here during Recesses. There should be some system of encouraging those who want to take vacational employment, and so ease the strain upon the taxpayer—because naturally, the taxpayer has to find all this money. I think that should be examined. I shall detain the Committee no longer. I conclude by paying my tribute to the members of the Kitchen Committee.

Mr. Haydn Davies

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, I, as a member of the Kitchen Committee, should like to be clear whether or not he is in favour of paying the staff a week's wages all the year round.

Mr. Baxter

I am quite ready to answer that. If the staff would prefer to work here during that time, then they should be allowed to contract in—to use a favourite phrase of hon. Members opposite—and be paid for 52 weeks of the year. But there should also be an arrangement for those who during the Recesses want to go to the seaside, and so on, to be encouraged to do so, without losing any rights. There might even be a system of paying them a reduced wage here to enable them to earn extra money outside. I do not want to be obstinate about this, but I do not believe that the taxpayer should be made to pay for everything like this. I see the Financial Secretary showing some encouragement towards my point of view, and I do urge—

Captain Marsden

The hon. Member seems very anxious for the staff to go to the seaside. I hope he appreciates that they get a fortnight's leave with full pay to enable them to do that.

Mr. Baxter

That only reinforces my point. If they want to go for a fortnight they will get a fortnight's pay. But they may want to go for longer. At any rate, I think the Financial Secretary is sufficiently sympathetic towards what I have said. If there are economies which can be made, by all means let us make them. The fact is, we did not anticipate this situation, and we have to say to the country, that, through no fault of our own, we are in the "red" £28,000. We raised our salaries, by our own decision, from £600 to £1,000 a year, and we now ask the taxpayer to pay for our losses on catering. I cannot support that, and if there is a Division I shall go into the Lobby and vote against it. If the question comes back at us, "How are you going to meet it?" I would say that we are 600 men and women, we incurred those losses, and the first decision we must take is: Shall the taxpayer pay, out of his meagre pocket, the losses incurred by catering in the House of Commons? If that question is asked, I shall vote "No."

5.48 p.m.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

The Chairman of the Kitchen Committee stated with truth that no member of the Kitchen Committee voted against paying the staff full wages throughout the year. I think he will confirm—and certainly it will be within the recollection of every member of the Kitchen Committee present today—that when that proposal was made, we did not think the decision would involve any charge on the taxpayer; we made a miscalculation, and I do not desire to deny my share of the responsibility. It would not be in Order, I think, to debate the recent Special Report of the Kitchen Committee, but as the Chairman has just stated that that Report recommended that the entire cost of staff and equipment should be put on the taxpayer I should like to make it clear that four Members of that Committee, including myself, voted against that because they thought further and better efforts should be made to avoid any charge on the taxpayer.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)

For the guidance of those of us who are not on the Kitchen Committee, would the hon. Member suggest two or three alternatives?

Mr. Keeling

No, because I do not think that would be in Order, although I should be prepared to do so.

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

They want the old system back again.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. Haydn Davies (St. Pancras, South-West)

I shall detain the Committee only a few minutes, because I said what I have to say the other evening. I object to the remarks of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) in criticising the activities of the Kitchen Committee and of the Special Committee which produced the Report, because if he reveals the secrets of what happened inside that meeting—

Mr. Keeling

I have not. What I said is all in the Report.

Mr. Davies

—I should have to reveal that I nominated him as a member of this Special Committee to go into the whole question of catering in this House with a view of putting it on a proper basis. He refused to serve, and it is rather unfair that he should come now and criticise the whole Committee when he himself refused to give us the benefit of his vast experience in the world of—

Mr. Nicholson

On a point of Order. Are we not getting into rather dangerous waters when what took place in a committee is revealed, unless it is contained in the Report of that committee to this House?

The Deputy-Chairman(Mr. Bowles)

The Committee has reported.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Further to that point of Order. Is it any more out of Order to ask for your Ruling, Mr. Bowles, in the case of the statement made by my hon. Friend than it was in the case of the statement made by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling)?

The Deputy-Chairman

I think it is in Order as the Committee has reported to the House.

Mr. Nicholson

Those details were not included in the report.

The Deputy-Chairman

The Committee has made its report, and this Committee can discuss it and other things leading up to that report.

Captain Crookshank

I think there is some misunderstanding here. What was referred to appears on the back page of the report which has been published, but what has been said by the hon. Member for South-west St. Pancras (Mr. Haydn Davies) is something which is private knowledge and does not appear in the report. Therefore, I submit that it is not in Order.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member for South-west St. Pancras had better keep off that line of argument.

Mr. Haydn Davies

I have made my point and I have no intention of pursuing it. We have heard that we ought to have other sources of putting the Catering Department on a financial basis, and I am certain that the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee would be only too anxious to find ways of putting it on a sound financial basis. I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, with two notable exceptions, criticised the Committee, if they could tell us how any firm under private enterprise could show a profit when working only 4½ days a week and 37 weeks in a year while giving a pension scheme and holidays with pay to the employees.

Mr. Shurmer

And wages all the year round.

Mr. Haydn Davies

Yes, and wages all the year round. It would be absolutely impossible for any organisation to do it. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) have mentioned the matter of eating at the expense of the taxpayer. That is completely untrue. All we are asking the Committee to do is to give us a sum of money to pay the wages of the staff while the House of Commons is not sitting, and anyone who opposes this Estimate ought to have the courage to get up and say we ought not to pay the staff while the House is not sitting. If that is done the Kitchen Committee can make a profit. This House—I know the hon. Member for Twickenham will quarrel about the actual use of the word "approve"—approved this. I remember it was a Friday morning when you, Mr. Bowles, from the benches opposite asked the question which caused this announcement to be made, and, while no vote was taken, there was general approval throughout this House, because for the first time the staff of the House of Commons were going to be treated as reasonable human beings and paid not by the hour.

Mr. Shurmer

And not by tips.

Mr. Haydn Davies

They were to be paid properly as well as having a pension and holidays with pay. If this Committee wishes to reverse this decision it is easy. We can take the decision, but if we wish the new conditions to prevail then this Supplementary Estimate must be given to the Kitchen Committee. There is no other way out.

Mr. Keeling

I must draw attention to one omission from the remarks of the hon. Member for South-West St. Pancras (Mr. Hadyn Davies). He failed to point out that I myself moved that It is expedient to balance the accounts for 1949 without any Supplementary Estimate. That Motion was rejected and, therefore, it is not at all surprising that I declined to serve on a sub-committee which had less definite and less strong terms of reference.

Captain Marsden

If these remarks are allowed to be introduced, I should like to point out that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) did not put it in those words. He said that the deficit should be balanced by raising the prices.

Mr. Keeling

I quoted from the text of my Motion.

Mr. Haydn Davies

And I moved an Amendment to leave out the words "increasing prices."

Mr. Keeling

That was not the only proposal.

Mr. Shurmer

Having listened to some of this discussion and having heard the hon. Members who spoke in favour of the work of the Kitchen Committee and the difficulties with which they are faced, I hope that hon. Members opposite will see that their party does not publish pamphlets in the constituency regarding this position, and that if they do, they should add to those pamphlets that they made the staff of this House live on tips before we came into power and under conditions which prevailed up and down the country in the catering trade which we have stopped.

5.56 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I do not think I can add very much to what has been said in answer to the criticisms that have been made by one or two Members on the other side of the House. I agree with those who said that this should not be a party matter. Nothing could be plainer. The Select Committee is composed of hon. Members of all parties. They realised that a substantial deficit would have to be met, and there was no disagreement by any member of that Committee, of any or no party, to the suggestion that approaches would have to be made to the Treasury. The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) revived my faith in human nature, because I had felt that it was grossly unfair of those who had been parties to this decision either to absent themselves tonight or to come here and sit quiet while this matter was being discussed. It is my view that the people who took the decisions should accept responsibility for them and that, when they were attacked, they should share in their defence with other Members of the committee. So far as I know, only one Member on the other side of the Committee has had the decency and the courage to get up and put the point of view of the Kitchen Committee as a whole, and to say that he shared it.

Although I absolve hon. Members opposite of the charge, there is no doubt that the Press and individuals in the constituencies have used this matter for party gain. In my own constituency, letters were written to the Press by people who would not give their name—they were not brave enough to do so—pointing out that Members of this House were receiving from the taxpayer a subvention on their food of over £40 a year. That is not true.

If the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) disagreed with my original statement that the Treasury were going to find the money for this service, he had ample opportunity to put down a Motion in order to prevent it taking place, because my statement was made at Question time on 5th November. It was accepted with approval in all quarters of the House that, in response to the approaches which had been made by the Kitchen Committee, composed of members of all parties, the Treasury had decided that it would meet the deficit that the Catering Department would incur from the staff's being paid during the periods when the House was not sitting. If the hon. Member for Twickenham will do me the honour to read that statement, he will see that the subvention from the Treasury is definitely confined to the cost of the staff. It is not the gross cost, because the House is open during the Recesses and the staff or a portion of it come here in order to serve Members who happen to be in London and want a meal. It is the net cost of the salaries of the staff during the periods when the House is not sitting.

Therefore it is untrue to say, as has been said by more than one hon. Member, that the taxpayer is actually subsidising the meals of Members of this House. I blame the Press as much as anyone. If any section of the people who use the House have a right to be grateful to the Kitchen Committee, it is the Press; yet newspaper after newspaper, whose correspondents in this House must know the truth, have taken no steps to enlighten the public in this matter. In fact, some of them have gone out of their way to traduce the House on this side of our activities. Not very long ago an evening newspaper published a small cartoon. The cartoon was to this effect: there was a Member of the House taking his family through a door marked "Refreshment Department, House of Commons," and one attendant was saying behind his hand to another: "No wonder we make a loss. He's been bringing his family here every day for meals since 1945."

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

The right hon. Gentleman has just implied that the Press representatives in the House are responsible. Will he not discriminate between them and the cartoonist and the publishers of the paper?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I do not want to do any injustice to any member of the Press Gallery. It may well be that all of them have united in making representations to their editors and have put it to them that it would be unfair to the House to allow these things to go forth. All I know is that the newspapers have made no attempt, generally speaking, to do so. It is unfair to this House and to its Members and to the cause of democracy, because it is not true that Members of this House have a subsidy from the taxpayer for the meals that they have to purchase here in the course of their duties.

Mr. Baxter

Is it not a fact that what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing now is amounting to a subsidy on the food and the services?

Hon. Members


Mr. Glenvil Hall

The plain fact is—I not mind, if necessary, repeating it again, although I thought it was pretty well known, at any rate in this Committee—that, while the House is sitting. there is a profit on the meals that are served. It is when the House is not sitting that a net deficit occurs, because during that period the staff has to be paid. It is that net deficit on the staff which the Treasury has agreed to meet and to which we believe that this Committee will agree. It actually covers two and a half years, not one year. What it will be in the future, I do not know and it is quite impossible to say. What does seem to be plain is that the amount spent on drink, which previously was a great standby and which did help to make up the profit, is not what it was. People are apparently drinking less. If it is the desire of the Committee that more whiskey should be supplied in the bars and the various rooms, in order that a greater profit shall be made while the House is sitting, no doubt the Kitchen Committee will take note of that fact. But I think it would be a gross misuse—

Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

Would the right hon. Gentleman take into account the possibility that the sale of wine might be extended a great deal if we could have half bottles available instead of only bottles, which cost more than we can afford or can drink?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That is a matter for the Kitchen Committee. I am simply dealing with the reasons why we should accept the Vote wholeheartedly. Members in all parts of the Committee should not only acquiese silently; they should be active in doing their best to put this matter into perspective so far as the public are concerned.

We have heard from the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee himself that, only nine times in the last 101 years has the Kitchen Committee not made a loss. Mostly the loss has averaged something like £5,000. I venture to say that, 50 or 60 years ago, £5,000 had a value something like double such a sum nowadays, probably more. It is unfair, in my opinion, to say that the loss now is greater than it ever was. Although that may be so in terms of nominal value of money, it is not so in terms of the real value of money. The loss is not greatly different now from what it used to be, and we must remember that the staff were then paid by the hour. Today's deficit is not due to any mismanagement, but is entirely due to the fact that the staff has to be properly paid. I think the Kitchen Committee are to be congratulated and not censured for what they have done.

It seems to me that there are three courses open to us. We can make every Member of Parliament—I do not know why he should do this, since Members are in a minority among those who use these facilities—pay between 23 and 25 guineas a year as a sort of club subscription to the Kitchen Committee for the amenities of the various tearooms and dining rooms. That is one suggestion that we might consider.

Mr. Cobb (Elland)

If the suggestion of my right hon. Friend were adopted, what would happen if only one third of the Members elected to pay the subscription? Would that one-third have to pay 75 guineas?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am not suggesting it seriously. I am puttting it to the Opposition as one of the alternatives that might be adopted. They will have to face up to the fact that Members of Parliament, although they are only a minority here, might be asked to pay a club subscription in order to meet the present deficit. That club subscription would have to be between 23 to 25 guineas a year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb) has said, how many Members would feel able to pay that sum?

Obviously, we cannot put up the price of meads. We have heard from Members here that it is impossible to put up the price of drinks and still sell them. We are driven back to the old method of employing the staff on an hourly basis. The staff used to have no real security of tenure. They had to rely exclusively upon tips and, if the House went up at any time, they were thrown off without a job. I do not know that any hon. Member wants that done. It seems to me that those are the only alternatives before us, apart from the one which I am now putting to the Committee and which I hope the Committee will accept. No one likes having to come to the Committee to ask it to meet a deficit of this kind. But the Kitchen Committee have been driven to it. It seems to me that we ought to accept their verdict, knowing full well that it is the only way out and that there is at the moment at any rate, no other method available.

Mr. Keeling

As the right hon. Gentleman has criticised me, I should like to make it clear that I am not going to vote against this Estimate. I accept my share of responsibility for the Kitchen Committee's miscalculations which have

caused this Estimate. My sole criticism about this Estimate is the misuse of language in the statement that the House approved the decision to pay the staff during the Recess.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 216; Noes 96.

Division No. 83.] AYES [6.10 p.m
Adams, Richard (Balham) Gilzean, A Monslow, W
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Morgan, Dr. H. B
Allen, Seholefield (Crewe) Granville, E. (Eye) Morley, R.
Alpass, J. H. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Mort, D. L.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Grierson, E. Moyle, A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Murray, J. D.
Attewell, H. C. Gruffydd, Prof W. J. Naylor, T. E.
Austin, H. Lewis Guest, Dr. L. Haden Nioholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Ayles, W. H. Gunter, R. J. Pargiter, G. A.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B Guy, W. H. Parkin, B. T.
Bacon, Miss A. Hairs, John E. (Wycombe) Paton, J. (Norwich)
Balfour, A. Hale, Leslie Popplewell, E.
Barton, C. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Randall, H. E.
Bechervaise, A. E. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R. Ranger, J.
Benson, G. Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.) Rankin, J.
Bing, G. H. C. Harrison, J. Reeves, J.
Binns, J. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Reid, T. (Swindon)
Blyton, W. R. Harbison, Miss M. Richards, R
Boothby, R. Holman, P. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Bowden, Fig. Offr, H. W. Hoy, J. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hubbard, T. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bramall, E. A. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Brook, D, (Halifax) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)
Brooks, T, J. (Rothwell) Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Sanderson, Sir F
Brown, T J. (Ince) Hynd, H (Hackney, C.) Scott-Elliot, W.
Burden, T. W. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Segal, Dr. S.
Burke, W. A. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Shackleten, E. A. A
Byers, Frank Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Sharp, Granville
Carmichael, James Jay, D. P. T. Shurmer, P.
Castle, Mrs B. A. Jenkins, R. H. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Cluse W. S. Jones, p. Asterley (Hitchin) Simmons, C. J.
Cobb, F. A. Keenan, W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Cocks, F. S. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Collick, P. King, E. M. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Collins, V. J. Langford-Holt, J. Snow, J. W
Colman, Miss G. M. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Solley, L. J.
Cook, T. F. Lee, F. (Hulme) Sorensen, R. W.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Crawley, A. Leslie, J. R. Sparks, J. A.
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Steele, T.
Daines, P. Lindgren, G. S. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Davies, Edward (Bufslem) Lipson, D. L. Stross, Dr. B.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Longden, F. Swingler, S.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lyne, A. W. Sylvester, G. O.
Deer, G. McAdam, W. Symonds, A. L.
Delargy, H. J. McAllister, G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Diamond, J. MoEntee, V. La. T. Thomas, D E (Abendare)
Dobbie, W. Mack, J. D. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Dodds, N. N. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Dumpleton, C. W. McKinlay, A. S. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Maclean, N. (Govan) Thurtle, Ernest
Edelman, M. MoLeavy, F. Tiffany, S.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Titterington, M. F.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) MaoPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Viant, S. P.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Walkden, E
Fairhurst, F. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Farthing, W. J. Marsden, Capt. A. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Fernyhough, E. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Warbey, W. N.
Field, Capt. W. J. Mayhew, C. P. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Foot, M. M. Mellish, R. J Wells. P. L (Faversham)
Forman, J. C. Messer, F. Wells, W. T (Walsall)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Middleton, Mrs. L. Wheatley, Rt. Hn John (Edinb'gh, E.)
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Mitchison, G. R Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Wigg, George Williams, W. R. (Heston) Yates, V.F.
Wilkins, W. A. Willis, E.
Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Wills, Mrs. E. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Ronald (Wigan) Woods, G. S. Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.) Wyatt, W. Mr. Hannan.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Astor, Hon. M. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S, (Southport) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin, A. E. Hurd, A. Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Baxter, A. B. Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W) Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Robinson, Roland
Bennett, Sir P. Lambert, Hon. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Boles, Lt.-Col, D. C. (Wells) Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Lennox-Boyd, A. T Shepherd, W. S (Bucklow)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Smithers, Sir W
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Snadden, W. M
Bullock, Capt. M. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Spearman, A. C. M.
Butcher, H. W. Low, A. R.W. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Challen, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H Studholme, H. G.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Conant, Maj. R J E. McCallum, Maj. D. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Crowder, Capt. John E. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Turton, R. H.
De la Bere, R. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) vane, W. M. F.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. MacLeod, J. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Dower, Col A. V. G. (Penrith) Macmilian, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Walker-Smith, D.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Ward, Hon G. R.
Erroll, F. J. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E)
Fraser, H. C. P (Stone) Marlowe, A. A. H. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale.) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Mellor, Sir J. Winterton, Rt. Hon, Earl
Galbraith, Cmdr T D. (Pollok) Molson, A. H. E. York, C.
Galbraith, T. G D. (Hillhead) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Gammans, L. D Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Nicholson, G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harvey, Air-Domdre, A. V O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby and
Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £41,955, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for the salaries and expenses of the House of Commons, including a grant in aid of the Kitchen Committee.

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