HC Deb 01 August 1952 vol 504 cc1855-7

Miss Mice Bacon (by Private Notice) asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, why several members of the waiting staff in the Dining Rooms have been dismissed, and what wages will be paid to the trainees who will replace them after the Recess?

Mr. Steward

Five of the waiting staff in the Dining Rooms have recently been dismissed for inefficiency or unsuitability; namely, one from the Terrace Dining Room, one from the Members' Tea Room and three from the Members' Dining Room. I must emphasise that these dismissals are not connected with the possibility of utilising the services of trainees in certain sections of the Refreshment Department if and when they become available. In the event of trainees being introduced, they will be paid the rates of pay permitted by the particular college to which they belong. They will not replace permanent staff whose services are considered satisfactory.

I must also emphasise that matters of staff discipline are normally left to the Kitchen Committee, which in its efforts on behalf of hon. Members is guided by no party or political decision. However, in view of the interest shown by certain hon. Members, I have called a meeting of the Kitchen Committee for 2.15 o'clock today, when I shall fully report to my Committee the representations which hon. Members have been so good as to make.

Perhaps I may be allowed to make a full statement as to the steps proposed by the Committee as soon as the House reassembles.

Miss Bacon

In view of the fact that the written answer to a Question yesterday stated that 16 of the staff have been dismissed, and since Questions were put on the Order Paper three notices have been withdrawn, can the hon. Gentleman state that all the dismissals which have taken place have been due to the unsatisfactory nature of the staff? Is he not aware that one person who received her notice had been here for seven years, another for three and a half years, and several for over a year? In that case, has it not taken the Kitchen Committee a long time to realise that these staff have been unsatisfactory?

Mr. Steward

I am satisfied that the decision to dismiss certain members of the staff was taken by the Committee by almost a unanimous decision.

Mr. Gibson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the suggestion of reconsideration by the Commitee this afternoon will be welcomed? If it is a fact that five of the staff have been dismissed for what he calls inefficiency, is not some further explanation needed of why 11 others at least have gone? Would it not be a good thing if provision were made, as is made in other public employment, for some sort of appeal machinery which the staff can use when occasions of this kind arise?

Mrs. Braddock

Will the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee bear this in mind in reconsideration: that the Kitchen Committee in 1945 made arrangements that the staff should be in permanent employment, in order that they could obtain holidays when the House was not sitting, and that to dismiss people just when a holiday is starting is a breach of a previous agreement reached and puts the staff who are given notice in a very difficult situation? They have had no opportunity of making alternative arrangements, because they expected the agreement that was made when a Labour Government were in power to be honoured by Tory Governments also.

Mr. Steward

The question referred to the waiting staff in the Dining Rooms, and the figure of five applies to that. The 16 staff who have been dismissed throughout the Refreshment Department have been dismissed on the grounds of inefficiency or unsuitability.

With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) that there should be some means of dealing with staff who are dismissed—I think he has in mind some right of appeal—I ask him why, when his party were for six and a half years—[Interruption.] I remind him that when Members of the Opposition represented the majority on the Kitchen Committee for six and a half years, they never once questioned the efficiency of the Manager to exercise disciplinary action or to effect dismissals.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are four Ministerial statements and one personal statement to come, and I think that we ought to pass on.

Dr. King

On a point of order. In view of the fact that last night a malicious and false headline in the "Evening Standard" stated: Commons lose £21,000 feeding M.P.s. may I take the opportunity of asking the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee to give us the information which would show the country the real position?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. I did not see the headline.