HC Deb 05 May 1952 vol 500 cc30-1
46. Mr. W. Fletcher

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether, in view of the situation created by present pressure of business in the House of Commons which causes congestion and inordinate delay in serving meals to Members, he will now consider the closing of the Harcourt Room and the consequent reallocation of staff, and thereby restore the necessary space and staff for the adequate service of meals to Members.

Mr. William A. Steward

The occasions on which congestion is caused in the Dining Rooms are few. There is a loss of 20-25 seats in the guest rooms due to the change over from the Harcourt to the Strangers Annexe, which at times may cause some inconvenience to Members bringing guests to dine. On the other hand, more spacious lounge accommodation is provided.At most meal times more people could be accommodated. I will, however, submit the observations of my hon. friend to the members of the Kitchen Committee at their next meeting.

Mr. Fletcher

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether, when he is putting the matter to the Kitchen Committee, he will bear in mind that there is a big volume of opinion among Members that there is much more congestion and delay in serving meals during a rush hour, which is frequent in the present Parliamentary scheme of things, and that the present arrangement is particularly hard on the staff who find difficulty in serving meals under present conditions?

Mr. Steward

Congestion in the guest rooms is usually caused by Members bringing guests without prior booking and by not arriving on time.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm whether part of the cause of the congestion is due to a reduction in the staff of the kitchen, thus causing great inconvenience to Members and hardship on the staff?

Mr. Steward

As a general principle, the waiting staff have 10 to 12 covers to look after. This principle has operated for years and no change has been made or is contemplated, but, at times, sickness affects this arrangement. For example, during the week before last, 16 people sent in medical certificates to say that they were sick. That must affect the service.