HC Deb 08 February 1954 vol 523 cc823-6
39. Dr. King

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, how many of the staff of his Department have resigned or been dismissed during the past two years.

Mr. William A. Steward

The answer is as follows:

Permanent staff who have resigned (84 of which were kitchen porters)—144.

Part-time staff—86.

Permanent staff dismissed (including 33 kitchen porters)—78.

Part-time staff—36.

Dr. King

Do not these staggering figures and the imposition over Christmas of a wage cut suggest that the policy of the Kitchen Committee is to discourage the permanent staff—who have given faithful service—and to replace them by part-time staff? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the House of Commons ought to be a model employer? We are not living in the time when this building was a feudal castle.

Mr. Steward

If we exclude kitchen porters—

Hon. Members


Mr. Steward

Wait for it, please.

If we exclude kitchen porters, who change around more than any other section of the catering trade, the number of permanent staff who resigned during the previous two years, 1950 and 1951, was 20 per cent. greater than in 1952 and 1953. With regard to the hon. Member's suggestion about a cut being imposed over the Christmas period, that alleged cut was the result of an agreement arrived at after months of consultation between the staff sub-committee and the staff representatives.

Commander Donaldson

In view of the numbers indicated by my hon. Friend, can he tell us the total staff employed by the Kitchen Committee so that the House may know the proportion of these dismissals?

Mr. Steward

Speaking from memory, approximately 170.

40. Dr. King

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what is the the rate per hour paid for overtime worked by the kitchen staff at week-ends.

Mr. Steward

Time and a quarter for all hours worked on Saturdays.

Dr. King

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the information I have received, the amount paid for overtime varies from the overtime rate an hour to as low as 1s. an hour, according to the supplement which people pay for hiring the staff for week-end functions?

Mr. Steward

The hon. Member has been misinformed. On 7th December last, the staff sub-committee and the staff representatives entered into an agreement regarding work on Friday and Saturday nights. No complaints have been received from the staff since that agreement was entered into.

Mr. Simmons

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the rates paid are trade union rates, and whether a trade union agreement is concerned?

Mr. Steward

The Catering Wages Act formed the basis of the agreement entered into between the staff sub-committee and the staff representatives.

Mr. Simmons

How about the trade union agreement?

Mr. Gibson

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the overtime rates to which he referred are in accordance with the Catering Wages Act?

Mr. Steward

The overtime rates are those provided for under the Act.

Mr. Harold Davies

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the kitchen and restaurant staffs have been overworked during the last year or so? It appears to many of us that the Dining Room is becoming a rendezvous, on Saturday and Friday nights, for Conservative Party bun fights.

Mr. Remnant

Is it not a fact that there is proper negotiating machinery between the staff and the sub-committee of the Kitchen Committee on which Trade unionists are present? Is it suggested, apart from the other matters, that they are permitting something improper to be done?

Dr. King

Can the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee assure us that no member of the staff will be penalised if he refuses to undertake week-end work for which time and a quarter is not paid?

Mr. Steward

I do not think that any member of the staff has ever been penalised. In fact, the staff of the House of Commons are treated most fairly, and, I believe, on more favourable terms than anybody in the catering industry.