HC Deb 25 January 1954 vol 522 cc1458-9
45. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, why a boiled egg in the Members' Tea Room costs 9d. when the retail cost of eggs vary between 2d. and 4½d. each; what is the cost involved in boiling an egg, taking into account that the gas and water charges are free so far as the Kitchen Committee are concerned; and what are the labour costs

Mr. William A. Steward

The price of a boiled egg in the Members' Tea Room was fixed at 9d. when the cost of an egg was 4½d. When the cost rose temporarily to 6½d., the price of 9d. was not increased and, likewise, it was not immediately reduced on the cost falling to 3¼d. until it became apparent that it would remain around this figure. It has now been reduced to 7d.

On the subject of labour costs, in the Members' Tea Room, for the year ended 31st December, 1953, last, the total cost of food, etc., consumed, plus the cost of wages and overheads, exceeded the total takings for the year.

Mr. Lewis

While appreciating that the price of an egg has now been reduced by 2d., may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House, and on the other side as well, cannot afford to eat in the Members' Dining Room, and that quite a number of them are now finding it too expensive to eat in the Tea Room? What procedure should hon. Members adopt to obtain a refund of the twopences they have been overcharged in the last six years?

Mr. Steward

Since the Question was put on the Order Paper, I have personally visited the three well-known teashops nearest to this House. Only one sells a boiled egg by itself, for which the charge is 9d., and the other two sell eggs on toast at 10½d. and 1s. respectively. Incidentally, I notice that a number of items are obtainable in the Members' Tea Room at cheaper prices than at tea-shops nearby.

Captain Orr

Would it not be appropriate, and in accordance with the Statutory Instruments procedure, for these eggs to be laid upon the Table?

Dr. Summerskill

Having regard to the fact that the price has been reduced since this Question was put down, does the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee think it right and proper that hon. Members should have to resort to the Order Paper to protect themselves against what is becoming regarded as overcharging in their Tea Room?

Mr. Steward

If, when hon. Members find anything wrong, they would have a word with me and give me an opportunity of putting it right, they would save a lot of the time of hon. Members. Incidentally, within 10 minutes of the right hon. Lady speaking to me on the matter, the price was reduced.

Brigadier Clarke

Would it not be appropriate to remind hon. Members opposite that they said that eggs would be 1s. at this time of the year?