HC Deb 27 February 1961 vol 635 cc1193-5
45. Mrs. Castle

asked the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what are the basic weekly hours worked by part-time evening staff in the Refreshment Department; what are the hourly rates of pay; and by how much these rates are increased when extra hours are worked.

Sir Herbert Butcher

I regret that I am unable to answer the hon. Lady's Question directly, since the term "basic weekly hours" is only applicable to full-time staff. The Catering Wages Act defines many grades of workers, and the wages paid by the Kitchen Committee are in excess of the hourly rates prescribed by that Act. The rates are increased by 50 per cent. for overtime. I should add that before the recent late sittings the question of overtime for part-time workers seldom arose, since the permanent staff was always given the first opportunity to volunteer for overtime.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that we recruit part-time evening staff on the basis of a weekly average of 18 hours, ranging from 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., and that the rate of pay for these women is 3s. 2½d. an hour? Is it not also the case that if they have to stay on after 10.30 p.m., even until 6 a.m. the next morning, they get no increase whatsoever on that basic rate? I have had this information from members of the staff. If it is correct, does not the hon. Gentleman think that this is one of the evil by-products of the refusal to allow the catering and refreshment department staff in this House to decide whether or not they wish to be represented by trade unions?

Sir H. Butcher

The hon. Lady is one penny out in her figure. I think the rate is 3s. 3½d. I am informed that, on completion of the normal period of duty, overtime is paid at the rate of time and a half. About trade union representation, I would only say that the Kitchen Committee has followed the other Departments of the House in taking notice of the statement made by Mr. Speaker in this connection some time ago.

46. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, if he will alter the existing arrangements for the sale of all kinds of refreshment so as to ensure that no member of the Refreshment Department staff shall remain on duty after 11.30 p.m., irrespective of the hour to which the House may sit.

Sir H. Butcher

No, Sir. The hours during which service is provided are a matter for the authorities of the House in consultation with the Kitchen Committee. Unless the House itself desires any alteration, my Committee hopes to continue service as heretofore and is not proposing any alteration. The present arrangements appear to provide services necessary to Members of Parliament and to others employed in the building.

Mr. Johnson

Would not my hon. Friend agree that this might be a practical suggestion for showing our appreciation of the efficiency and loyalty of the staff? Is there any reason why those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who find that food and drink are necessary for the transaction of the business of the House after 11.30 p.m. should not make their own arrangements beforehand and bring in their own food?

Sir H. Butcher

I think my hon. Friend overlooks the fact that in my reply I referred not only to Members of the House but to others in the building who are detained by virtue of the sittings of the House.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of us will welcome his reply, and think it is quite absurd that the House should be starved out during all-night sittings? Is he also aware that there is a great shortage of waitresses, that a large number of hon. Members who wanted refreshment at 3.30 a.m. on Friday morning had only one waitress to attend to them, and that although she carried out her duties in a magnificent manner, she had a very hard time?

Sir H. Butcher

I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says and will bring it to the attention of the manager of the department. But, in my opinion, based on my own personal observations. during the sitting of Thursday night to Friday morning a sufficient number of staff were on duty to enable them to be provided with adequate rest periods

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