HC Deb 02 May 1966 vol 727 cc1234-6
47. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Lord President of the Council what facilities exist in the Palace of Westminster for meals for visitors.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

Meals for visitors as the guests of hon. Members are provided by the Refreshment Department in the Strangers' Dining Room and Members' Cafeteria. Visitors to the galleries may obtain passes enabling them to use the Strangers' Cafeteria, and civil servants, Parliamentary Agents and others engaged on Parliamentary business are also allowed to use it.

Mr. Cooke

Would the right hon. Gentleman address his mind to the large number of schoolchildren who visit this Palace in the summer, bringing their own food and some of them picnicking in Westminster Hall? Could he find somewhere else for them to eat their lunch?

Mr. Bowden

I am aware of this problem and I have seen schoolchildren refreshing themselves. The Services Committee, when it is set up, might look at this matter.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is not only schoolchildren with whom we are concerned but a very large number of visitors who wish to look at the Palace of Westminster during our Recesses? Would he take a rather more liberal attitude to this matter, because we are all anxious that the Palace of Westminster, of which we are very proud, should be seen as widely and conveniently as possible?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I should like the Services Committee to look at this matter. In fact, refreshments provided for visitors during Recesses might help us to get out of the red.

Mr. Pannell

While supporting what has been said, may I ask whether the Services Committee could take some steps to get in touch with the Greater London Council and use the Londoners' meal service, which is very helpful to schoolchildren visiting this place and parties, as I have found from my experience over the last 15 years.

Mr. Bowden

When the Services Committee is set up it might look at these arrangements.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will not interfere with parties of schoolchildren who are quietly eating their sandwiches in Westminster Hall?

Mr. Bowden

The strange position is that at the moment I have no right to interfere at all. As Leader of the House I have no interest in this, in a sense, until such time as the Services Committee is set up.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is it not sheer cruelty to children to bring them to a place like this, and cannot my right hon. Friend discourage it?

Mr. William Hamilton

When will the Services Committee be set up? When it is set up, will it have responsibility for Westminster Hall?

Mr. Bowden

I am not sure when it will be set up, but I hope that it will be set up very soon. I would need to check this, but as far as I remember Westminster Hall is jointly the responsibility of the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Services Committee.

Mr. Hamilton

Get him out of it.