HC Deb 02 November 1966 vol 735 cc454-5
36. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will state the reason for ending the use of linen tablecloths and napkins in the Dining Room of the House of Commons; and whether the linen previously in use was of Ulster manufacture.

Mrs. Braddock

I have been asked to reply.

Linen tablecloths and napkins have been withdrawn as a measure of economy. The linen used in the Department was manufactured in Belfast.

Sir Knox Cunningham

May I ask the hon. Lady to enter the ring and see that tablecloths made from Ulster linen, which are durable, easily washed and good to look at, are bought by the Catering Department for the Members' Dining Room?

Mrs. Braddock

Perhaps in reply to that question I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman some information which might change his mind about the position. The continued use of table linen would have contributed further to the loss already sustained in providing meals in the Members' Dining Room. Laundry charges incurred by the Catering Department in 1965 amounted to £4,386. They were increased by 5 per cent. with effect from 13th September.

The linen was selected for quality and purchased at competitive prices after tenders from several independent firms had been considered. The Buying Sub-Committee was a Sub-Committee of the former Kitchen Committee, the predecessor of the present Catering Sub-Committee. We were concerned very much indeed with the question of the loss. We agree on the very good quality of the linen—there is no question about that—and it will continue to be used in the Strangers' Dining Room until it is finished.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chairman of the Kitchen Committee must give shorter answers.

Mrs. Knight

Is the hon. Lady aware that many Members take strong exception to the cheap and tatty plastic mats which have replaced the linen, thus reducing the character of the House of Commons Dining Room to that of a nursery tea?