HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc47-8
37. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Lord President of the Council what has been the result of consideration of the desirability and feasibility of the suggestion to open the Members' Dining Room to the general public during the long Summer Recess, as a means of eliminating the financial deficit in the Catering Deparment of the House of Commons.

Mr. Maxwell

I have been asked to reply.

The Catering Sub-Committee is in favour of this suggestion, not only because it would provide additional facilities to visitors and add to our revenue, but because we believe that it would provide an additional facility, which is badly needed, for Members who wish to make use of the House during the Recess. Towards this aim we have taken positive steps to provide independent boiler facilities. However, the general principle of providing this facility and certain aspects of security are beyond the immediate ambit of the Catering Sub-Committee.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is obviously my day? Can he tell me what proportion of the deficit of the Catering Department is due to the fact that we are closed down in the two long Recesses, and what is the total deficit?

Mr. Maxwell

As to the first part of the supplementary question, I estimate that about two-thirds of our deficit is due to the wages and extra expenses that the Department has to bear during the Recess. Until recently the deficit was of the order of £3,000 a month, but the Catering Sub-Committee believes that the bulk of these losses have now been stemmed, although this is subject to audit.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the hon. Member look at the problem again? Many of us dislike this entirely and feel that it would cheapen the standard of Parliament. Will he resist the pressures and, if he can, reverse the decision?

Mr. Maxwell

I cannot accept the implication that there has been any pressure from any quarter. The Catering Sub- Committee feels that the provision of proper facilities for Members and visitors would be very useful, and it is incumbent upon the Department to make sure that we do not become a burden upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mrs. Renée Short

May I ask my hon. Friend, if he finds the security arrangements for opening the Members' Dining Room during the Recess to be too difficult, to look at the possibility of using the Harcourt Corridor and the Harcourt Terrace for a summer dining place, since it would be equally if not more attractive to summer visitors?

Mr. Maxwell

The security problem is very serious, and the Serjeant at Arms is looking into this. The suggestion of my hon. Friend is a very useful one and we will most certainly examine it.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Will the hon. Gentleman consider opening the Members' Dining Room during the Summer Recess for breakfast so that the public can know exactly what it feels like to be a Member when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House overlooks the business of the House.

Mr. Maxwell

The office of Chairman of the Catering Sub-Committee is nonpolitical. However, I cannot let the hon. Gentleman's comment pass, as I consider it cheap and beyond the need for reply.