HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc881-2
49. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what has been the capital cost of the new bar provided in the Palace of Westminster; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellish

Only just over £3,000, which I regard as excellent value for a splendid job, done by my Department.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

At a time when the whole Government's efforts are devoted towards reducing consumer expenditure, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this is the right time for this provision? Could not the same very laudable end be achieved—namely, easier access by hon. Members to Press men and vice versa—by opening the present Strangers' Bar to the Press?

Mr. Mellish

I have great regard for the hon. Member and I did not know that he was quite so reactionary. This was requested by the Lobby correspondents and agreed to by the Catering Committee, and it is only replacing that which used to be in the Palace of Westminster. I think a very good job has been done.

Mr. Shinwell

It may be that the construction of the new bar does credit to my right hon. Friend's Department, but was it really necessary to spend this money at a time like this in order to provide another drinking establishment for Lobby correspondents? Is it not true that the Press has a bar and, indeed, members of the press have several facilities which enable them to consume alcoholic liquor if they wish? Why provide the Lobby correspondents and the Press with an additional bar? Is this what the Government mean by "Parliamentary reform"?

Mr. Mellish

I do not want to get involved with my right hon. Friend on the virtues or non-virtues of alcohol. We have replaced that which used to be provided many years ago. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend complained about the bar when it was here before. We have now brought back that which used to be here, and I think it is a very useful change.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Lobby correspondents have been doing their work under almost impossible conditions for many months and that this addition to the present facilities is the least we should do for them?

Sir Knox Cunningham

When the country is being asked to save and expenditure is being discouraged, is it wise to make this capital expenditure?

Mr. Mellish

The actual total amount involved was £3,000. This Bar was furnished by my Department. I do not know whether the hon. Member has seen it, but I believe we have value for money and I think it is a service to the House.

Mr. Heffer

While accepting that this is value for money, will my right hon. Friend convey to the Catering Committee that for a long time many hon. Members have been trying to get teapots provided in the Strangers' Cafeteria not only for the use of strangers but for hon. Members?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a long way from Annie's Bar. We must get on.

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