HC Deb 14 May 1969 vol 783 cc1398-9
36. Mr. Kitson

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the increases in the price of wine served by the Refreshment Department.

35. Mr. Paget

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will withdraw instructions to increase the list price of wines that have paid duty at the pre-Budget rate by twice the Budget increase.

Mr. Ensor

In answering these Questions, and knowing the generosity of the House, I crave its indulgence, because I am in some trouble.

The Refreshment Department no longer owns stocks of wines but has them on consignment from an authorised supplier. The supplier increased his prices with effect from Monday, 21st April, and the Catering Sub-Committee, at its meeting on 22nd April, approved the increase in charges made to Members. The increase was greater than the increase in tax because any price increases have to reflect not only the tax but gross profit margin, as is customary in the catering trade.

May I add that I am now in the process of trying to investigate the whole situation.

Mr. Kitson

While appreciating the difficult task which the hon. Gentleman has taken on, and wishing him well in his new appointment, may I ask whether he is aware that it is ridiculous to increase the price by 2s. 7½d. the day after the tax has gone up by only 1s. 1d., and that the House should set an example to the rest of the country? Is he aware that the whole House would support him if he found a way of reducing the price?

Mr. Ensor

I have a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Member. The Sub-Committee made inquiries about what has happened in other catering establishments, and it discovered that the increases in this House are in line with those charged elsewhere and were introduced at approximately the same time. As I have already said, I am trying to investigate the matter; I have nothing further to say.

Dr. Gray

Would my hon. Friend explain why the price of a glass of wine in the Members' Dining Room has been increased to 4s.? His explanation may apply to bottles, but, at the moment, at the Old Vic, in the Upper Circle Bar, one can get a glass of wine for 2s. 9d., and at the Royal Court Theatre 3s. Would he explain why this exorbitant price—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Answers and questions, even on this subject, must be reasonably brief.

Mr. Ensor

I will investigate it.