HC Deb 14 April 1980 vol 982 cc784-5
32. Mr. Cryer

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on provisions for the Press in the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The facilities for the press in the House on which it would fall to the Services Committee to make recommendations have remained unchanged in the present Parliament, except that 21 seats on the sides of the Upper Reporters' Gallery previously allocated to the overseas press have been transferred to the United Kingdom press. Some minor works to facilitate this change will be undertaken during the Summer Adjournment.

Mr. Cryer

Is not one of the alterations that from 1 April this year the total cost of the press facilities is to be borne by the taxpayer—about £100,000 a year—whereas up to 1 April the press employers contributed something approaching £50,000? When the Government are cutting back on virtually every social service in the country, why are they putting the total cost of press facilities on the taxpayer?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Because we have introduced a reform of our arrangements and, in accordance with the practice followed in other Parliaments, the cost of the wages of catering staff is now borne on the Vote of the House. It was right when making—

Mr. English

No doubt the same practice will be followed by Members of Parliament.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What an extraordinary apparition, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will never get on to the Front Bench in that way.

The press receives a number of services for which no charge is made—rent, rates, electricity, gas and local telephone calls. There was no reason why the catering facilities should not be included. In a referendum on the matter, the members of the Press Gallery supported the proposal by a substantial majority.