HC Deb 27 January 1992 vol 202 cc699-700
39. Mr. Hain

To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects results from the feasibility study on refreshment facilities for visitors to the House.

40. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Lord President of the Council what progress has been made to improve catering facilities for Members' parties visiting the Palace of Westminster.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)

The newly formed Catering Committee is expected early next month to consider two consultants' reports on the architectural feasibility and management implications of converting the premises of the former St. Stephen's tavern into a refreshment facility for groups of Members' visitors. I understand that the Committee will be asked to work for a decision by Easter.

Mr. Hain

As the Lord President will be aware, visitors to Wales are always given a warm welcome and a nice cup of tea, but coachloads of my constituents visiting the Houses of Parliament are cold-shouldered and cannot obtain refreshments anywhere.

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's response, but would it not be a far better idea to use Westminster Hall for the purpose, providing chairs and tables there? After all, until the last century Westminster Hall was used for royal banquets and coronation feasts; surely it would be possible for people to order a nice cup of tea there.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his first remark about visitors to Wales. Certainly when I went there recently I was given a very good reception, which pleased me very much.

The hon. Gentleman will probably know that the authorities who deal with Westminster Hall do not consider that the use that he has suggested for it would be appropriate; nor, I think, would the vast majority of hon. Members. The Catering Committee will be considering whether what used to be St. Stephen's tavern could help by providing facilities for visitors.

Mr. Jessel

Can my right hon. Friend improve the refreshments provided not only for visitors but for Opposition Members, who seem rather subdued and depressed today?

Mr. MacGregor

When my hon. Friend began his question, I intended to say that it was a matter for the Catering Committee, but I am no longer sure that it is. I well understand why Opposition Members are looking rather depressed today, but I do not think that it has anything to do with catering facilities in the House.

Mr. Grocott

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that during the deliberations of the Select Committee on Broadcasting, Etc.—with all of whose arrangements we have been happy so far—parts of the Palace of Westminster were discovered that no one knew existed, including the area above Central Lobby? Is it not high time that a proper review was carried out of exacty what space exists throughout the Palace, so that we can use it well for the benefit of our constituents and for other purposes?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman and I visited the part of the Palace to which he has referred. I think he would agree that it is not a suitable location for the provision of refreshments for visitors. The right step is for the Select Committee on Catering to consider the proposals, as it will do shortly.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my right hon. Friend be sure to ask for a branch of the kiosk in any new catering facility for visitors, and will he make sure that it has House of Commons fudge and humbugs on sale? The main kiosk has had none of these since before Christmas.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend might like to put that point to the Select Committee on Catering.

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