HC Deb 26 July 1993 vol 229 cc745-6
38. Mr. Steen

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what was the surplus on the Refreshment Department account in the last financial year; and what amount was carried forward from previous years.

Mr. Beith

The Refreshment Department's income and expenditure account for the year ending 1 April 1993 showed an operating surplus of some £320,000, and a total surplus—including interest—of £445,000. The accumulated surplus brought forward from previous years is £2.7 million. By decision of the Commission, that is being set aside as a reserve to provide funds for the capital improvement programme required by the Department.

Mr. Steen

I understand that the House is to authorise the spending of about £19 million on updating the kitchens. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that money need not be spent on updating kitchens for good food to be provided? Would it not be a good idea to spend some of that surplus of nearly £3 million on improving the food in both the Members' Tea Room and the cafeterias? Could we not have some good west country dishes and some nice English wine? There are some wonderful west country recipes, and my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) has some splendid ideas for the kind of food that could be sold here.

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Catering Committee, and he doubtless provides such advice regularly. The Committee and the catering manager have never been short of advice from Members about delicacies from various parts of the country that could be included in our menus.

Expenditure is necessary, however, both to comply with environmental health requirements and to ensure proper working conditions for staff. It is amazing that such good food has been provided from some outlets in the House where kitchen conditions are frankly not good enough.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that some of the money will be spent on improving conditions for staff? At present, the conditions are only slightly better than those operating in Victorian times. Surely, if we are to make laws about employment, the House of Commons is the first place where we should improve facilities for staff.

Mr. Beith

Most certainly. That has been the policy of the Commission, and the Commission and the Catering Committee both want to see that policy continue.

Mr. Cormack

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me how much tripe has been served during the past year?

Mr. Beith

Not without notice.