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House Of Commons (Refreshment Department)

Volume 413: debated on Friday 24 August 1945

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4.1 p.m.

I am now asking the House to change the subject of the Debate to a matter that affects every hon. Member and his guests, and also the staff of the House of Commons, including the waiting staff. I want to initiate a Debate and make some suggestions to the Kitchen Committee. I hope the Kitchen Committee and, in particular, the Chairman will not think we are criticising them. We had a Debate last December which, I think, hon. Members who were in the House in the last Parliament will agree, brought about a certain amount of improvement. Therefore, I do hope they will regard my remarks as being uttered in the most friendly way and in a sense which will provide an opportunity for other hon. Members who have views to make their suggestions.

In the first place, Mr. Speaker, may I thank you for allowing me to raise this matter, because it is not usually in Order for the House of Commons to refer to the work of Select Committees which it has appointed, but in view of the fact that this Committee is an executive committee, as opposed to a committee of inquiry, I, with respect, feel that the decision to allow this Debate to take place is a correct decision. In the first place, I would like to refer to the conditions of the staff. Hon. Members may have seen in "Reynolds News" of 17th June last the following article:
"In consequence of the General Election all waiters and waitresses at the House of Commons have been dismissed with one week's notice as from yesterday. No rights of reinstatement are reserved for them. If they want to return into the service of the new Paliament they must apply for re-engagement. These facts were communicated to them in an unsigned letter from the Refreshment Department which was handed to the men and women in their employ on Prorogation Day. The letter says:
'As a result of the Dissolution of Parliament the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons will cease to function. Full basic rates of wages will be paid up to and including 23rd June. It is anticipated the House will resume their sittings during the last week in July or early in August, and if you wish to be re-employed please apply in writing to the Manager of the Department not later than 7th July, 1945, who will let you know if your application is successful.'
Hither to waiters have received 32s. as a retainer during the Parliamentary Recess."
Hon. Members in the old House, and in this House, no doubt, will feel that the House of Commons should surely be a model employer, and it is very humiliating and wrong, in my opinion, that the staff, who are so good and courteous in their treatment of Members, should be treated in that most casual way. Therefore, on behalf of the staff, if I may say so, I beg the new Kitchen Committee to look into the position of the question of dismissal. As I understand it, the legal position is this, that the Kitchen Committee are the employers, and as soon as the Kitchen Committee is dissolved by the coming to an end of the Session or of the Parliament, there is, legally, nobody who does employ these staffs at all. But I am sure that some kind of arrangement will be made by which some person, in those circumstances, will be the nominal and legal employer of the staff during Recesses and after a Dissolution of Parliament.

There seems to be some doubt as to the amount of funds which the Kitchen Committee has, so far as superannuation is concerned. I asked a question of Sir Bracewell Smith, the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee in the last Parliament—hon. Members are aware that one is: asked to pay a penny towards the Staff Kitohen Fund—and he said that the Fund was started in 1934, and that the amount collected was £1,789 5s. 10d. and that on 12th December, 1944, the amount was £1,189 9s 1d. The reference is Volume 407, col. 37. Then we had the curious position that Mr. Muff, at that time Member for East Hull, in a speech referred to in Volume 406, said that the amount collected in pennies was £3,290.There is some difference between the amounts, and I am not in a position to know which is correct. Perhaps the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) could tell us something about that. I do hope the new Kitchen Committee will not only look into the conditions of the staff and their payment during the time Parliament is sitting, and also during the Recesses, but will also announce some proposal to the House so far as superannuation rights are concerned.

I think the tipping system is something that really is unpopular to both the donor and the donee. The House of Commons is often referred to as "the best club in the world." I do not think it is a club; it is nothing like it at all. The amount of dislike that hon. Members have for one another does not obtain anywhere else in the world. But there is one thing about clubs, and it is that in some of the big clubs, mainly supported by hon. Members opposite, a member of the club will get an immediate cancellation of his membership if he tries to tip any member of the staff. I therefore suggest to the Kitchen Committee that they should look into the question of tipping. It may be that there should be a surcharge on the bill, or some other method by which both the waiter or waitress and the Member will be relieved from the humility of this surreptitious form of—I will not say corruption, but donation. The letters T.I.P.—I am sure hon. Members do not know.this—stand for the words "To insure promptness." Therefore, I think it is rather a reflection on the staff that you have to hand out something to ensure their promptness.

There is another thing I would like to suggest to the Kitchen Committee. Per- haps they would take evidence on how much the waiting staff do get in tips, and replace that part of their income by a proper salary. They have to make a return to the Income Tax authorities. I think the Kitchen Committee should be big about this, and abolish tipping altogether and see that the waiters and waitresses are paid a proper and even a handsome salary. I think also the staff is overworked. Anybody who in recent years has tried to get into any of the dining rooms in this House will know that there are queues and long waits, and I think probably the staff could be doubled in number. However, that is a matter upon which, I am sure, the Kitchen Committee will take evidence from the manager, whose appointment, I think I can, on behalf of all Members, warmly welcome. There has been a very definite improvement in the quality of food since the change was made some months ago. In fact, when I came in, having taken my seat in the General Election, I went up and: asked him where he sat for, and I am sure other hon. Members have done exactly the same thing. His is a new face, and we know "new brooms sweep clean," but he is certainly making a very noticeable improvement which I am sure has been observed by hon. Members who were here in the last Parliament.

Then there is the question of accommodation. It is a great deal too limited. There are 174 seats in the ordinary Members' dining room, and something like 84 in the dining room where hon. Members may take their friends. This House of Commons is larger by 25 Members. It is going to be a full House of Commons, and I say frankly that it is not going to be like the last House of Commons where, on some days, there was hardly anybody here. We are going to have lively Debates, often followed by Divisions. In other words, party Government has been resumed, with 640 Members in this House, and in some way or other further accommodation has to be found so that Members can have their meals when they want to. It is not easy when taking pant in the business of this House to eat at half-past twelve. Hon. Members ought to have the facility of being able to eat well, and eat when they want to, and should be able to entertain their friends well. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in the last Debate said we ought to be able to entertain people in a reasonable and civilised manner. I think the House of Commons, in the past, has been rather too shy in asking for proper treatment.

One of the things I found in the earlier Debates we had on this subject was a readiness on the part of the Kitchen Committee, or possibly the late Chairman of it, to accept a "No" from Government Departments. That is quite wrong. There is a tendency for hon. Members of this House to give up their rights much too easily. I tried to get this Debate today in order to strengthen the hands of the Committee, so that they will not take a "No" from the Ministry of Food or from the Minister of Labour, on the question of waiting staff, and so that they will not take a "No" from the Treasury so far as the payment of staff wages is concerned. We shall be behind the Kitchen Committee. This House is almost all-powerful, and I suggest to the Kitchen Committee that they have a big job of work to do. I estimate that hon. Members will be working here something like 60 hours a week, and they should, therefore, be properly looked after. I do not propose to add anything because I know other hon. Members have points to make, but I would say, Mr. Speaker, that you want the best legislators and we have got them. I hope the Kitchen Committee will look after them.

4.14 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it possible to-day for us to raise this question relating to the Refreshment Department. I want to deal with one point which affects the staff of the Refreshment Department. In common with other Members, I recently received a letter from an ex-member of the staff of the Refreshment Department, and I would like to read the relevant paragraphs of that letter because I think we owe a duty to the members of that department, who have served the Members of this House, to see that they are fairly and properly treated. The letter says:

"On the dissolution of Parliament on 15th June approximately 80 per cent. of the staff were given notice of dismissal and included amongst these were many old and loyal servants to the House and its Members. Some had 20 years service and upwards and most of these had never failed to do their duty by the Members, being at duty during the blitz and the bombardment of London. Some have lost their lives, others are ex-Servicemen among them, but with all this loyalty just a simple change of managers causes a change in the Refreshment Department; that is both unfair and unjust. Through this action some of these staff may lose their superannuation, and I beg. Sir, that you as a Member of the last Parliament will, I feel sure, very seriously inquire into these grave injustices to the old and loyal servants to the House of Commons and its Members."
I do not wish to prejudge the merits of this issue at the present moment. All I rise to ask is that the new Kitchen Committee should inquire into the circumstances of these dismissals and should at an early date report to this House on the matter. The treatment of these people is a matter for all the Members of this House and we should, if necessary, be able to debate the matter at a later stage.

4.16 p.m.

It might at first sight create an adverse impression among those who have sent us here so recently if we should occupy part of our first Adjournment Debate discussing our own creature comforts, but I think that, on second thoughts, the public will realise that the efficiency of this House is a matter of first-class importance and that when we return from this Recess we shall be confronted with long and late Sittings over contentious legislation. Hon. Members must therefore be kept fit for those arduous labours. As the House has already heard, we are likely to spend 60 hours per week in the Palate of Westminster alone, and with Standing Committees in full operation this matter of the Refreshment Department is important, and the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) need not apologise for raising it now.

"Feed the brute" is as good a motto for the Mother of Parliaments as it is for mothers in the ordinary walks of life. I intervene as a critic of the Kitchen Committee of some 10 years' standing who has just received, possibly, the appropriate sentence for his activities by being appointed by his fellow-Members to serve on that body. I can say, in all good temper, that it is sometimes salutary for those who have fulminated for 10 years against an administration to find themselves confronted with the same problems and have to solve them. With regard to the present congestion, and the queuing which has become necessary, particularly in the cafeteria, I have looked in vain so far for the impressive figure of the Minister of Food because I thought it might be a useful exercise for the right hon. Gentleman to experience in a modified form the ordeal through which the housewives of the country are passing day by day. There are many difficulties of a transitory nature with which the new Kitchen Committee is confronted. The building of a new Chamber and the reconstruction of the immediate precincts have created a shortage of accommodation. The increase of membership in this Parliament from 615 to 640 may seem trifling, but it has been quite a factor not only in supplying meals but, as hon. Members have already discovered to their cost, in other parts of the building, such as the Library.

There is another difficulty. The arrival of such a large percentage of new Members, who are naturally anxious to exhibit themselves in their new and exalted surroundings to admiring relatives and constituents, has, for the time being, created a certain amount of congestion in the Refreshment Department. Much the same thing happened in 1931 when some of us arrived here for the first time and there was an equal influx of new Members. We were not however confronted then with food and man-power problems. I am certain also that many Members take lunch in the House of Commons because of the overcrowded conditions in restaurants in the precincts of Westminster. All those matters are only transitory. There are also difficulties of wartime, and of staff shortage. I hope the House will be indulgent to the Kitchen Committee, which was elected only 48 hours ago. We have had one meeting and these problems have had a very brief review under the able chairmanship of the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) who will be endeavouring to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to make a statement about what has been done.

As hon. Members probably know, some steps are being taken to relieve the congestion so far as is practicable. Probably the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter is aware that what is now the Members' bar is to be taken into the Strangers' dining room to relieve the congestion and the bar transferred to the Strangers' smoking room on the Terrace level, and that the Members' tea room is to be extended to embrace what was the cafeteria in the last Parliament, thereby increasing the accommodation in the Members' tea room. Other possibilities are being examined, involving negotiations with other authorities who are concerned in this matter besides the Kitchen Committee. The hon. Member probably knows that there is rather more involved in this matter, and that other bodies have to be consulted.

Of course, the chief function of the Kitchen Committee is to provide meals at reasonable prices as cheaply as possible for hon. Members. Attempts have been made in the past, not always successfully, to cater in this way. Hon. Members in previous Houses may remember that the Kitchen Committee of that day put on what, as a Yorkshire Member, I am going to describe as a Yorkshire tea. It was not very well patronised. It may be better patronised in this House, and is, therefore, something which might be revived. The question of supplying hon. Members with meals cheaply is intimately bound up with the other point which the hon. Member opposite raised. I want to speak very frankly on this matter. None of us in the last Parliament could adjourn for a Recess without having on our consciences the thought of the staff. For the whole Recess, until such time as the House reassembles, they have to earn their livelihood by going to seaside hotels and other establishments of that sort. I endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. I always felt that state of affairs was most discreditable to the House of Commons, which should certainly aim at being a model employer. This year the position is intensified. The House generally rises at the end of July, and the staff are able to go straight to their employment in the seaside hotels. This year, the House has sat through August, and the cream of that particular form of employment has now been skimmed. I think hon. Members will be somewhat relieved to know that arrangements have been made for a payment during the Recess with which the staff have described themselves as satisfied. I want to be quite clear——

It has been reported to us as satisfactory but we have no knowledge, and no means of finding out other than asking individuals whether they are satisfied or not.

I accept that, and may I say that in the short meeting we had, the source of information available stated that the staff were satisfied? I did make some later inquiries about it which confirmed that view. It still however makes it necessary for them to supplement their income, which should not be difficult in the present state of the catering industry. I think my colleagues, of whom the hon. Member is one, will endorse my statement when I say that the new Committee are aiming to do far better than that. What we aim at is some form of remuneration during the Recess, and holidays with pay for the staff of the House of Commons. All those things will have to be reflected, unless certain arrangements can be made of a financial nature, in the cost of the meals charged in the dining room of the House of Commons. I am sure that hon. Members would not wish, to be confronted with a situation where they were enjoying cheap meals at the expense of proper holiday payments for their staffs. One must be perfectly frank upon that point. One may be able to get help from a certain source which it is probably unwise to mention. The Committee certainly has that in mind.

This short Debate has been most valuable to the new Committee. I am sure that the views expressed will be carefully considered and the hon. Members concerned will go through the speeches during the Recess and we shall arm ourselves with what has been said opposite. The Kitchen Committee, as new Members might not know—and I mention it for their benefit—is a body drawn from both sides of the House, weighted, in ratio to party strength on the Floor, just in the same manner as the Select Committee which was discussed earlier to-day. It is, in fact, a form of Coalition Government under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for North Tottenham. We are determined to work together as a team, for the benefit of the House as a whole.

I ask for the new Committee the same consideration which the Prime Minister: asked for Ms new Ministers. He: asked for time for them to familiarise themselves with their Departments, which most of us regarded as a euphonious way of saying that they have got to learn their jobs. That is the position also of the Kitchen Committee. When the Government and the House return in the autumn to wrestle with matters economic, the Kitchen Committee will do its best to wrestle with matters gastronomic with results which, I hope, will be agreeable, not only to our fellow Members, but gratifying also to the staff who minister so diligently to our needs.

4.28 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) for raising this question as he did last year and as I did last year also. There are three things concerned, the comfort and welfare of Members, the comfort and welfare of our guests—which is very important—and, last but not least, the comfort and welfare of the staff. I will not repeat all that has been said before, but I want to make the point that, whatever problem arises—and I am supporting the Kitchen Committee and not attacking them—whether it is a question of opening the private rooms, and giving more space, or retaining fees for the staff, or whatever it may be, we always run up against some Government Department. "The Treasury won't do this" or "The Ministry of Labour won't do that," we are told, and I am now going to give an answer. As there are so many new Members I shall make no apology for repeating some of the things I said in the similar Debate last year.

I am the only man in this House and probably the only man alive who has prosecuted the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons for selling drinks without a licence. I am delighted that I was unsuccessful, but I can tell you that it is no mean feat to go to Bow Street on a Monday morning, and prosecute the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons. The case was finally decided by a very strong court. The ground of the decision given by Lord Hewart that this House was not governed by the Licensing Act, was this quotation—and I think I have it quite right—from Lord Denman's judgment in the case of Stockdale versus Hansard where he said something like this:
"The Commons of England are not invested with more of power and dignity by their legislative character than by that which they bear as the grand inquest of the nation."
This is the point of the quotation:
"All the privileges that can be required for the energetic discharge of the duties inherent in that high trust are conceded without a murmur or a doubt."
The Kitchen Committee know very well that the things for which they ask are not conceded without a murmur or a doubt. We shall be behind them if they go to any Government Department and quote that judgment and say, "We are the House of Commons, fortified by the High Court, and although we do not want cocktail parties or similar forms of indulgence, because of our importance what we ask for you must give, whether it is money, or whatever necessary for the welfare of the Members and their servants."

4.30 p.m.

I want to support my hon Friend who raised this question. I have been here for some years, and I doubt whether any hon. Member can tell us the conditions under which the staff work. I have tried to find out on many occasions, but all down the years there seems to have been a veil cast over the conditions of the staff. This is an amazing place as far as the dining and refreshment rooms are concerned, and it is difficult to find out anything. I do not know whether any hon. Member knows the wages that are paid. I hope we shall be able to know in future, and also what the hours of work and the conditions for superannuation are. As far as I can see the hours fluctuate very badly, and at certain times of pressure we get a very tired staff. I am not, therefore, concerned with what one hon. Member has described as the creature comforts of Members of the House. I am more concerned with getting decent conditions for the staff, because I think the creature comforts will flow from them.

During the years I have been here there has been dissatisfaction among the staff, a feeling of insecurity, of injustice and of being treated badly. I hope that the new Kitchen Committee will realise that this feeling exists and will take steps to alter it. My hon. Friend said that tip meant "to insure promptness." Is that right in this House? Anybody who has been here for some time knows that it means "to insure privilege." The bigger the tip, the bigger the smile, and the smaller the tip the greater the tendency to a sour face. I am not blaming the staff for that. I want conditions in which a money tip does not insure privilege as against Members who cannot pay a tip. I hope that the Kitchen Committee will abolish tipping.

I wonder whether it will be possible to have some sort of organisation among the staff so that they can make collective representations. They seem to be more afraid of trade unionism inside the House than outside it, and I wonder whether the new Kitchen Committee, which is one of the hopes of the new Parliament, will be able to get a feeling of confidence among the staff so that they can have a collective organisation through which their requests can be considered. There is a suggestion book in the dining room, and I do not know how much notice is taken of the suggestions made, but I want something firmer than that. It is significant that some time ago there was a suggestion that one of the members of our staff committed suicide owing to the conditions obtaining here. I will not enter into the question whether there is any substance in that, but the fact is that it reflected on the conditions of service in this House. I want to have conditions in which no suggestion can be made, and it is for the new Committee to see that the staff has proper conditions of service, proper wages, security of tenure and pension rights. If they get that the staff will be contented, and I am certain that the service in the House will inconsequence greatly improve.

4.37 p.m.

I am glad that this subject has been raised. Most of us would have liked on many occasions in the past to insist more strongly than has been possible that the question of a permanent staff should be thoroughly thrashed out. I have felt for a long time that we would never get the entire happiness and good will of those who do a tremendous lot for us unless they were on a permanent footing. I understand that some proposals are now being considered. Let them be considered in a broadminded way with a view to what is demanded of the staff. It is not as though the staff were serving ordinary people who were never in a hurry, under ordinary conditions at regular hours. Some of us are in a great hurry and have sometimes to eat at the most unusual hours. There are two main problems before the Kitchen Committee. The first is to build up a permanent staff which will be ready and willing to put up with difficult conditions for some time—because they are bound to be difficult for some time—and with a great deal of hard work at times, a staff with which will be ready to face terrific rushes at unusual hours at the day and night. We have seen in the war tremendous growth of the idea of canteens and the feeding of workers. I claim that we are workers here, or we should be workers, and that we are entitled to feed, if we are to do our job properly, at the times when it is possible for us to do so.

I know what a tremendous problem faces us under existing conditions of staffing and food supplies, but let us smash down some of the fences erected by Government Departments. We will back up the Kitchen Committee in doing it. There is nothing selfish and unjust in such a claim. It is not right, especially as we have a large number of new Members, that Members should go through the mental and nervous strain of having to wait before they catch the Speaker's eye, and then, after delivering their maiden speeches, putting all their vigour into it, when they go outside, should find they can hardly get anything to eat. I beg the Kitchen Committee to remember these points and to be harsh and tough about them. The demands as regards feeding arrangements vary as between Parliament and Parliament, and we must adjust the arrangements to the needs of the Parliament. The arrangements made in the last Parliament are not necessarily suited to this Parliament. The demands will be different, and the means to met them must be devised.

4.42 p.m.

After the interesting discussion we have listened to, I feel almost tempted to ask for the indulgence of the House in making my maiden speech as Chairman of the Kitchen. Committee, to which thankless task I was elected about 24 hours ago. I am sure that the hon. Member for Uneaten (Mr. Bowles) and the other hon. Members who have put forward useful and wise suggestions, did not do so as any reflection on the Committee, because it was appointed only on Tuesday, but that what they intended to do was to convey their views to the new Committee. Had there been a much larger House, those views probably would have been confirmed by the great majority of Members. We had our first meeting yesterday, and I have not yet had a sufficient opportunity to collect the voices of the new Committee as to their views upon the various matters that have been referred to. I was impressed by their keenness and the desire really to put the Kitchen Committee on the map. It is obviously impossible for me to reply on behalf of the Committee, but I do not think any Member of the Committee will differ when I say what my conception of the functions and policy of the Kitchen Committee ought to be. It is to control the arrangements of the kitchen and refreshment rooms of the House of Commons, in such a manner as will supply food and refreshment at reasonable prices for all Members, officers, staff and visitors, and to see that the working conditions and remuneration of the staff are of a standard that the House would desire.

The Kitchen Committee consists of 17 members, of whom no less than 13 have never served on it before. I am therefore sure that Members will realise that it may take them some little, time to acquaint themselves fully with the facts before they can come to the important decisions they will have to make in the near future if I have rightly gauged the feeling of the House on this matter. It is perfectly well known to all those hon. Members who were here before the last election, and the others will soon find out, that there are certain very special problems in connection with the Kitchen Committee. It will be the task of the Committee to endeavour to solve those problems, or at least to make some substantial contribution towards their solution. I do not propose to go into that at the moment, but in connection with what has been said I should like to pay a tribute first of all to the last Kitchen Committee and to the work that its Chairman did, and secondly to the staff of the House of Commons during the last Parliament.

If hon. Members cast their minds back to the circumstances under which catering was carried on during the war years, they will see what I mean. On three occasions we were bombed out of the building altogether, and had to remove ourselves at an hour or two's notice to Church House. The staff was ready to serve meals within an hour or two. Many of the staff were bombed out of their own homes, and were sleeping on the premises, anywhere they could find room. In the early days of the war some of the lady members of the staff who have been in the employment of the Kitchen Committee for a great many years and who slept in the upper part of the Palace of Westminster were bombed out from there and had to be removed for greater safety to other rooms down below, the rooms used by Members for private dinner parties had to be taken over for other purposes, the Harcourt room which was of so much use to Members in the old days, had to be used for sleeping accommodation for firewatchers, Home Guard, and other war services, and altogether it was a very difficult time. Frankly I think that this House owes a debt of gratitude to the members of its staff for the way they carried on during those difficult years. Although the war is over the difficulties are by no means ended, and the new Committee will, I am quite sure, do its best to tackle them. One or two Members have pointed out that other Departments are involved, and that the Kitchen Committee is not a law unto itself. The Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Labour, and more particularly two departments of the Palace of Westminster—those of the Serjeant at Arms and of Mr. Speaker himself—are concerned. The latter two have always been very helpful, and I am glad to say that Mr. Speaker—I do not think he will object to my saying so now—after I had indicated to him some of our ideas, gave me an assurance of his support and of that of the Serjeant at Arms in our efforts to make real progress in solving the problems which have been hanging about for a matter of 20 years or more.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton mentioned a number of points with regard to superannuation, tipping, and so on. Twice during my service on the Kitchen Committee we have endeavoured to tackle the question of tipping, but we have failed to find any real practical solution. If any hon. Member thinks he has in mind a real practical scheme for the abolition of tipping, we on the Kitchen Committee should be very grateful if he would send it to us. Two things -upset me personally. One is the tipping system and the other is the fact that the people who frequently do the most unpleasant part of the work, namely, the people who peel potatoes, and do other work in the kitchen—the invisible staff—get no tips at all. I have never yet heard of a Member of Parliament who was so pleased with his lunch that he decided to go into the kitchen and tip the fellow who peeled the potatoes. It is always the person who has done nothing towards cooking the food who receives the tip. Any suggestion on these subjects will be taken into consideration, and that applies equally to the general subject of complaints. There is a complaints book in the Members' Room, and any complaints entered in it will not only be brought to my notice as Chairman of the Committee, but I will see that they are read out to the Committee when it meets.

Hon. Members have paid a tribute to the new manager, and this is one of our further difficulties. The new manager was only recently appointed, and I would like to endorse what has been said about the improvements which have since taken place. We have every confidence in the new manager, and we hope that, given some of the conditions we ought to have had years ago, and which we will now try to obtain, we shall be able to bring about a substantial improvement. An hon. Member opposite said that in 1931 a similar state of affairs existed to that which has existed during the past font-night. That is not so. There has been more activity in this building during tine last fortnight than there has ever been in the history of Parliament, and a depleted staff has been called upon to do almost double the amount of business that has ever been done before. I know there have been a lot of things to grumble at, but I think Members ought to be thankful that the depleted staff has stood up to the invasion which has taken place. They have had to work long hours, and we on the Kitchen Committee will have to try to deal with that point, which is a difficult one because if hon. Members make up their minds to have ah all-night Sitting we cannot send the staff home at 8 o'clock. Where are we to get staff to carry on, if we do?

One of the mistakes made in the past has been the attempt to conduct the refreshment department of the House of Commons as though it were an ordinary business. It is not, and it does not resemble an ordinary business. Things here have to be dealt with in a special way, and if we try to run it as an ordinary business we shall not make much headway. I would like to thank all Members on behalf of the Kitchen Committee for the way they have treated us. It was good of them not to censure us at the start. I told the Committee yesterday that its last Chairman used to be very fond of saying to me, "I get a real kick out of being Chairman on the Kitchen Committee." I added that there was every indication that the whole of the Committee would get several real kicks before they had finished.