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House Of Commons Catering (Report)

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will now make a further statement as to whether, and by what means, he intends to give effect to the majority recommendation of the Kitchen Committee that the entire cost of the staff and equipment in the Refreshment Department throughout the year should be defrayed by the Treasury.

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 7th April to the Question put by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe).

In view of the ambiguity of that reply, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no action will be taken on these lines unless and until the consent of this House has been obtained?

Obviously the consent of the House will have to be obtained for any expenditure of money. The report has not yet been adopted, and it is not for me to say whether it should be, or, if it is agreed, when it should be.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to correct two statements which he made last Thursday both of which were inaccurate? The first was that I had supported this recommendation of the Kitchen Committee. The second was that if it were put into effect, no Supplementary Estimate would be required this year.

I still stand by what I said. I said that there is an Estimate for this year of I think £14,500, and it is not proposed to exceed that amount.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Estimate, which relates solely to the anticipated deficit under the present system, has nothing whatever to do with the expenditure which would be involved if this special report were accepted? Will he make it clear whether his answer of 7th April referred to the ordinary deficit or to this extraordinary expenditure?

I dealt with the situation which had arisen. We are now referring to a report made by the Kitchen Committee. On the occasion to which I refer, if my recollection serves me aright, certain Members referred to the report but the report as such was not before the Committee on that occasion.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if effect were given to this special report of the Kitchen Committee it would require a Supplementary Estimate of at least £35,000, and that the sum in the present Estimate only allows for the staff to be paid during the Recess whereas the special report wishes to put the cost of their pay and of the equipment on the taxpayer for the entire year?

I hope that nothing I have said would lead the House to believe the contrary.

Would the right hon. Gentleman correct his statement about my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling)?

All that I said, in reply to a supplementary question, was that I assumed that the hon. Gentleman had been a party to the decision. I take it that in a democratic community, when a matter goes to a Division and it is decided by an overwhelming majority that representations should be made to the Treasury, as was the case on that occasion, the hon. Gentleman shares with his colleagues the responsibility of that representation.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that whenever one's name appears in the Division List among the "Noes" one must be assumed to have been a party to the decision if the "Ayes" have it?

No, Sir. But there is such a thing as being loyal to one's colleagues if one serves with them on a committee, or of resigning from that committee.

Would it not be graceful for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw what was obviously a mistake on his part? My hon. Friend voted against this proposal. He cannot possibly be held to agree with it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to establish as a principle for the conduct of Members in this House that loyalty should be a stronger motive than either conscience or reason.