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House Of Commons Catering

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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asked the hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what conditions his Committee lays down for the letting of Dining Rooms in the House for private parties.

Sir, I am arranging to have printed in HANSARD the full rules for the booking of Private Dining Rooms. Perhaps the most important of these is No. 3, which is as follows:

"No booking shall be made for a private dining room except by a Member, who shall be solely responsible for the full settlement of the account and shall attend the function."
If when the hon. Lady has considered these she feels they could be amended in the interest of Members, I am sure my Committee would be glad to consider her suggestions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Private Dining Rooms of the House of Commons have become a happy hunting ground for public relations experts seeking to organise pressure groups on behalf of commercial interests? Does not he think that the dignity of this House is suffering as a result, to say nothing of the services to hon. Members who are trying to pursue more disinterested Parliamentary duties? Will he, therefore, exercise more discrimination in these lettings?

I would not agree in any way with what the hon. Lady says. I am aware, of course, that some use of the rooms has from time to time given occasion for criticism, but my Committee is eager to do everything it can to maintain the dignity of the House and to meet the convenience of hon. Members. We could not expose hon. Members to be examined by members of the staff of the Kitchen Committee on the purposes for which they want a room.

In view of the serious allegations which have been made in some newspapers recently in the sense referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), has the Chairman of the Committee made any investigations to see whether those charges have any basis or not? Does he not think it is part of his duty to find whether the allegations are true and to clear up the matter?

Yes, in the light of certain observations in certain newspapers, I particularly asked the management of the Catering Department to look into the matter and pay the greatest possible attention to all functions taking place in June. I hope it is right to say that there is a responsibility on hon. Members just as there is on the Kitchen Committee.

Is not this the result of the determination of the Conservative Party to make a profit out of the Kitchen Committee's affairs at any cost, even at the cost of using the rooms for such activities as have been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)?

No. The Committee is an all-party committee which is determined to do the best it can to give a good service to the House. I believe that most of the functions held in the Private Dining Rooms are welcomed by hon. Members who are responsible and by the genuine bona fide guests who attend them.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Following are the rules:

  • 1. Any advertisement or publicity in connection with the functions must be submitted to the Manager of the Refreshment Department for the approval of the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee before publication.
  • 2. All invitation and admittance tickets must bear the name of the Member in whose name the room is reserved.
  • 3. No booking shall be made for a private dining-room except by a Member, who shall be solely responsible for the full settlement of the account and shall attend the function.
  • 4. The approximate number of diners shall be notified to the Department on the Friday of the previous week and the exact number, which shall be charged, shall be given on the previous day.
  • 5. No room shall be booked provisionally for more than two dates at one time for any one function.
  • 6. No provisional booking shall continue for more than ten days, after which period, if confirmation is not received, the reservation shall be automatically released.
  • 7. If rooms which have been definitely reserved are subsequently cancelled, allowing insufficient time to permit the room to be re-let, a booking fee shall be charged, in the event of the room not being re-let.
  • 8. Advanced bookings are subject to confirmation not more than six months before the date.