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House of Commons Commission

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

The hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

Fair Trade Products

21. What proportion of products sold on the parliamentary estate were fair trade in 2005-06 and 2004-05. (113139)

As on a previous occasion when the hon. Gentleman asked a similar question, it is not possible to give a single overall figure within its terms. As he knows, the Fairtrade Foundation lists only a rather limited range of products available through catering distribution and supply in London. However, I am pleased to say that the House has spent about £45,000 on fair trade products since April and a further £40,000 on souvenir products from various ethical initiatives. The Refreshment Department is re-tendering for the supply of coffee to the House and has specified that all coffee must be approved by the Fairtrade Foundation.

More than 5 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America have benefited from the sale of fair trade products, some 1,500 of which are available in the United Kingdom. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should be setting an example in the Palace of Westminster, that we should have more products available, and that we should have a minimum target for such sales?

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman about the benefits of the Fairtrade Foundation. As I said, only a limited range of products is available through the catering supply industry. Retail sale is a different issue in which the House is not involved. We are buying, where available, in all product categories bar one, and doing all we can to increase the volume of fair trade produce as time goes on.

Energy Efficiency

A campaign to raise awareness of environmental issues has been running for more than a year to encourage people to switch off unnecessary equipment and lighting. The campaign has included regular presentations, guest speakers, two exhibitions and articles in the staff magazine, “inHouse”. It is reckoned that the most cost-effective way to control unnecessary lighting is for people to switch off lights when they leave rooms rather than to have automatic light systems that allow a time delay before switching lights off automatically.

I do not know who is responsible for keeping the lights on in Star Chamber Court throughout the day under the very expensive £450,000 glass canopy, but could they be instructed to turn them off during the day? For a Parliament that is meant to be interested in climate change, a remarkably large number of lights are left on throughout the daylight hours.

I will take note of the hon. Gentleman’s specific point about the covered walkway and ask for officers to investigate that. I repeat that the most effective way to save electricity is simply for everybody on the estate to be more diligent about turning lights off.