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Members Services

Volume 575: debated on Thursday 6 February 2014

1. What steps he is taking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the services available to hon. Members. (902433)

The Commission has a policy of continuous improvement, which helps to drive both efficiency and effectiveness. The fundamental principle adopted by the Commission has been that any cost reductions should not adversely affect the ability of the House and its Members to carry out their parliamentary functions. The House is on track to reduce its budget by 17% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15, and this discipline has been a spur to innovation and moving to new and better ways of doing things. In many ways, the House is now more rather than less effective.

May I profoundly disagree with the 17% cut? We are sent here to serve our constituents. This cut in budgets means that we are less and less able to do our job properly at every level. We know that, and the staff, whose morale is at rock bottom, know it too. It is about time the House of Commons Commission got the message that something is rotten in the state and that we have to do something about it soon.

May I say in all humility to the hon. Gentleman that the facts simply do not bear out his assertions? For example, sickness absence, which in most businesses is an extremely good measure of the morale of the work force, is at its lowest since we began recording in 2008-09. May I also say that the Finance and Services Committee at its meeting this week received the quarterly out-turn for the third quarter, and a number of the major Departments that operate Member services have budget left to spend and are likely not to use their budgets in-year? That is a result of effective delivery of services and there is no absence of money for parliamentary scrutiny.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the decision of the House to change its sitting hours has had a negative impact on catering, access to the Palace for constituency parties, and the ready availability of meeting rooms for the many groups that seek them?

My right hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. He, as Chair of the Administration Committee, has done a great deal of work with his Committee on this matter to ensure that the services provided are of the highest quality and, wherever possible, open to our constituents as well as to Members.