The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
Dining Room Hire Charges
I will answer on behalf of the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso). On the catering services budget for 2014-15, the target is to achieve room hire sales of £873,000, comprising £258,000 from the introduction of third-party banqueting events and £615,000 from Member-funded and Member-sponsored events.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. This is the first time in my 17 years in the House that I have been moved to ask a question in House of Commons Commission questions. Tonight I will host, on behalf of the all-party group on racing and bloodstock industries, a charity dinner in the House in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund. The room hire charge, however, will be more than £3,000, which will have to come out of the money we would otherwise provide to the charity. I have raised the issue with the Chairman of the Administration Committee and understand that room hire charges are being looked at, but may I ask for help on the matter, particularly with regard to charity events?
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. The difficulty is that this whole process was started because of the budget requirements following the serious cuts faced by the House authorities. The rates charged are based on benchmarking from a whole selection of other organisations that provide such facilities. The figure paid at present is 25% below the benchmark. In addition, significant reductions are available right across the board, including for charities. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the organisation to which he refers will take advantage of that. The Administration Committee is constantly reviewing the whole process.
These charges are seriously inhibiting the work of many hon. Members who work with all-party groups, which often do not represent wealthy interests. May I make a plea that we do not turn this place into a conference centre and that we look again at the charges and the impact they are having on the work of Members of this House?