§ 34. Mr. Skinner
To ask the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, what recent reviews have been undertaken of the payments and conditions of service of staff of the Refreshment Department; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Beith
Pay reviews for the non-industrial and industrial staff of the Department took place on 1 April and 1 July respectively, and pay increases for both groups of staff have been implemented recently in line with civil service pay agreements. The Establishments Office of the House has reached the final stage of negotiations with the relevant unions on the introduction of a simplified grading and pay structure for non-industrial grades, which will affect a small percentage of Refreshment Department staff. In addition, consultations have proceeded along similar lines for the industrial grades. The Commission has recently agreed proposals put forward by the Board of Management, and has authorised the Establishments Office to commence negotiations with the Hotel and Catering Union.
§ Mr. Skinner
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that when the £3.40 barrier was broken for the hourly rate paid to House of Commons refreshment staff, no one was sacked and, incredibly, more staff have been employed since then? Will those staff be treated in the same way as Members of Parliament when the next review is carried out? Will they be awarded pay rises of no less than 6.5 per cent., and when their pensions are calculated, will the Commission ensure that those pensions are in line with the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body, which is so embarrassed about the 60 per cent. pension increase awarded to some top civil servants that it has postponed the increase until after the general election? Will the hon. Gentleman guarantee that staff will receive the same increase, and that they will receive it before the election?
§ Mr. Beith
It is quite some time since the House broke through the £3.40 barrier to which the hon. Gentleman referred. As for pensions, staff—unlike Members—receive non-contributory pensions, along with a series of other benefits, which makes it difficult to compare their terms with those operating outside the House. A package containing a number of improvements is, however, currently the subject of negotiation.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle
Bearing in mind the number of people who work in the Refreshment Department and elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, and the number of visiting officials from Government Departments—not to mention the number of right hon. and hon. Members— what can the hon. Gentleman do to promote the idea of establishing a mini-supermarket on the premises? Given the hours worked by all employees in the Palace, it is sometimes very difficult for them to find their way to a shop to buy essential supplies.