The main article on page 3 of The Times on 15 January 2018, is titled “Commons cooks aim for Michelin star” but is mainly about the work of our MP, Sir Paul Beresford, as chairman of the Commons administration committee. This is an advisory committee to the House of Commons Commission on domestic areas such as catering and the management of the buildings to help ensure that the services provided to Members, their staff, and visitors to Parliament meet the various needs of each group as well as offering value for money. There are apparently 22 food and drink venues spread across four buildings employing some 250 people catering for 1450 MPs and peers and other staff and many events and banquets. Some venues are open very long hours to cover MPs’ late working hours.
The article reveals that the sum given by the taxpayer towards the catering service has been halved from £6 million in 2011. But Sir Paul’s ambitions go further. He is quoted as saying: “I want us to aim for a Michelin star. I think we could do it. There are some phenomenal, capable chefs and we’re bringing in training. We are keen on developing our staff.” On the committee’s initiative some of the Common’s dining facilities are now open to the public. Sir Paul is seeking not only to increase catering provision and make it profitable, but also to increase the outlets and revenue of the Commons’ and Lords’ shops.
One hopes that Sir Paul is able to keep enough time for his constituency work. On 20th December he raised the Guildford Local Plan at Prime Minister’s Question Time when he expressed shock that 57% of new developments in the Plan would be built on Green Belt. Theresa May said that Sir Paul was “right to raise this issue on behalf of his constituents” and added that “I can assure my Hon friend that he is absolutely right that we want to ensure that Green Belt is protected.”