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Parliament says bars for MPs must shut at 10pm after huge backlash over exemption

Ross McGuinness
·4-min read
A member of staff wearing a PPE visor pours a pint inside the Black Horse Inn in Haxby, York, on Super Saturday as pubs and other stores reopen after lockdown measures are relaxed in England
Pubs in England must adhere to a 10pm curfew. (Getty)

Parliament has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn over serving alcohol in its bars after 10pm.

On Monday, The Times reported that bars in the Palace of Westminster would be exempt from the coronavirus curfew, applied on pubs, bars and restaurants across England.

But after widespread anger, Parliament has decided to ban the sale of alcohol on its premises after 10pm in line with the rest of the country.

A Parliament spokesman said: “Alcohol will not be sold after 10pm anywhere on the parliamentary estate.”

Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East, reacted to the news by tweeting: “Should bloody well think so”.

Labour MP Angela Rayner tweeted: “Good, if we ask others to follow the regulations then we must also follow them, it’s basic stuff really”.

Watch: What are the new Covid-19 measures for pubs in England?

The Times had reported that Parliament bars were exempt from the curfew on the basis that they could be categorised as a “workplace canteen”.

The report sparked widespread anger on social media, with many people saying it was “one rule for us, one rule for them”.

On Monday, junior health minister Helen Whately told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We in Parliament shouldn’t be sitting around late at night drinking – we’ve got a job to do when we’re there.”

Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson drinks a pint of beer on a visit to the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, during a Vote Leave campaign visit.
Boris Johnson in a pub while campaigning during the EU referendum. (PA)

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Boris Johnson announced last week that pubs, bars and restaurants in England must close their doors at 10pm in an effort to halt the rising spread of coronavirus.

He even claimed that coronavirus “spreads more at night after alcohol has been consumed”.

However, the regulations state that “workplace canteens may remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food”.

The Times reported that staff and customers at bars in the Palace of Westminster would not be required to follow rules on face masks introduced last week by the prime minister.

Visitors would not have to give their name and contact details when entering a Parliament bar, it also reported.

Before the U-turn was announced, a number of MPs across party lines had criticised the exemption for Parliament bars.

Read more: Third wave of coronavirus 'entirely possible', government adviser warns

Sarah Owen, the MP for Luton North, said: “I know the government have got used to setting one rule for some and another for everyone else but this is another level. Absolutely ridiculous.”

Ronnie Cowan, SNP MP for Inverclyde, said: “One rule for the public and another for Westminster”.

SNP MP for Glasgow North East, Anne McLaughlin tweeted: “I was in the House of Commons all last week. I managed to do my job, attend meetings, vote, deal with constituency work and speak in parly on four occasions all without the aid of alcohol. I just assumed the bars were shut. This is ridiculous.”

Robert Largan, Tory MP for High Peak, said: “This is a ludicrous decision.”

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But Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price tweeted: “The dining rooms are open for as long as Parliament is sitting. If we aren’t sitting beyond 10pm we will be subject to same curfew as everyone else. Nothing to see here”.

Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, tweeted: “Parliament’s own bar has been made exempt from the 10pm curfew and doesn’t have to take down anyone’s details. I’d like to say I’m surprised… but I’m really not.”

Actor and comedian Adil Ray referenced the controversial trip to the north of England taken by Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings during lockdown in April.

Read more: Pubs, restaurants and cafés ‘contributed to a fifth of COVID-19 infections’

He tweeted: “Barnard Castle all over again. One rule for us, one rule for them. Why would anyone respect the rules?”

On BBC1’s Breakfast programme, junior health minister Whately defended the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.

“As people drink more they tend to socially distance less,” she said.

“So one approach to keeping people socially distancing is to limit the amount of time that people are in places where they are drinking and then this breaking down of compliance with the rules.

“We have also seen in some of the places where there have been higher rates over the summer that sometimes bars have been the places where there has been an outbreak, so this is a reason why one of the actions we have taken is to have people stopping being out drinking at an earlier time.”

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