28 September 2020 22:30
Announcement follows reports bars in parliament would not have to abide by new Covid rule Alcohol will not be served after 10pm in parliament in an apparent U-turn, after it emerged that Commons bars would be exempt from strict early closing rules imposed across the country. Facilities serving alcohol on the parliamentary estate would not have to abide by the earlier closing time because they fell under the description of "a workplace canteen", the Times reported on Monday. Exemptions to the rules introduced last Thursday state that "workplace canteens may remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food". Bar staff and customers in the Palace of Westminster reportedly would not have had to follow new stricter rules on face coverings introduced for other licensed premises, and visitors to parliamentary bars would not be asked to supply their details on entry for test and trace. Within hours, the apparent move was criticised by MPs. Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, tweeted: "Not good, so many in the hospitality sector on the verge of collapse or struggling to cope, they will be rightly very angry to read this.
However, in a change effective immediately, a House of Commons spokesman said on Monday: "Alcohol will not be sold after 10pm anywhere on the parliamentary estate." Johnson announced new restrictions in England last week including the 10pm closing time for pubs, bars and restaurants, with hospitality venues only allowed to offer table service. The Pugin Room, Strangers' Dining Room, the Adjournment and the Members' Smoking Room are reportedly among parliament bars that reopened before the summer recess. Earlier, a spokesperson for the Commons had reportedly said: "As catering outlets providing a workplace service for over 3,100 people working on the estate, the current regulations on hospitality venues do not apply to Commons facilities." The UK Parliament was exempted from the national coronavirus 10pm drinking curfew. Members of Parliament were allowed to continue drinking after bars and restaurants across the country closed. However, Parliamentary authorities U-turned on the decision on Monday after facing a barrage of complaints from the public.
Parliamentary authorities used an exemption in the rules allowing "workplace canteens" to sidestep the restrictions. One MP Insider spoke to on Monday said their inbox had been flooded with complaints by their constituents following the report. However, parliamentary authorities reportedly U-turned on the decision to allow late-night drinking following the report on Monday, with a spokesperson saying that "no outlet on the Parliamentary Estate will be selling alcohol after 10 pm, with immediate effect." However, parliament's cafes and restaurants will continue to remain exempt from the restrictions. A parliamentary spokesperson later denied a U-turn insisting to Insider that the House of Commons Speaker had in fact decided to lift the exemptions last Thursday following the implementation of the new guidance. The new rules have been hugely controversial due to scenes of large crowds piling onto town centres and public transport, with even members of Boris Johnson's government questioning the rules.
Five bars on the Westminster estate - the Members' Dining Room, Adjournment, Smoking Room, Terrace Pavilion and Pugin Room - have reopened to serve drinks for MPs and staff, according to The Times. It's emerged that Boris Johnson's new rules don't apply to parliament's bars (Pictures: Getty) The bars where MPs drink inside the Houses of Parliament are exempt from the new coronavirus restrictions, it has been revealed. It means the Palace of Westminster's famous drinking holes are among the few places in the country that can continue serving alcohol past 10pm. The loophole is due to the fact that the bars are classified as 'workplace canteens' and the new legislation allows them to remain open 'where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food', according to The Times. Rules including the need to take customer contact details and wear face masks when not sat at a table also reportedly don't apply. A source told The Times the exemption was a 'massive own goal' for parliament, given the vast majority of pubs and restaurants across the UK are now required to shut early. 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. Ministers say the night time shut down is necessary because the longer people drink, the less likely they are to follow social distancing rules. Parliament's bar is a 'workplace canteen' so the rules don't apply (Picture: Getty Images) Parliament's bars, including the Strangers' Dining Room, the Adjournment and the Members' Smoking Room and Pugin Room, were reopened to MPs before the summer recess after being closed due to the pandemic. Speaking on the show earlier he said: 'It's kicking out time for the entire country, apart from MPs. Is that a joke? Parliament itself shut down for the worst months of the crisis with MPs voting remotely for the first time in history. The Stranger's Bar in the House of Commons (Picture: Parliament.uk) The regulations that allow bars to stay open are reportedly being kept under review by the House of Commons. Parliamentary bars that serve alcohol at Westminster will now not be selling drinks after 10pm. An article from The Times prompted a furious response, after it revealed that bars inside the Palace of Westminster were exempt from 10pm hospitality curfew as they fall under the description of a "workplace canteen". It meant that MPs could drink inside the facilities after 10pm while English rules on the mandatory gathering of customers' details was not followed. The House of Commons authorities had promised to keep the arrangements under review but a source told The Times it was "a massive own goal". Labour MP Rupa Huq said: "Hypocritical Parliament follows no rules that everyone else must. "Nightly 100s of MPs queue up for over 1km with no social distancing to vote, ignoring rule of 6 and now its watering holes exempt from 10pm curfew thats killing hospitality sector. "Parliament is a workplace for thousands of public servants who are at risk of infection if rules that are meant to protect them and the MPs themselves are flouted or avoided." Parliament has a number of bars and restaurants for MPs, peers and Parliamentary staff to use.