Sale of alcohol in Parliament after 10pm curfew to be ended amid criticism

The strict deadline for England’s hostelries has been criticised by businesses.

House of Parliament
House of Parliament

Parliament has said it will not serve alcohol after the 10pm curfew, after it emerged its bars and restaurants could remain open due to an exemption in Boris Johnson’s coronavirus rules.

The strict deadline for England’s hostelries has been criticised by businesses and raised concerns it may do more harm than good by forcing crowds into the streets at the same time.

But the law came under fresh scrutiny when it was disclosed that MPs, Lords and parliamentary staff could legally continue drinking past the deadline in the Palace of Westminster, because its establishments are classed as workplace canteens.

The regulations announced by the Prime Minister last week include exemptions that “workplace canteens may remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food”.

But after the decision to keep the bars open came in for cross-party criticism, Parliament announced a change with immediate effect.

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

Catering facilities will, however, continue to serve food after the deadline when the House is sitting.

Despite being in the centre of London, there are relatively few shops surrounding Parliament, particularly ones open late at night, and politicians and staff tend to eat on site.

The curfew came into force in England on Thursday, but parliamentary proceedings have not gone on past 10pm, meaning the exemption had not been used so far.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is understood to have made the decision not to serve alcohol in any Commons bars last week, but the rule was made clear on Monday as it was the first day in which the proceedings are likely to run past 10pm.

There was one venue in the House of Lords that may have served alcohol alongside food under the exemption, but that was also that out on Monday.

Health minister Helen Whately had said she had been unaware that the curfew did not apply to Parliament and seemed unimpressed.

“We in Parliament shouldn’t be sitting round late at night drinking. We have got a job to do when we are there,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The SNP’s Ronnie Cowan tweeted: “One rule for the public and another for Westminster (sounds familiar).”

The curfew has proved controversial, with businesses warning their profitability will be jeopardised and police struggling to disperse large crowds forming after the deadline on Saturday night.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has also warned it may be doing “more harm than good”, with people piling on to public transport and queuing outside shops to buy more alcohol.

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