MPs resort to office 'speakeasies' after Speaker shuts Commons' bars

Amy Jones
·3-min read
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has banned the sale of alcohol on the Parliamentary estate - JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images/JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has banned the sale of alcohol on the Parliamentary estate - JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images/JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

Conservative MPs are turning their Commons offices into “speakeasies” following the Speaker’s ban on alcohol sales, sources have claimed.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle banned alcohol sales on the Parliamentary estate earlier this month in order to bring the estate “into line with the national picture” of new coronavirus restrictions.

However, some MPs are already filling their fridges with beer and wine and investing in table football in an attempt to turn their offices into make-shift pubs.

One Parliamentary source said: “If you walk around the corridors of an evening it’s a bit like university halls of residence with muffled laughter and the occasional chinking of glasses.

“MPs have always enjoyed the odd drinking session in their offices but the Speaker’s booze ban has definitely led to a rise in closed door drinking on the estate.

“In fairness, they are under ever increasing pressure because of the pandemic so it’s not surprising that they want to let off steam after late votes.”

A separate source said that MPs would keep bottles of vodka and gin on their desks during late sittings and would "close their doors when they notice you".

Commons authorities plan to investigate claims that Conservative MPs plan on replicating the atmosphere of the shuttered Strangers’ Bar in their own offices.

One source told the Mail On Sunday: “They want to go the whole hog – spirits on optics, bar games such as table football, the works.

“It’s too risky in the main Commons buildings, but they can get away with it in offices away from the Chamber in the Norman Shaw buildings or Portcullis House.”

A senior Tory MP said there was “nothing against the rules” about drinking in offices.

He said: “The Speaker has only banned the sale, not the consumption of alcohol.

“It will be difficult for the authorities to crack down on this behaviour as it is fairly prevalent and has always been accepted. Only an outright ban would be likely to change behaviours.”

During this weeks’ recess break, Parliamentary officials plan to measure every MP’s office to see how many people each room can accommodate safely.

It comes after security pass checks revealed that some MPs had been breaking rules that allow for only two members of staff in their often small Westminster offices.

Three-tier Covid lockdown map
Three-tier Covid lockdown map

However, their pop-up pubs are unlikely to be discovered as it is understood that officials will be studying the floorplans to assess office capacity.

Earlier this month Sir Lindsay imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol in close to 30 bars and restaurants on the Parliamentary estate, including the famous Strangers' Bar.

The Speaker made the decision after Boris Johnson revealed the details of his three tier local lockdown policy in response to rising coronavirus infections.

There was widespread backlash a month earlier when it emerged that bars on the Parliamentary estate were exempt from the 10pm curfew because they fell under the description of a “workplace canteen”.

While MPs can no longer purchase alcohol, Commons Administration Committee chairman Charles Walker admitted that there was nothing he could do to stop them having a drink in their own offices.

He said: "The sale of alcohol in Commons bars and restaurants is prohibited. However, what colleagues and staff put in their fridges is, thankfully, a matter for them.”