Yet another government U-Turn as parliament drinking hours spark public backlash


UK businesses have criticised Boris Johnson’s new strict curfew for England’s pubs and bars during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. They’ve raised concerns that it may do more harm than good by forcing crowds into the streets at the same time.

But the law caused even more protests when it emerged that MPs, lords and parliamentary staff would be able to continue drinking past the deadline in the Palace of Westminster. This was because its establishments are classed as workplace canteens.

As a result, parliament has now said it won’t serve alcohol after the 10pm curfew.

Yet another U-turn

Johnson announced new regulations last week. They 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 parliament bars open came in for cross-party criticism, parliament announced a U-turn with immediate effect. A spokesperson said:

Alcohol will not be sold after 10pm anywhere on the parliamentary estate.

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

One rule for the public…

Health minister Helen Whately had said she had been unaware that the curfew did not apply to parliament and seemed unimpressed. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We in parliament shouldn’t be sitting round late at night drinking. We have got a job to do when we are there.

The SNP’s Ronnie Cowan tweeted:

One rule for the public and another for Westminster (sounds familiar).

…but that rule isn’t great either

The curfew, which came into force on Thursday, has proved controversial, with businesses warning their profitability will be jeopardised, while police struggle 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. Meanwhile, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser Sacha Lord tweeted: 

Meanwhile the government’s reasons for a 10pm cut off remain obscure, while the ‘rule of six’, which applies differently in different countries in the UK, continue to cause widespread confusion.

Story and image via PA News Agency.


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