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.
But after the development was immediately condemned by some MPs, the Commons was forced clarify that alcohol would not be served after 10pm.
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. We should get our own house in order before demanding others follow regulations, people are fed up with this nonsense.”
Wes Streeting, the shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, wrote: “This is ridiculous and makes parliament look ridiculous. This has got to change immediately. We can’t have one rule for parliament and one rule for everyone else.”
The Labour MP Sarah Owen called the apparent move “absolutely ridiculous”, tweeting: “I know the Govt have got used to setting one rule for some and another for everyone else but this is another level.”
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.”
Commons catering facilities will remain open later to serve food when the Commons is sitting, with all measures kept under review.
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. Masks were also made mandatory for retail and hospitality staff.
Parliament’s website boasts that Strangers’ is “a magnificently decorated event venue”, saying: “Combined with the intricate wood carvings, the elaborate red flock wallpaper – designed and favoured by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52) – provides an elegant setting for your event.”
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.”