Daily Archives: 12/06/2014

UK politicians’ drinking

This story was covered in the Huffington Post in the last two weeks.

The House of Commons spent more than £1.4 million on alcohol to sell in Palace of Westminster bars in 2012 and 2013, according to reports.

As the government continues to ponder the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol for the general public, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that parliamentary authorities bought nearly 50,000 bottles of House of Commons sauvignon, more than 26,000 of house merlot and more than 33,000 pints of guest ale.

Only 498 bottles of alcohol-free lager were bought.

Additionally, as the rest of the nation suffers under the burden of austerity, more than 8,500 bottles of champagne were purchased alongside over 2,100 bottles of Speaker John Bercow’s whiskey.

Most of the alcohol will have been drunk by the 650 MPs, 760 peers, and thousands of staff and parliamentary workers in the Palace of Westminster.

Spending in Commons bars has gradually increased over the past three years, from just over £222,000 in April 2011 to more than £249,000 in the year to April last year – but this may reflect rising prices.

However further on in the article it says this:

According to the Times newspaper, Commons authorities say bar prices are comparable with a major pub chain, but the House subsidises its catering and bar operations by about £5 million a year.  They have reportedly refused to reveal the cost of individual items on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

So I would argue that this probably doesn’t reflect rising prices as they acknowledge that bar operations are subsidised and the refusal to reveal costs suggests prices are being supported not just by the House but the drinks industry also.  Why else wouldn’t you say?

The article continues:

The most recent figures may lead to further questions over Parliament’s supposed drinking culture, which was laid bare in the trial of Tory MP Nigel Evans, who was cleared of sex offences.  Shocking revelations at the end of the trial revealed that a third of young aides claimed to have been victims of drunken MPs.  The exploitation of vulnerable young parliamentary researchers by predatory MPs is being “brushed under the carpet” by the main political parties, one of Evans’ alleged victims claimed.  He accused the parliamentary authorities of ignoring a problem that was widespread at Westminster.

Remember that saying I mentioned: You only have a drink problem if you drink more than your GP or your MP.  Well is it any wonder that alcohol is only up for the most superficial of political debate and then agreements made are kicked into the long grass?  It would seem that it isn’t just the exploitation of vulnerable young parliamentary researchers that is being “brushed under the carpet” …….

Edited to add: 17th March 2016

Parliament splurges £1.2m on alcohol in two years

Bars in the House of Commons saw alcohol sales of £1.2m over the past two years, a Freedom of Information request revealed.