Closure of Westminster bars unnecessary as MP scandals ‘bigger than hospitality deals’
Bar closures in Parliament are not necessary to prevent MP scandals, senior politicians agree, as it has been argued that the cause is ‘more important than hospitality arrangements’.
Frontbenchers from both major parties have pointed out that few of the recent misconduct controversies have actually happened in Westminster hostelries.
Chris PincherMP for Tamworth in Staffordshire, resign as Deputy Chief Conservative Whip – party disciplinary official – after he was accused of groping two drunk men at the members-only Carlton Club.
Latest political news: Minister insists ‘it isn’t’ there is a problem with male Tory MPs
Boris Johnson complied with the demands of remove the whisk Mr Pincher, meaning he will now sit in the Commons as an Independent, after a formal inquiry is launched.
There are several bars on the Parliamentary grounds, including the Woolsack and the Strangers’ Bar.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘I think when it comes to the bars of Parliament we have a particular kind of working hours and a lot of these situations you refer to did not occur in the bars.
“It’s a matter, I suppose, to be discussed in Parliament, but we have already reduced the number of drink and food outlets in Parliament.
“What matters in terms of culture is actually being a government and a parliament that gets along and responds to the priorities of the people and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds also told Ridge he did not believe parliamentary bars were the problem.
He said: “I don’t think Parliament has the kind of modern working culture it should have, I think there’s still work to be done on that.
“But I would just say that if you look at those particular incidents, actually few of them are in Parliament itself, so for me it comes down to something bigger than the hospitality arrangements.
“It’s about power, it’s about accountability, it’s about the standards set by the leader of each political party, and I can’t see Boris Johnson as the kind of person to be improved in a way. or another Conservative Party culture.”
Stressing that there is ‘only one major bar for MPs, there is one for staff as well,’ Mr Reynolds added: ‘I don’t think that’s the problem.
“You can close every bar in Westminster, but if you have a Tory party that doesn’t take these issues seriously, it gives people a free get out of jail card.
Asked whether a drinking culture has been encouraged because of the bars, the Labor MP said: “I wouldn’t say it’s encouraged.
“Most people are doing an incredibly professional job and there is a bar for staff members and to be honest it’s very good.
“What I’m trying to tell you is that’s not the heart of the matter, in particular the case Chris Pincher was at the Conservative Party members’ private club, the Carlton Club.
“We have to get to the core of this, which is all the behavior that is defined from the top.”