Time (honourable) gentlemen please

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THE SHUTTERS have come down on bars across the House of Commons as elected Members of Parliament are forced to undergo a ban on serving alcohol for the ‘foreseeable future’.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle called time for the Right Honourable Gentlemen and Ladies as Covid-19 restrictions get tougher across the UK – even though the ‘workplace canteens’ are legally exempt from England’s 22.00 coronavirus closing time.

Sir Lindsay acted to bring the house ‘in line’ with the toughest measures in areas of England and restrictions introduced across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; saying MPs represented different constituencies, including those where pubs had been forced to close.

Closing time had earlier been set at 22.00 in the Commons’ bars but an official inquiry found that MPs were breaking the Covid curfew and drinking late into the night in the Smoking Room bar.

The Mail on Sunday accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of returning to the bar after a key vote to joke with colleagues and enjoy a glass of wine – a House of Commons own label cabernet sauvignon according to a Tory whistle blower.

According to the newspaper, Mr Hancock’s office repeatedly denied he was in the bar after closing time on the night in question.

The MP who led the probe into drinking after hours, said it would have been wrong and ‘invidious’ to ask bar staff who was present. Obviously, they were from different households and possibly in groups larger than six. Early doors at the bar has also led to short tempers in the House – one leading member of the Labour Party was forced to apologise after calling an opponent ‘scum’…hardly ladylike behaviour.

Spare a thought then for the 12 members of a football team who claimed to be from the same household when they went into a South Tyneside pub and ‘concerned’ and ‘unconvinced’ staff called the boys in blue – who arrived to wield a red card.

The area is in Tier 2, where meeting people from other households indoors is not allowed.

The team were each handed a £200 fine (£100 if paid within 14 days) for a ‘flagrant’ breach of the rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Leaves a bitter taste in not so ‘ale’ and hearty Britain.

Read more in this week’s print edition or go to e-paper

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