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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
'Powerless MPs turning to drink'
Houses of Parliament
Taylor: As the Commons chamber empties, the bars fill
Members of Parliament are turning to drink to avoid boring debates in the House of Commons, a teetotal MP is claiming.

"The Commons chamber remains empty most of the time, while the multitude of drinking dens are crammed full," said Tory Sir Teddy Taylor.


With increasing regularity MPs are dropping into the many bars at Westminster

Sir Teddy Taylor
"It is very sad and the start of a great tragedy. This is a grim sign of what is rather a dramatic change in the Westminster lifestyle."

The MP for Rochford and Southend East claims that alcohol consumption in the Houses of Parliament is rising by "leaps and bounds".

The parliamentary bars are heavily subsidised making a pint of your favourite tipple much cheaper than a pint in pubs outside the "Westminster village".

In one Commons bar, a shot of malt whisky can be purchased for between 1.10 and 1.90, a pint of lager 1.60-1.80, a pint of bitter for 1.50, Guinness 1.90, a shot of gin 1.10, red and white wine, starting at 1.55.

But a Coca Cola costs 65p - and a bottle of water 1.

Sir Teddy's comments follow research by the trade paper, the Caterer and Hotel Keeper, which found that beer orders to suppliers to the Palace of Westminster have doubled since last October.

Cheers

"The problem is that MPs are not finding the debating chamber at all interesting but they have to stay in the building to take part in votes," he said.

"So, in increasing numbers and with increasing regularity, MPs are dropping into the many bars at Westminster.

A pint of beer
Beer orders to suppliers to the Palace of Westminster have doubled
"I have noticed that there are now more people than before who find difficulty in walking along the corridors in a straight line.

"There is no doubt that beer-drinking in the Commons has gone up by leaps and bounds.

"The number of teetotallers in the Commons seems to have fallen to me and two ladies, whom I cannot name and perhaps one or two others."

'Tragedy'

Commons Speaker Michael Martin is also a non-drinker.

Sir Teddy believes the increased drinking can be attributed to the unachievable expectations that young MPs bring with them when they arrive at the Commons.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think undoubtedly, people coming in here think they are going to be running Britain, as I certainly thought when I came here at first.

"You find infact that most of the power has gone away."

He said: "The tragedy is that young people get elected to the Commons believing they can play a part in putting things right.

"And when they find they can't - because so many of the decisions are taken outside Westminster now - they resort to the drinking dens."

He added: "Drink is a big problem. We talk about drugs all the time. People should realise that alcohol is a very big problem today."

Sir Teddy Taylor
Sir Teddy has said he would like the bars to be turned into offices for MPs
But Labour's Dennis Turner, chairman of the House of Commons Catering, said: "I do try a pint myself, but I have not increased my intake and I don't know of any MPs who have doubled their intake."

It is not the first time Sir Teddy has complained about the amount of alcohol consumed by his colleagues.

Two years ago, he supported the campaign group New Life New Beginning which called for the Palace of Westminster to be declared an alcohol free zone.

At that time Sir Teddy said he would like to see Parliament's drinking dens to be turned into offices for MPs.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sir Teddy Taylor
"We have the facilities for drinking which are unbelievable in the Hosue of Commons"
See also:

14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
28 Nov 01 | Scotland
02 Mar 00 | UK Politics
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