A Midland politician has suggested that MPs be sent home from work earlier – to stop them drinking too much in House of Commons bars.
Aidan Burley (Con, Cannock Chase) demanded an end to the “boozing, alcoholic culture of this place” following a series of incidents involving MPs and alcohol.
MP Eric Joyce was given a £3,000 fine and banned from pubs for three months after he admitted assaulting politicians in a Commons bar.
The Labour MP for Falkirk headbutted a Conservative MP in Stranger’s Bar in February, after complaining that there were “too many” Tories in it.
And last week, two Midland MPs were forced to flee the House of Commons following warnings that they might receive similar treatment.
Jesse Norman (Con, Hereford and South Herefordshire) and Nadhim Zahawi (Con, Stratford on Avon) were drinking in a Commons bar following a dramatic Commons vote when they were approached by Conservative whips and urged to leave – for their own safety.
It followed a vote on House of Lords reform, in which backbenchers including Mr Norman and Mr Zahawi defied David Cameron and voted against government policy.
The whips, who included Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin (Con, Leominster), were friendly – but they claimed another Tory had been drinking and was so angry that he “might do an Eric Joyce” and fight them.
Both MPs accepted the warning and left the Parliamentary estate.
Speaking in the Commons the day after the incident, Mr Burley said there was a problem with MPs drinking too much – and claimed that it was encouraged by late working hours, which meant MPs had to sit around waiting to take part in votes.
He told Commons Speaker John Bercow: “We have a problem, and one in which I know you, Mr Speaker, take a personal interest: the late-night, boozing, alcoholic culture of this place. That is something that is made worse by having to wait around until ten o’clock to vote.”
But he was interrupted by other MPs – and continued: “It is also at lunchtimes, they say.”
Mr Burley told the Commons: “We sit until ten o’clock at night wondering whether waiting for the vote while eating or drinking is work or not, because it is not really work as our constituents would understand it.”
And he complained that the working hours prevented “normal people” becoming politicians.
“Frankly, we can see that there is not a very good mix of society here. There are not very many normal people in this place.”
MPs have called for changes to their working hours so they start an hour earlier on a Thursday, meaning they can flee the Commons by 5.30pm, and start at 11.30am on a Tuesday, three hours earlier than now, allowing them to finish earlier at 7.30pm.