Archive for April 2014

MPs drink ‘to point of oblivion’, official warns

A parliamentary culture of heavy drinking can see MPs “drinking to the point of oblivion” the person responsible for security and keeping order within the Commons has admitted as he faced calls to scrap subsidised drink in parliamentary bars.

The Serjeant at Arms told an MPs committee the Government should do more to rein in a boozing culture within Parliament.

He also faced calls to end cut price alcohol in parliamentary after one MP complained she had once been charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic while in the Strangers’ Bar.

Mr Ward told the Administration Committee he was not a “killjoy” and recognised people with stressful jobs needed to let their hair down.

However he said: “I am not convinced that we couldn’t do more about the culture of drinking in Parliament,”

“I’m not some killjoy. But sometimes there has been an attitude in the past that it was acceptable, as part of that de-stressing process, to all go out and consume vast amounts of alcohol as part of that camaraderie and that letting down of the hair.

“There is nothing wrong with some of that, but the levels of drinking to the point of oblivion and all the rest of it is a culture which I don’t welcome in any workforce.

“The incidence of binge drinking, the quantities of alcohol, across society are beginning to diminish. I would hope that would be the same in Parliament.”

His concerns had been heightened by the actions of the MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce.

He told MPs “There were many things in that incident that concerned me. One of them, quite clearly, the culture of heavy drinking.”

Madeleine Moon MP said ending the “high level of subsidy” enjoyed at parliamentary bars would help to curb drinking.

She said she got the “fright of my life” when she was charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic when setting foot in the Strangers’ Bar two years ago.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) has been tasked by the Serjeant at Arms with finding ways to cut problem drinking in parliament – and its report is due later this year.

A parliamentary spokesman said: “Much like wider society, MPs accept that the moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of life.

“However, we always encourage sensible drinking and have a number of programmes designed to raise awareness and prevent alcohol misuse.”

Advice on the dangers of excessive drinking forms part of wider initiatives to encourage a healthy lifestyle among MPs, officials indicated.

Cheap drink and/or food is available to MPs and staffers in all parliamentary bars and restaurants and is subsidised.

NB: Some of the details of this story may have been changed.

Information censorship

According to leaked information about the forthcoming Queen’s Speech, the government wishes to close a ‘loophole’ in the law which allows paedophiles legally to download manuals on how to groom children by treating those who download such material in the same way as those who download material which might be used to build bombs are.

This is not the criminalisation of actions which cause non-consensual harm but the criminalisation of viewing information which the government objects to.

Information is neutral. It can be also be distasteful but knowledge of bomb-making (i.e. chemical reactions) does not make one a terrorist. Neither does knowing how those who do wish to abuse children might operate make one an abuser.

Deciding what people can (or can’t read) is censorship.

Yesterday the excuse was terrorism. Today it is paedophiles. What will it be tomorrow?