Annie's Bar, scene of political plots, to close

The bar was a favourite haunt of Kenneth Clarke, the cigar-smoking, beer-loving Tory MP, when he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in John Major's government. Barbara Windsor, the former Carry On and EastEnders star, was among the VIP visitors. Entrance to the bar was limited to journalists and MPs, who joked that it was the only place in the Palace of Westminster where they could escape their constituents, or their wives.

Government whips also used to make a point of dropping into the bar to find out what was being plotted in the dark recesses of the Commons by their own MPs.

The drinking den was woven into fictional works about the Palace of Westminster, and was a favourite meeting place for MPs and journalists in television political dramas such as House of Cards.

But MPs on the Commons Administration Committee found that it was under-used, takings had halved over the past 10 years to £9,000 a year and it was relying on a £20,000-a-year subsidy from the taxpayer. They have recommended it should be closed, and it is likely that the decision will be approved by most MPs.

"It now costs two and a half times as much to run as it takes in sales," said the committee. "It is clear that the time has come for the bar to be shut and the space used for another more useful purpose. As a meeting place for MPs and Press Lobby [journalists] it has become largely obsolete."

Annie's Bar was established in a corner of the members' lobby in the early part of the last century, and would have served statesmen such as Winston Churchill with a whisky stiffener before major debates. However, the House authorities took a dim view of drink being dispensed so close to the chamber, and moved the bar to a basement room alongside the famous terrace overlooking the Thames in the mid-1960s.

The bar was reopened in 1967 by the late Robert Maxwell, who was chairman of the Commons Catering Committee, before becoming the owner of the Daily Mirror. Betty Boothroyd, the former speaker of the Commons, was also at the opening and once demonstrated her skills as a high-kicking former Tiller Girl there.

However, it was moved in 1995 to a more obscure corner of the Commons and its custom collapsed. There was an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes by installing a pool table, which attracted newer MPs, including Shahid Malik, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, who won the MPs' pool tournament, although he is tee-total. In recent months, it has become popular with smokers driven out of the Strangers' Bar, since it became a smoking-free zone but that is not enough to keep it open.

Suggestions for using the space include a take-away coffee bar, a dry-cleaning service, or members' dressing rooms, but when it closes, some of the older MPs believe the Commons will never be quite the same again.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders