Leading article: Fewer drinks on the House, please

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It's reassuring to learn from Chris Bryant's description in today's Independent that MPs have generally moderated their on-site drinking, thanks in part to the televising of Parliament and the expenses scandal.

The days of boozy lunches are gone, and the bars – with occasional lapses, as we discovered this week – are genteel salons of cross-party fraternisation. Even if MPs have changed their habits to this extent, though, the question remains: should Parliament really accommodate bars and restaurants – at least as many as it does – with food and drink subsidised by the taxpayer?

By all means, enjoy the terraces for leisure and entertaining constituents. But when MPs and peers are in the precincts of Parliament, they are at work. This must be one of the last workplaces in the country where alcohol is still served, discounted at that. Long hours and the diktat of the division bell are arguments for providing good in-house catering. But the range of cheap eating and drinking keeps MPs within their four walls and stunts the growth of services in the vicinity. Less choice and less subsidy in Parliament would encourage MPs to get out more and pay what the real world pays – which would be good for them, and good for us.

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