Parliament’s bars are exempt from the government’s new coronavirus restrictions imposed last week, including the 10pm curfew, stricter rules on face coverings and test and trace data-gathering requirements.
Bars in the House of Commons are not subject to the new rules for hospitality venues as they are designated “workplace canteens”.
Under the new rules, "workplace canteens may remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food”.
As well as being free to remain open beyond 10pm, the new, stricter rules regarding wearing face coverings and customers checking in at venues will also not apply to parliamentary bars, according to a report in The Times.
A spokesperson for the House of Commons confirmed that the new restrictions on hospitality do not apply to the venues on the parliamentary estate, saying: “As catering outlets providing a workplace service for over 3,100 people working on the Estate, the current regulations on hospitality venues do not apply to Commons facilities.”
They said the Members’ Dining Room, Adjournment, Smoking Room, Terrace Pavilion, Pugin Room and Members’ Tea Room fall under this category, as they provide a food and bar service.
“We continue to follow social distancing and cleaning measures as a Covid-secure workplace in order to reduce the transmission of the disease through social distancing signage, one-way systems, socially distanced seating arrangements, contactless payments, marshalling and additional cleaning.
"Parliament has a dedicated team to support the test-and-trace teams across the UK, acting as a central point of contact in the event of any suspected or confirmed cases, where an individual has been working on the Estate,” they added.
One Conservative MP condemned the decision to make House of Commons bars exempt as “appalling”.
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, wrote on Twitter: “Parliament’s bars exempt from 10pm curfew? Appalling decision – had no idea. This sort of thing is what brings Parliament into disrepute. Who makes these decisions? The Speaker’s Commission? Will look into it.”
Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, described it as “shambolic”, saying: “It's very clear, across the UK, that this ill-thought-out 10pm curfew, has pushed everyone out of venues with socially distanced measures, into the streets, into off-licences, supermarkets, overcrowded public transport and house parties. Every operator predicted this. Shambolic.”
Additionally, Professor Graham Medley, a leader member of the Sage group, has said scientific advisers “never discussed” the 10pm pubs curfew.
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