Drunkenness in Westminster condemned after 5 security incidents caused by 'intoxication' in one month

Victoria Atkins has reminded MPs that Westminster is meant to be a 'place of work'

Published

A minister has condemned drunkenness in Westminster after it was reported that nine alcohol-fuelled security incidents had been caused by parliamentary staff in a single month.

Five of the breaches involving “intoxicated persons” in March were referred to the serjeant-at-arms, according to a freedom of information request submitted by Times Radio.

Asked about the incidents, some of which resulted in Commons passes being suspended, justice minister Victoria Atkins told the programme on Thursday: “I do, yet again, find myself saying ‘this is a place of work’.

“This is not how people should be conducting themselves in the workplace.”

Victoria Atkins
Victoria Atkins

She added: “The House of Commons is not a place where we sleep for the night, it is not a place where we turn up completely drunk and out of control.

“This is a place of work.

“And it is a great privilege for any member of parliament (and staff) to work in the Palace of Westminster.”

It comes amid growing calls for a cultural change across Westminster, after it emerged last month that former Tory MP Neil Parish had watched pornography in the House of Commons.

Mr Parish resigned as a result of the backlash.

Neil Parish who has had the Conservative whip suspended while he is being investigated for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber
Neil Parish who has had the Conservative whip suspended while he is being investigated for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber

Speaking after the allegations were first made, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the behaviour pointed to a wider problem.

“This is a problem, I think, about the overall culture of the House of Commons,” he said.

“It is late sitting, long nights with bars, and that very often leads, and it has done for decades, to behavioural challenges.”

On Times Radio he said the mix of long hours, high pressure and alcohol could be “poisonous”, adding: “My advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars – finish a day’s work and go home.”

A House of Commons spokesman said: “Parliament’s Behaviour Code makes clear that all staff should be treated respectfully at all times.

“Those who choose to drink in Parliament must do so responsibly, and our venues reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone alcohol if they believe that the person is, or likely to become, intoxicated.

“The Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service is on hand to offer support to members, peers, staff of either House and the Parliamentary Digital Service, with physical, mental health or wellbeing issues.”