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Parliament U-turns on ‘hypocritical’ exemption from Covid curfew for Westminster bars

PARLIAMENT was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn today, driven by public anger over its bars and restaurants being exempt from the 10pm curfew.

MPs, lords and parliamentary staff would have been allowed to continue drinking past 10pm in the Palace of Westminster because its watering holes had been classed as “workplace canteens” under PM Boris Johnson’s coronavirus rules.

Hospitality businesses across England have had to close at 10pm under regulations imposed from Thursday in a supposed bid to slow the spread of the virus.

After the outcry from the public and MPs from all parties, Parliament announced its U-turn with immediate effect. Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is understood to have made the decision not to serve alcohol in any Commons bars beyond 10pm last week, but the rule was made clear yesterday — the first Monday in which proceedings were likely to run past that hour.

Catering facilities will, however, continue to serve food when the House is sitting after 10pm.

One venue in the House of Lords was planning to use the exemption to serve alcohol alongside food after 10pm, but this was now being ruled out.

Before the U-turn, MPs complained that they were not being held to the same laws as the public.

The SNP’s Ronnie Cowan tweeted: “One rule for the public and another for Westminster (sounds familiar).”

Labour’s Dawn Butler had described the exemption as outrageous, adding: “It’s one rule for MPs, one rule for everyone else.”

And Labour’s Rupa Huq had said: “Hypocritical Parliament follows no rules that everyone else must. 

“Nightly, hundreds of MPs queue up for over 1km with no social distancing to vote, ignoring the ‘rule of six,’ and now it’s watering holes exempt from 10pm curfew that’s killing hospitality sector.”

Food-and-drink businesses have warned that their income will be jeopardised by the 10pm curfew and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham called for an urgent review today, warning the curfew may be doing “more harm than good”.

He said that people have been piling onto public transport, continuing their socialising at home and queueing outside supermarkets that were “packed out to the rafters” to buy more alcohol once bars and pubs had closed.

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