The Speaker has been talking to Total Politics about the bars in Parliament:
Are bars in Parliament a good thing, and could it operate without them?
Many members feel it’s appropriate for Parliament to have facilities in which they can entertain their constituents, and constituents very much enjoy coming here. Members lead very busy, stressful lives, and are required to be in the House long after `normal’ working hours. If they wish to unwind with a sociable beer or glass or wine with colleagues, then I see nothing wrong with that. I’m sure Parliament could survive without bars, but it would be a shame if constituents and other visitors were to lose the opportunity to be entertained here.
What do you have to say about the reporting of Parliament’s bar business, specifically talk of reduced-price alcohol or the level of ‘rowdiness’?
There are a number of myths that continue to be perpetuated, one being that the bars here serve very cheap alcohol. Since 2010, the price of alcohol served in the House has increased significantly and the prices in our bars are now comparable with high street pubs, and kept under constant review. I also don’t recognise the wilder reporting concerning `rowdiness’ on the estate. Once myths get established it’s very difficult to counter them, but in spite of that, the Commission will continue to do what it thinks is right to encourage sensible alcohol use on the estate.
Note that he does not mention the £5m subsidy, or try to pretend it does not exist – as he did on Sky News a few months ago. Those significant increases in price that he mentions were in fact a mere 5% bump. That still makes Strangers’ cheaper than any other pub in Westminster that is outside of the estate. As for entertaining constituents and other visitors, perhaps Bercow could explain why in the areas where this can happen, such as the Strangers’ Dining Room, it’s twice as expensive as the Members’ dining room. Only George Galloway is calling for the bars to be closed, but why should we have to pay for them?