Last Call in the House of Commons?

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I mentioned back in 2008 that the drunken-legislator problem in Australia had gotten to the point that some were calling for members of Parliament to be subjected to periodic breath tests. At least two MPs had been forced to resign due to drunken antics, and this generated one of my favorite legislative quotes: "I subsequently put it to former minister Brown late last night," said a party leader, "that there are 'too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore.'"

Now there are apparently concerns that their British cousins (parents? grandparents? former jailers?) also have a legislative drinking problem, although at least based on this report it looks like they tend to keep their pants on.

The Associated Press reported in March that Britain's House of Commons is also considering new rules to try to get its members' drinking under control. It sounds like this is not a new problem, but as in Australia the calls for reform have reportedly followed some embarrassing incidents. One in particular:

The crackdown could come after a review that was reportedly ordered by the speaker of the House of Commons shortly after a lawmaker, Eric Joyce, admitted he was "hammered" on red wine when he headbutted two Conservative rivals, punched another and assaulted a member of his own Labour Party in a frenzied brawl at Strangers' bar in Parliament.

According to the — wait a minute, a bar in Parliament? Well, no, actually. Turns out there are four bars in Parliament. This was news to me, but according to Parliament's website, the House of Commons "operates four venues that are entirely or substantially bar services: the Strangers' Bar, the Members' Smoking Room, the Pugin Room and Moncrieff's." There are also a number of restaurants at which alcohol is served, and the occasional catered event, all of which added up to a total of £1,336,000 (US $2,232,000) in parliamentary alcohol sales during 2010-11. Just how drunk that makes your average MP is hard to say — those figures may understate the amount consumed, since alcohol in the House of Commons "is typically priced below [that in] normal bars and pubs, thanks to a broad subsidy"; on the other hand, there are 650 MPs in total, so that brings the average down.

The problem, of course, is that there are some people who tend to bring it up, and Mr. Joyce was one of those. He admitted being "hammered" when he got into the brawl in February, which he apparently started "after shouting that the Strangers' Bar 'was full of f****** Tories!" (Although it did end up being a bipartisan brawl, which I suppose is slightly better than the other kind.) Joyce avoided jail time for the incident, but was fined and has since resigned from his position.

Speaking of bipartisanship, the AP mentioned at least one alcoholic incident involving a Conservative lawmaker, the somewhat ironically named Mark Reckless, who "admitted to the BBC he was too drunk to vote on the 2010 budget and 'doesn't remember' falling over."

So far as I can tell, there is not a single bar in the U.S. Capitol Building (although there are many nearby). So they may need a different excuse for the budgets that come out of that place.