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Alcohol ‘a frequent factor’ in complaints at Westminster, finds watchdog

An independent watchdog set up to investigate complaints about MPs’ behaviour at Westminster said that many incidents were down to the “booze culture” of Parliament bars.

An investigation report published this week by The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) has found that drinking in Parliament’s bars has often led to “intimidating behaviour”.

“Alcohol was a frequent factor in incidents in bars on the parliamentary estate,” said the ICGS.

Such “intimidating behaviour” was outlined to include “shouting and swearing”, according to the watchdog. The ICGS report further reveals that drinking in Westminster’s bars has led to “blurred boundaries” between personal and professional life, which the report said was at the heart of multiple complaints.

“A lack of professional boundaries resulted in incorrect assumptions being formed about acceptable behaviours,” the report said.

One unnamed former parliamentary staffer told the BBC that while Westminster’s many bars made it “a fun place to work”, they also played a part in a “toxic culture” driven by alcohol.

According to a Freedom of Information request, Westminster bars sold 46,562 beers last year.

Around 16,019 bottles of white wine were consumed in the same Parliament bars, and 8,500 bottles of red wine.

The report’s findings appear to show that the “blurred boundaries” that formed the basis for most complaints worked both ways, citing examples where “a power gap was amplified where staff were in their first job or in the very early stages of their career” but also incidents where “managers were bullied by the staff they managed.”

Daniel Greenberg, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said in July there had been “behaviour problems” linked to drinking in Westminster, explaining that “it is something that requires to be kept under review”. However, he was quick to caveat that by adding that “individual MPs will obviously decide what works for them”.



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