No more alcohol in the Flemish Parliament

In many countries it is not allowed and never was. But in Belgium, politicians can get free alcoholic drinks in the Flemish Parliament's coffee room. A drink option that has an end date: Wednesday 15 February. The Extended Bureau, the body that regulates the political functioning of the parliament, decided that from this date no alcoholic beverages will be served in the coffee room of the Flemish Parliament.

The discussion about alcohol recently flared up after reports about Flemish minister Ben Weyts. According to some, he longly gazed at his glass during the budget debate in December last year. The N-VA minister himself emphatically denied it, but the green opposition party "Groen" put forward a proposal to ban alcohol from the coffee room of the parliament.

"Free alcohol is not available in any workplace and everyone takes that for granted. Parliament need not be an exception to this. It is therefore a good thing that that logic is now being continued," Green party leader Björn Rzoska told the Belga News Agency.

Alcohol beverages will still be available in the coffee room of the Belgian Federal Parliament, though. Members of the Federal Parliament pay an annual "drink subscription" of 184 euros for a wide range of Belgian beers and red wine, a fee approved last week in the Chamber's Management Committee. The drink consumption was free until 2017, but since then a contribution is charged based on estimated consumptions. But MPs have the option to unsubscribe and get "only" free water and coffee as other employees. 

Not only in Belgium

In the United Kingdom, the Chancellor is the only person who can drink alcohol in the House of Commons. However, this old tradition, also known as the "Budget Tipple", is only legal during the budget delivery speech. Besides that date, no one can drink alcohol in the House of Commons. It is said that the budget is usually a very long speech and the Chancellor may need an alcoholic drink to help him/ her to get through that event.

Previous chancellors have opted for whisky, gin and tonic, brandy and water, spritzer, rum and coke, and even sherry and beaten egg. Others have simply opted for water.

Flemish politicians will now be obliged to be in tune with the alcohol-free February running this month in Belgium. At least in their parliament coffee room. 



#FlandersNewsService | ​ Flemish Minister of Education and Animal Welfare and Sports Ben Weyts receives a glass of soft drink from Sabine Pauwels at a plenary session of the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, 18 January 2023. ©BELGA PHOTO (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)






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