MP Eric Joyce banned from Commons drinking

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image captionEric Joyce has been an MP since 2000

MP Eric Joyce has been banned from buying alcohol in the Houses of Parliament following his arrest.

Mr Joyce has been bailed after spending Thursday night in custody at a London police station after an alleged drunken brawl at a House of Commons bar.

The Commons authorities said Mr Joyce would be "prohibited from purchasing and being served alcoholic beverages" in Parliament with immediate effect.

The ban will be indefinite pending the police investigations, they said.

The Falkirk MP was arrested on suspicion of assault on Thursday night, and re-arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm while in custody at Belgravia police station, central London.

Mr Joyce, 52, was released shortly after 1900 GMT on Friday and left in a waiting taxi.

Before he got into the vehicle, the MP told journalists he had not been charged, adding that he had no further comment to make.

The independent MP had been at a karaoke night at the Sports and Social Club.

He was bailed on Friday to return to a central London police station on a date in late March.

The Parliamentary estate has eight bars and 19 other catering venues, most of which sell alcohol. It is also possible to buy specially-branded alcohol, such as the Speaker's malt whisky, from two gift shops.

Mr Joyce was convicted of assault in a parliamentary bar last year, and later resigned from the Labour Party.

'Policeman's hat'

The Sports and Social Club was said to be packed at the time of the incident.

Tony Grew, from the PoliticsHome website, witnessed the alleged altercation, telling ITV News he saw the MP on the ground "wrestling with two police officers".

"There were around at least 40 or 50 parliamentary staff, shocked, watching this melee as it occurred.

"Bar staff were trying to push people back, telling them to stand back and let the police do their work," added Mr Grew.

"I can vividly remember a policeman's hat rolling on the ground towards me as I was watching this scene unfold."

A House of Commons spokesman said: "Alcohol-related incidents on the estate are rare, and the serious incident last night was counter to the policies in place.

"Given the Member for Falkirk has previously been found guilty of an alcohol-related incident on the Parliamentary estate, the Speakers and House Authorities have agreed that with immediate effect the Member for Falkirk will be prohibited from purchasing and being served alcoholic beverages from all Parliamentary facilities.

"This ban will be indefinite subject to the outcome of police investigations."

Measures have already been taken to try and encourage more responsible drinking in Parliament, with staff told to cut down on topping up MPs' glasses at receptions.

The authorities also say there have been "significant price increases" in alcohol sold in Parliamentary bars, which are "now comparable to high street pubs".

Controversial subsidies for food and drink on the estate amount to over £5m a year.

MPs have expressed concern for Mr Joyce's welfare on Twitter.

'Sad news'

Conservative Penny Mordaunt said: "MPs done great stuff for mental health but must ensure that colleagues who need help get it, esp if they are now sans party."

media captionDennis Canavan: "It is time to go for the sake of his constituents and for his own sake, he obviously has a problem and he needs help for that problem."

Former GP Sarah Wollaston, who has led Tory calls for a minimum alcohol unit price, said: "Eric Joyce is just one of hundreds of thousands who have lost control of their drinking. Westminster is blind to drinking problems."

But Dennis Canavan, who was an MP and MSP for Falkirk, said that it was time for Mr Joyce to stand down.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Well, this is sad news and this is sad for Eric Joyce, but it is even sadder for the people of Falkirk who for over a year now have no effective representation in Parliament and they definitely don't deserve this.

"It is time to go for the sake of his constituents and for his own sake, he obviously has a problem and he needs help for that problem."

'Personal shame'

Asked whether the prime minister felt Mr Joyce could continue as an MP, David Cameron's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "That is a matter for Mr Joyce."

Following the fracas in February last year, Mr Joyce, a former soldier, announced he would not seek re-election in 2015.

After admitting four counts of assault, he was given a 12-month community order in March that included a Friday-to-Sunday curfew and a three-month pub ban. He was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,400 in compensation to his victims.

During the brawl in the Strangers' Bar, Mr Joyce headbutted Tory MP Stuart Andrew and attacked three other politicians.

While offering an apology in the Commons over the incident, he said: "Clearly I have a number of personal issues to address, and you can be assured that this will take place."

Speaking outside court, after pleading guilty to assault in March last year, Mr Joyce said the fight was a "matter of considerable personal shame" and that the punishment was fair.

"Drink was an aggravating factor, there's no question about that," he said.

"It's something I have to deal with personally. Not everyone who drinks gets involved in fights and certainly when they are my age."

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