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Review targets alcohol in Britain's House

LONDON -- British lawmakers have been known to get rowdy during debates. They also have been known to fall down drunk during a vote, head-butt colleagues in a drunken brawl, and run up $80,000 tabs for food and drink.

But in what could signal a last call for drunken debauchery on the Parliamentary Estate, Britain's House of Commons is mulling new rules on lawmakers' libations amid a broader effort by the government to curb drinking.

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 head-butted two Conservative rivals, punched another and assaulted a member of his own Labour Party in a frenzied brawl at Strangers' bar in Parliament.

As Britain explores ways of tackling excessive drinking by its citizens -- including a minimum price on alcohol -- public drunkenness by public servants boozing in the nearly 20 bars and restaurants in Parliament has come to the fore.

There was Conservative lawmaker Mark Reckless, who admitted to the BBC he was too drunk to vote on the 2010 budget and "doesn't remember" falling over.

Then came Joyce's February assaults, generating front-page headlines about overindulgence at the seat of government.

That seems to have prompted Speaker of the House John Bercow to seek a review of alcohol's role on the Parliamentary Estate.

Alcohol sold there -- from draft beers to Autumnal wine selections, Jameson Irish whiskey and Campari aperitifs -- is typically priced below normal bars and pubs, thanks to a broad subsidy that covers all food and refreshment costs in the House of Commons.

When it is finished in April, the House of Commons Commission's review could enforce changes in opening and closing hours or raise prices.

But many say overdoing it with pints in Parliament is less common than in the old days and that the Commons is now more family friendly (one pub was converted to a nursery) and lifestyles have changed.

Several watering holes have closed over the past few years, and lawmakers seem more concerned with politicking or pumping iron in the gym than pub-hopping or indulging in boozy lunches.

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