Renaming Parliament's Sports and Social bar 'risks associating the Lords with sex assault claims', senior Commons official warns

There are several bars, restaurants and cafes in the Palace of Westminster.
There are several bars, restaurants and cafes in the Palace of Westminster.
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The renaming of a notorious Parliament bar after the Lord Speaker’s seat could damage the reputation of the House of Lords by potentially associating it with sex assault claims, a senior Commons official warned in an email obtained by The Yorkshire Post.

Commons Clerk David Natzler, said the decision to rename the Sports and Social Bar ‘the Woolsack’ risked negative headlines due to its bad reputation.

Separate emails, released under freedom of information laws, also show officials proposing other names, including ‘Ping-Pong’, ‘The Whip’, and ‘The Trumpington Arms’, and advising against a naming competition that may be “FOI-able” and risks “being mocked in the Press”.

In July correspondence between officials, Mr Natzler is asked by the most senior Lords official, Clerk of the Parliaments Ed Ollard, if he has any problems with ‘the Woolsack’ name.

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Mr Natzler replied: “Gosh. Not I think in principle from a Commons perspective. But it ties the reputation of the bar [not a thing I would want to be tied to] to the one thing most people associate with the dignity and position of the Lord Speaker and of your House. I would not call one here the Speakers Chair [actually....].

“But if Benet etc are happy with the risk I look forward to headlines ‘Woolsack closed after sexual assault claims’. Don’t you have a heraldic animal or something...”

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The bar was renamed to make clear it is separate from Parliament’s Sports and Social Club.

It was forced to close temporarily last year following a reported fight between Commons staff.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom in October said she was looking at “specific issues” around the bar after concerns were raised during a debate on sexual harassment.