UK speaker: Lawmakers seek help over drink issues

An increasing number of U.K. lawmakers are seeking help for alcohol-related problems, the parliamentary speaker said Sunday, saying drinking problems among legislators mirrored those of British society at large.

Heavy subsidies on alcohol at Parliament's nearly 20 bars and restaurants had been removed following a drunken brawl in February, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

In that incident, Labour lawmaker Eric Joyce head-butted Stuart Andrew, from the rival Conservative Party, and also assaulted two local Conservative officials and a Labour colleague at Parliament's Stranger's bar after complaining that there were "too many" Conservatives in the boozer.

Joyce resigned from the Labour Party the following month, saying that he "had a number of personal issues to address."

Bercow suggested in an interview broadcast Sunday that Joyce wasn't alone.

"There is some evidence now that more members and staff who have got drink-related issues are seeking help and that's a positive," the speaker told Sky News television. "I think we are a reflection of society and, just as there are people in every walk of life who have got issues to do with alcohol, and possibly other addiction issues, there can be problems in this place."

The brawl highlighted both British lawmakers' culture of drinking and the heavily discounted booze on sale in Parliament.

Britain as a whole has been struggling to find ways of controlling its binge-drinking culture, which has seen a rise in rates of liver disease and alcohol-related deaths over the past two decades.