In Depth

MPs in firing line over ‘stag do’-style antics on Armistice Day flight

Labour’s Charlotte Nichols blames medication after allegedly being removed from Gibraltar airport in wheelchair

Three MPs are facing a dressing down from the defence secretary after being accused of being drunk and “lairy” on a flight to visit troops in Gibraltar for Armistice Day commemorations. 

According to a Ministry of Defence report seen by The Times, the SNP’s David Linden and Drew Hendry began boozing in a BA departure lounge at Heathrow and continued drinking after boarding their plane. A Labour MP, named by The Telegraph as Charlotte Nichols, was orginally accused of similar behaviour, but is now understood to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

SNP MPs Linden and Hendry were also drunk and “lairy”, according to witnesses. They reportedly got “difficult” with customs and health officials at the Gibraltar airport when asked for their Covid travel documents. A source told The Telegraph that military staff had to intervene to “try and take control of the situation, rather than being the amenable host”.

Chair of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, Conservative MP James Gray, said he would be “having a word” with the under-fire MPs, but added that the three-day trip had not officially begun until Wednesday, so the trio “were simply civilians on the way to a visit” when the row kicked off.  

He told The Times that “had they got drunk in an officers’ mess, that would be my responsibility and I would, without question, dismiss the Labour MP from the course”.

The paper reported that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace would be writing to Labour and the SNP to express his “disappointment” in the MPs.

“This type of behaviour shows a lack of respect for the enduring work of our Armed Forces. The Armed Forces scheme is an opportunity for both parliamentarians and the military to understand each other,” said Wallace.

“This behaviour puts military personnel in a difficult position and risks undermining respect for Parliament.”

A Labour insider said “they accepted Ms Nichols had had a reaction to medication while on the flight”, according to the London Evening Standard. Nichols is reported to have returned home from the trip two days early, after speaking to her party whips. She is understood to have missed official visits on Tuesday morning, including a meeting with Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

Linden and Hendry, who have attended all of the sceduled events, deny being drunk on the plane but did not deny having alcoholic drinks. 

An SNP spokesperson said that reports about their behaviour were “inaccurate”. The duo “were honoured to be invited to this important event and attended all engagements, including the welcome meeting and dinner shortly after landing”, said the spokesperson.

“Instead of trying to divert attention from the Tory corruption scandal engulfing Westminster, Ben Wallace should be apologising for his role in it, including voting to get Owen Paterson off the hook.”

Update, 2 February 2022: This article has been edited to reflect a correction in one of the reports on which it was based.

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