Most people w ill be aware that with the exception of Prayers at the start of each days sitting all the proceedings of the House of Commons are televised live and can be viewed on the BBC Parliament channel or on the internet via the Parliament website. Many people only come across the Parliament channel by accident and I guess few choose to watch for very long although I am aware of people who enjoy watching the live coverage! However people view the coverage one aspect always raises concern and that is the number of MP’s who are actually sitting in the House and listening to the debate. It is no surprise therefore that I am often asked about why this is.
There is no simple, single answer. The answer lies in the number of different things Members of Parliament have to do. For a start all the Members who are Government Ministers are invariably working in their respective departments. Backbench members may be sitting on a Committee (there are Standing Committees which deal with the Committee stage of legislation and Select Committees which monitor the work of Government) or dealing with Constituency matters.
Then there are the hours the House sits. The House usually sits for around 8 hours a day and even when a Member is sitting in the Chamber perhaps waiting to be called to speak not surprisingly there are times when it is necessary to leave the Chamber if only to grab a bite to eat. I should also add that there are television monitors in each MP’s office so many MP’s who are working on paperwork in their office keep on eye on the debate via the monitors.