At noon last Wednesday the Procedure Committee released its long awaited report on the sitting hours of the House of Commons. I stress the House of commons because although it is often reported that we were investigating Parliament sitting hours we could of course only concern ourselves with the House of Commons. The House of Lords determine their own calendar and sitting hours.
The number of days we sit is a contentious issue. The problem is that half the population think their MP is on slacking if they are seen in their Constituency asking why they are not hard at work in Parliament. On the other hand there are constituents who complain their Member of Parliament spends too much time in Parliament and ought to be available to attend their village fete.
A similar dilema faced us with the actual hours we sit on the days that the House of commons is sitting. Most people are generally agreed that on a Monday M.P.’s should start at the current time of 2.30 which gives time for Members from all parts of the United Kingdom time to get down from their constituencies.There is much more controversy over the other days of the week. I have found that broadly speaking there are two strands of opinion. One which is more usually found among M.P.’s whose constituencies are near enough to Westminster to allow them to travel home in the evening even when on a Monday and Tuesday when the finishing time is typically between 10pm and 11pm is that the House should sit normal office hours. The other school of though which is more often articulated by Members who live in London during the week but have to leave their families behind in the Constituency is that the House should sit as long as possible because otherwise Members are left kicking their heels in the evenings. If you put five M.P.’s in a room and ask them their preferred option you will probably get five different views.
The one problem which I discovered whilst sitting on the Committee was the effect on the staff of the House. The Staff who prepare for the House and all its many Committees have to start preparing all the papers several hours before the House actually sits and earlier starting times would result in very early starting times indeed for all the House staff.
The full report can be found here
What do you think?