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Party Conferences

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 22 October 2015

3. If he will make it his policy that the House not adjourn for the period covered by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party autumn conferences. (901715)

We have no current plans to make changes to the conference recess. We periodically review the parliamentary calendar to ensure that it allows for Members and the House to carry out their work in the most effective way possible both in the House and in their constituencies, being mindful of other responsibilities that Members may have.

Her Majesty’s Government love it when Parliament is not sitting, because there is no one to hold them to account on the Floor of the House of Commons. Given that the number of days we have in recess is already far too large and that it is completely unnecessary to have an adjournment for the main party conference season, will the Deputy Leader of the House reconsider her remarks?

This House already meets for over 150 days a year. I recognise the length of the recess. A decision was made in the previous Parliament to remove the extended recess so that we would sit in September. I think that is the right approach. It worked well in the previous Parliament and it worked well last month, too.

These are disappointing comments from the Deputy Leader of the House. There is now a real willingness in this House to reconsider its recess plans. It is simply absurd that we abandon our business for one week to accommodate eight Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament. When we come to consider the recess period, may we also look at when the recess starts? Surely it is within the wit of this House to have a summer recess that includes all the summer holidays of every nation of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman has made this representation before. I note that the Scottish Parliament reconvened the week before we did in September and, as a consequence, did not quite cover all its school holidays. Dare I say that the result in May 2015 was not exactly predicted when the parties set up their initial conference arrangements? As Deputy Leader of the House, I always listen to representations.

My hon. Friend the deputy Leader of the House, the Leader of the House and the Conservative party chairman are talented people, and it cannot be beyond their wit to organise the Conservative party conference into a Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that the House can continue sitting. May I urge her to reconsider this suggested initiative, rather than dismiss it out of hand?

I never dismiss Members’ contributions out of hand. Like my hon. Friend, I enjoyed our party conference in Manchester this year. I am not conscious that I am the chairman of the Conservative party and therefore make our conference arrangements, but, as always, we are a listening Government, and I am sure we will take representations appropriately.

I do not entirely agree with the suggestion from the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) about the party conference season, but there is an issue about how suitable parliamentary scheduling is for modern families, both for Members and House staff. For example, next week is half term, yet we are taking recess the following week. What is the deputy Leader of the House doing to modernise how House business is scheduled to address this problem?

I appreciate the hon. Lady was not here, but in the last Parliament the House resolved to make some changes to its hours. I am conscious of the responsibilities people might have—whether with families, children, parents or other extenuating circumstances—but, as I have advised new Members already, the Procedure Committee looked again at this and decided not to recommend any changes to the House. It is open to the Committee to make further investigations, however, and I am sure that her comments will be passed on to its Chairman and that she can make them directly.