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Sitting Hours

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 3 December 2015

6. What assessment he has made of the potential benefits to the House of Commons of it sitting at 9:30am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. (902513)

Sitting hours are decided on by the House. They are regularly reviewed by the Procedure Committee and decisions are made by hon. Members based on the options recommended following consideration of the relevant evidence. I say to hon. Members who want change that although this matter was decided on in the last Parliament, there is no reason why they cannot make representations to the Procedure Committee for further consideration.

Our staff have to be here at unreasonable, family-unfriendly hours. May I ask the Deputy Leader of the House what we are doing to ensure their health and wellbeing, and to be a considerate employer?

I do not speak on behalf of the Commission, but it is my understanding that the House is a very proactive employer in managing health and safety, and appropriate conditions for staff. Of course, we are employers of our own staff directly, and it is for us, as their managers, to ensure that they have appropriate conditions.

I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks, and I will take that advice. Does she agree, however, that starting at 9.30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays would not only make the House more family-friendly, but allow some Members to see their family and children of an evening?

My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. These matters were debated extensively, and I think it is fair to say that there are probably 650 different opinions on what constitutes something family-friendly. Nevertheless, one of the important things that Standing Orders of the House do is ensure that all hon. Members have the chance to come to Question Time. He will recognise that the sitting hours of the Chamber are not necessarily the sitting hours of Committees and other such meetings. All these things need to be brought into the round.

We need to remember the need for schools to come and visit on Tuesday mornings before we make rash decisions based on the interests of MPs based in the south-east.

Does the hon. Lady agree that some of the coverage about the possibility of moving private Members’ Bills from Friday to Tuesday was absolutely ludicrous? Frankly the busiest and hardest-working day for most constituency MPs is Friday, when we are in our constituencies. We should be able to do that every week, and therefore look at dealing with private Members’ Bills on Tuesday evening.

The hon. Gentleman will know that this option was considered by the House in the last Parliament, and there was a vote on it. At the time, hon. Members decided not to pursue that option. Again, the debate can still be had.

For debates on assisted dying and the European Union Referendum Bill, more than 300 people appeared here on Fridays. If people want to turn up on a Friday, and the issue is important enough, they are perfectly capable of doing so. Does my hon. Friend agree that, if people want a 9-to-5 job, there are plenty of them available, and they should apply for one rather than be a Member of Parliament?

I should say that “9 to 5” is one of my favourite songs by the great Dolly. My hon. Friend is an advocate of many causes on Fridays, and I think he makes a fair point about hon. Members picking issues of significant interest that have attracted Members to stay here. Daylight saving is one example, as is assisted suicide, which has been mentioned, and there are other such matters on which hon. Members will find time to be here. It is for hon. Members to decide how they wish to fulfil their role, including in relation to the introduction of private Members’ Bills.