Announcement of Recess Dates
My Lords, for the convenience of the House, I would like to make a short statement about forthcoming recess dates. As usual, to save Members reaching for their diaries, a note of all the dates I am about to announce will be available in the Printed Paper Office before I sit down. In a bid to be helpful to the House, we are planning ahead to next February. I should therefore put particular stress on the usual caveat that the planned recesses are provisional and subject to the progress of business.
As we have already announced, we expect Summer Recess will start at the end of business on Thursday 21 July and the House will return on Monday 5 September. For the Conference Recess, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Thursday 15 September and to return on Monday 10 October. In November, we will have the usual short break, with the House expected to adjourn at the end of business on Wednesday 9 November and to return on Monday 14 November. For Christmas Recess, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Wednesday 21 December and to return on Monday 9 January. Finally, for the February Recess in 2023 we expect to adjourn proceedings at the end of business on Thursday 9 February and to return on Monday 20 February. Further dates will be announced later in the Session.
The recesses coincide, with the exception of the September Recess when the Commons will rise a week later on 22 September and return a week later on 17 October. That is the only difference. It is not unprecedented for there to be a slight difference of plan around this time, as there was in the previous Session. Sometimes we start business earlier, and that allows the minimum intervals to take place. Normally we interlink, but it does not have to be like that. We are our own House. We determine our own dates and there is no particular reason why they have to be the same.
What about all-party meetings? There are a lot of meetings—political meetings and non-political meetings—and there is a whole lot of business where both Houses work closely together. As the Chief Whip rightly said, the last time when we had separate dates it created a lot of problems. There were things happening down at the other end that we should have been participating in. I hope that the Chief Whip will go back and have another look at this and see if he can find a way of getting them to coincide.
I am always open to suggestions. I do not say that I will not look at it, and I accept the point that in some cases an APPG might take place, but we are giving people plenty of warning on this so they are able to arrange the dates that suit them to combine with both Houses. It is perfectly possible to work around this. Sometimes it helps if we come back one week different to get business done and vice versa so that business can come from the Commons to us. We do not have to be the same, but I take the point. Having made those decisions, I think it is unlikely that they will change.
My Lords, I endorse what the noble Lord said and welcome the fact that we are looking some distance ahead, but there are other problems. There are Joint Committees. For example, I serve on the Joint Committee on Human Rights: we cannot sit if both Houses are not sitting simultaneously. That means we lose a whole committee date. We cannot be flexible about that. They are Joint Committees of both Houses. It does not make any sense.
They are Joint Committees of both Houses, and there is one week when both Houses will not be sitting together. Therefore, there are another 51 weeks when they can sit together, so among the many problems we face, I do not think that is an insuperable one.
I ask the Chief Whip to acknowledge one other problem, which is that if the Commons are sitting and we are not, and something of significance occurs, requiring a Statement from the Government, we are not in a position to follow up that Statement in a timely way. That has happened in the past. Does he not think that is something to be considered?
Of course the same applies the other way around, when we are sitting and the House of Commons is not. It is able to cope with that. It is true that in that one week it will not be able to, but as I said before, these are not insuperable problems. I said to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that I will look at this, but I do not think it is very likely that the dates will change. I have said I will look at them. It may be possible, or it may not. I think it is unlikely, but I will look at it.