'Family-friendly hours' dealt a blow by MPs

Supporters of "family-friendly" hours at the Commons were dealt a blow yesterday when MPs voted to return to traditional late-night sittings for half of their working week.

MPs cheered as they voted to return to their old hours of 2.30pm to 10.30pm after a three-hour debate.

Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, had warned that a return to old-style "Victorian" hours would be a "significant step backwards". He told MPs: "We would look very odd, if after only two years' trial, we reverted to hours designed for the lifestyle of our Victorian predecessors, when MPswere earning a living during the day."

But other MPs complained that new members wanted to run the Commons like an ordinary office. Oliver Heald, the shadow Leader of the House, accused the Government of "starving and rationing" MPs of time. Backing the late-night Tuesday sittings, he said: "It's not asking for a return to the old hours. It's saying let's have a balanced week."

MPs have agreed to keep their Wednesday sittings from 11.30am to 7.30pm and to start Thursday sittings at 10.30am.

Changes will be introduced after the next general election, after some of those voting will have stepped down.

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