MPs threaten work-to-rule over hours

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Indy Politics

MPs who are fed up with late-night sittings are threatening to stage a work-to-rule to try to force the Commons authorities to cut their anti-social hours.

MPs who are fed up with late-night sittings are threatening to stage a work-to-rule to try to force the Commons authorities to cut their anti-social hours.

They have formed a "10-7" group to campaign for debates to end by 10 o'clock on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and by seven on Thursday. Most spend Friday in their constituencies.

Members often find themselves at the Commons until 2am or 3am. They have been required to vote after midnight at least 23 times since January.

A female MP said the moves were being led by women. "If lots of people just went home at 10pm, or after the 10pm vote - a walk-out like unions had in the old days - that would show the whips what for," she said.

She doubted whether her male colleagues would join the action, but Derek Wyatt, the Labour MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, said he was prepared to take part. He said. "We have a majority of 170 and we are here until 3am. It is absurd."

Last week, Tess Kingham, the Labour MP for Gloucester, announced she was standing down because life in a "19th century gentleman's club" was incompatible with family life.

Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, said he had drawn up new standing orders which would prevent votes from taking place after 10pm. He planned to present them to the Modernisation Committee, which was considering MPs' hours. While debates could continue late into the night, he argued, votes should take place at an appointed time the next day. "In the old days a Tory MP could wander in in the evening after a day's work at the bar or in the City, and sit around having a brandy until it was time to vote. But now even most Tories start at 9am," he said.

Anne Campbell, the Labour MP for Cambridge, has sent the committee the names of 207 members who want change.

Doug Henderson, the former defence minister, advocated the European Parliament system, where votes take place once a week.

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