MPs to vote on ending late-night sittings

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Family-friendly hours for the House of Commons could become a reality today when MPs vote on a range of reforms which end late-night sittings.

Family-friendly hours for the House of Commons could become a reality today when MPs vote on a range of reforms which end late-night sittings.

MPs, hoping to change parliamentary tradition, will decide whether to support proposals which would mean that they would no longer have to be in Westminster on the night to cast their votes for secondary government legislation.

If the recommendations of the Commons modernisation committee are approved, MPs could go home at 10pm every night and to register their vote the next day on anything that took place after that time.

But the blueprint for reform, which also includes proposals for the time-tabling of all government legislation, was criticised yesterday by the Tories, who said it would remove the ability of the Opposition to harry the Government or hold it properly to account.

Angela Browning, the Shadow Commons Leader, said: "These changes have been influenced by the need to conduct the business of the House for the convenience of some members of Parliament and the Government."

Labour MPs, many of them women, have demanded a change in the Commons' working hours, arguing that late-night sittings, when a handful of determined Opposition MPs could keep most of the Government up all night, did not improve scrutiny of legislation.

The changes would mean that all government Bills would be clearly time-tabled, giving both sides advance notice of how much time was to be spent on which clauses at each stage.

After 10pm MPs could debate secondary legislation until any time in the early hours, but such debates would end without a vote. MPs could return the next day to write their vote into a ledger, with the result being held over until the following Wednesday.

Prospects for reform were boosted by a report which found that the experiment to run on Thursdays from 11.30am until 7pm, instead of the traditional 10pm finish, had not shortened working hours.

Calls for reform were echoed by peers who have faced a busy month in the House of Lords and one all-night sitting.

Baroness Sharples, the Tory Peer, said the late hours, which she blamed on "badly drafted" legislation, had resulted in peers becoming "very tired and sometimes ill-tempered".

A Government plan to introduce Thursday morning sittings and to allow the House to rise at 7.30pm on Thursdays was rejected by the Lords' procedure committee last week.

Comments