MPs 'waste one day a month' with early finishes to debates

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Indy Politics

MPs are wasting one day a month of parliamentary time by finishing debates early, according to figures released yesterday.

MPs are wasting one day a month of parliamentary time by finishing debates early, according to figures released yesterday.

Conservatives have accused ministers of cynical time-wasting by squeezing the time available for controversial debates while filling the rest of the Commons year with inconsequential debates which do not stretch to the end of the day. They called for a change in the rules after a survey found that MPs had wasted more than 14 hours of debating time - the equivalent of two full days - in the two months since Christmas.

The findings, based on an analysis of Hansard, will re-ignite the debate over MPs' hours. Many members want to replace the new "family friendly" hours with a return to traditional sittings between 2.30pm and 10pm, arguing that the pressures of committees and other commitments damage the quality of debates in the chamber. The House sits at 11.30am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, instead of 2.30pm, with main business finishing at 7pm or 6pm on Thursdays.

In one case, a debate on whether to give MPs increased bicycle allowances ended at 2.05pm even though debate could continue until 6pm - a waste of 235 minutes. On 28 January, main business finished at just 3.17pm, after Tony Blair's statement on the Hutton report.

Oliver Heald, the shadow Leader of the House, who carried out the survey, said: "I'm beginning to be cynical about this. It is trying to avoid the proper length of debate on the really important issues. It's very wrong that we should not have adequate time to discuss the issues which are the priority for the people in the country."

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