'Switch PMQs so MPs stay around longer'

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Indy Politics

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is pressing for Prime Minister’s Question Time to be moved from Wednesdays to Thursdays – or even to take place twice a week.

Mr Bercow believes the changes would help boost interest in Parliament and increase the number of MPs who go into the Commons chamber.

The Prime Minister’s half-hour appearance has taken place at noon on Wednesdays for the last 12 years. Before then, there were two 15-minute sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In a lecture to the Hansard Society, Mr Bercow said he “could see some merit” both in moving PMQs to Thursday and in returning it to a twice a week event.

The Speaker acknowledged there would be “some resistance” to the idea of two sessions – not least from the party leaders who had to prepare for the clashes.

But he thinks that twice-weekly sessions would maximise media interest in the Commons and help to make PMQs more topical.

Mr Bercow argues that moving PMQs to Thursdays would bring the parliamentary week to a more dramatic end.

He fears that staging PMQs on Wednesdays means the week’s events tail off after then, with many MPs leaving Westminster for their constituencies early on Thursdays.

When he was campaigning for the Speakership, Sir George Young, who is now the shadow Leader of the Commons, disclosed he favoured the switch to Thursdays.

If the Conservatives win the election, he is likely to be in charge of organising the parliamentary timetable for Mr Cameron.

One Commons source said: “The move to Thursdays looks much more of a runner since Sir George floated it.”

PMQs was introduced in 1961 when Harold Macmillan was in Downing Street and has been televised for 20 years.

When Labour won its 1997 election landslide, one of its early acts was to make PMQs a once-a-week event on Wednesdays.

* Sir Patrick Cormack, 70, one of the Tories’ longest-serving MPs, today announced he would retire at the next election. He said the "unhappy events" of recent months had been a key factor in his decision.

He said: “The Commons has become less fun – it’s become a much more gloomy place.”