A part time Parliament

Parliament has broken up for an 82 day recess. Yes, 82 days off. There is no Parliament to go to until the second week of October. It’s the wrong decision by the majority, at a time of crisis in the public finances and a time of economic problems generally.

Some Labour MPs say they do not think people should be part time MPs. Maybe they should explain that to the Foreign Secretary, who told me in answer to a question about a week in his life that he spent 81 hours of the week on his second job as a Minister, leaving it quite tight to do a minimum 40 hours as an MP.

They should also explain to me how any MP can do a good full time job when there is no Parliament to go to for 17 weeks of the year. Yes, there are letters to answer, cases to take up, and people and institutions to visit. They can be fitted in to a busy Parliamentary day.

If any organisation in Wokingham would like me to visit or has something they want me to take up, August and September is a good time to do it, as my main job has been taken away for those months. The government can get up to what it likes and we have no opportunity to question and probe, or to get them to change their minds.

The truth is MPs are very busy on those minority of days in the year when Parliament meets for the day and the evening, and when there are many other meetings grouped at Westminister that are important to constituents. An MP just has to knuckle down and work through for 15 hours or so to get the most out of it. When Parliament is not in session there not only is Chamber to attend, questions to ask and contributions to make to debates, but all the behind the scenes meetings, meetings with people wanting to brief us and other events dwindle or disappear as well.

Labour have failed to make the Commons family friendly in its hours, and now prevent us doing our job for 12 weeks at a stretch. When there is no Parliament sitting, it’s not half the job. All I can do is write letters to Ministers. It’s not the same as meeting them daily and challenging them acorss the floor of the Commons.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted July 23, 2009 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    One of my favourite American bumper stickers is this:
    “JESUS IS COMING!!!
    Look busy!”
    We are all very good at looking busy. We are all very good at taking holidays. Do you know what? I think that if suckling mothers are in as MPs they should adapt feeding times to suit their salaries. Family friendly indeed! We need constituent and voter friendly MPs. If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen.
    The situation at Norwich North, where Tamsin Lightthingummy out of the Spectator seems to have been parachuted in, does not really inspire confidence, actually. More lobby fodder?
    What we ought to be looking for are for some wise, experienced, men (and ladies too) of the world outside Westminster who know what they are on about and who can sit, quietly and thoughtfully, to discuss, very carefully, the laws which eager Ministers intend to rush through for their own glory in their two minutes of fame.
    Frank Field? David Davies? Your self?

  2. alan jutson
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Yes really does make you think.

    “Crisis what crisis”.

    Oh just a moment, heard that one before.

    Oh yes, another Labour Prime Minister of yester year on returning from holiday.

    Then we had piles of rubbish in the streets and could not bury our dead, in the “winter of discontent”.

    I guarantee that during this recess we will have a pre arranged drip feed of promises of policies from the Government to the media, to make it look like they are working on our behalf.

    They will really be only statements, which of course you cannot question, as no one is in.

    But, hey ho, with so many outside people now being bought in, Mandelson, Kinnock et al, who cannot be questioned in Parliament, I suppose its no change really.

    Serving the people, What a farce.

  3. Chris H
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I confess to a fair lack of knowledge about the machinery that operates Parliament, but I am surprised that there seems to be no kind of agreed “standard time period” that it is expected to sit/meet for during a year. At the rate Labour has been going, it’s a wonder they’ve bothered to even open the front doors.

  4. brian kelly
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    When they come back Ireland will have voted and, barring a surprise in their vote, we will find the Lisbon constitution/treaty all but ratified [just Poland and Czech Republic to vote]. What a prospect. Let us hope fervently that Ireland find that they still cannot vote ‘yes’

  5. jean baker
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    John,

    It’s tantamount to ‘constructive suspension’ of parliament isn’t it ?

    Why until October ? According to healthcare workers, GP surgeries through Britain are currently working in line with government directives for an en masse ‘swine flu’ inoculation programme – due to commence in October on delivery of the inoculations ordered and being manufactured. Cost to taxpayers?

    I have it on good authority that order of treament (directed by government) is – healthcare workers, pregnant women, children, young adults – last on the list are the elderly.

    It seems MP’s were not made privvy to information and directives given to frontline NHS staff prior to the extended recess, despite the high expenditure attached to the ‘work in progress’.

    It is of national importance and extremely sinister ……. the vast programme planned (according to NHS workers) to commence nationwide in October will, like all inoculations given in this country, be kept on a ‘state’ owned ID database. Nulabor has long pursued this controversial aim, hotly contested by David Cameron and other opposition MP’s.

    Will freedom of normal day to day activity and travel apply only to those who can prove by, for example, an ID card showing them to be ‘swine flu proof’ and not a risk to others ? If so, non willing participants – ID cardless – could find themselves barred like lepers from public transport, shops etc. – thus forcing them to comply and be recorded on a ‘state database’.

    At vast expense, Mexican ‘swine flu’ is the ‘terrorizing tool’ being used to get Nulabor what it wants – ID database.

    Healthworkers will be required to spend on the programme currently due in October, alarmingly, to the detriment of the truly sick and needy. No virus can be ‘prevented’ – the seasonal flu virus mutates and strengthens year on year in response to ‘voluntary’ flu vaccs. programmes.

    ‘Swine flu’ media hype and propaganda commenced before the Parliamentary recess and escalation is guaranteed to continue – the aim being to create fear, panic and ‘compliance’.

    In normal circumstances, those who die by pathologically proven illnesses are always named (MRSA, C.diff hospital victims); not so the alleged ‘victims’ in the current media spin and manipulation. True suffers of laboratory proven ‘swine flu’ report mild symptoms of 48 hour duration …. less uncomfortable than the longstanding ‘common cold’.

    Mexican Swine flu is being used by

  6. Steve Cox
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid that our Parliamentary democracy is quite badly broken. The endless tinkering by Bliar and The Brown One, not to mention their utter disregard for the House of Commons, is largely to blame.

    If and when the Conservatives form the next government, their first priority will have to be getting public spending under control, That’s a shame, as we really need a revamped Parliamentary system (not to forget an improved electoral system) that is fit for the internet age. But would the Conservatives be the party to advance that cause anyway, I wonder?

    Nobody in their right mind can claim that the system of checks and balances in the UK currently works at all well. Our democracy is broken and needs to be fixed. If you doubt that, just look back to the results of the 2005 General Election that got us into this mess. Bliar won with the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate’s. In other words, 75% voted for other parties or else simply couldn’t be bothered. Even if you look at votes cast, the Socialists won 37% versus 33% for the Conservatives, yet ended up with 158 more seats (356 versus 198). If that’s not a broken democracy, then I don’t know what is.

    Look to Switzerland, they have a democracy that actually works. And why don’t you know the name of the Swiss PM? Check that out, too, it’s a lesson in Executive humility – which is as it should be.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    You must use the time wisely to prepare for the general election. Don’t leave anything to chance.

  8. Citizen Responsible
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Frankly Mr Redwood, it can be quite depressing reading your blog day after day. I don’t know how you stick it at the coal face, but I am grateful that you do. A general election can’t come soon enough.

  9. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Well with 80% of our laws made in Brussels does Parliament really make that much of a difference in terms of legislation ?

    We should make British law superior to EU law and not let MP’s have such a long holiday & such big pensions. Most of the voters do not get such entitlements and yet have to fund these largesses for MP’s.

    MP’s should be holding the government to account over the War on Terror , Swine Flu and the recession/credit crunch not going off on holiday. I am concerned about equipment being provided for our troops , do we have enough medication to treat this pandemic and how can we get the banks both lending responsibly and back into the private sector. What I want is our MP’s & Peers to be holding Ministers to account to get effective action taken on these matters !

    MP’s should take a big cut in pensions , perks & holidays to show that they are sharing our pain. Then they should pass a big Bill enacting Canadian style spending cuts and a 5% VAT hike all aimed at slashing public borrowing. If MP’s suffer financial disadvantage then they might have the moral authority to implement the needed Canada style spending cuts & George Osborne’s plans on ending the Financial Services Authority & empowering the Bank of England.

    It shows that the political class has not learned from the expenses row inasmuch as rather like the public sector unions over pensions MP’s are doing better over holidays than most private sector employees and that cannot be right. Public sector pensions need scaling back and MP’s can jolly well make do with the average amount of paid holiday that private sector employees have.

    I am sick & tired of paying my taxes to HM Treasury & seeing waste and perks for those coining it in from the Client State in return. This part-time Parliament is very poor value for money indeed and as such fits in with Labour’s policy of wasteful state sector spending on a vast scale.

    Can the Tories pledge to stop this excessively long holiday for Parliamentarians ? David Cameron will need lots of time getting laws through Parliament regaining powers from Brussels so that the UK can legislate in its national interest. That is our best hope for improving on the mess made by Labour.

  10. colin
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    What could Her Majesty the Queen do to rescue us from the remaining destruction that a further year in power of that (disliked-ed) Prime Minister will cause?

  11. Andrew Duffin
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    What Matthew Reynolds said.

    Especially the bit about the EU.

    Since our supreme government in Brussels make 80% of all our laws and regulations, what does it matter if the rubber-stamps in Whitehall fall silent for a while?

    The real government is still beavering away, cutting doctors’ working hours, destroying our fishing industry, and doing all the other things they do so well.

    I am sure the House of Commons will soon be able to catch up with the backlog of nodding-through that will build up over the summer.

  12. Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    The MP’s like to swell there chests out when we shout “give back those boggusi epenses but the whole system is awash with large smelly chunks of S**t. Only public school children enjoy such a lond holiday. Cut the break down to 3 weeks and give each one a good hard kick in the dick.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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