How many hours does an MP work? This is one of the questions I find it very difficult to answer. There is of course no single answer, as there are 650 ways of being an MP. Some work longer hours than others. Some achieve more in an hour than others do. Many people in managerial and professional activities will find it equally difficult to define when they are working and when they are not.
The problem of working out how many hours a year anyone works as an MP comes mainly from how you define work. Like many managerial and professional jobs, an MP can be working in many different places and at many different times of the day. You are not just working in the office.
The answer about “office hours” is easier to answer. When Parliament is in session an attentive MP is at Westminster, in the chamber, in his or her office, in a committee , or meeting Ministers and colleagues. On Mondays we are there from 2.30 pm to 10.20 pm. On Tuesdays through to Thursday we are there from around 9am to 6 or 7 pm. In practice I start the day around 6 am to get the emails and web comments dealt with before the Parliamentary day begins, and to fit in any breakfast briefings and meetings.
Fridays and non sitting days gives the MP much more flexibility about when and where to work.
The questions raised about working hours include :
If I listen or watch the late news and reports on Parliament is that leisure or working?
If I watch a tv documentary is that work?
If I travel to a different city in the UK, only to have my ear bent by people there when I am just visiting, is that work?
If I read newspapers and books which cover governmental and public policy topics, is that work?
If I am stopped in the street when shopping, to be told of a problem, is that work?
If when shopping or out for a walk I notice something that needs fixing or asking about, how much of that time is work?
If I attend a play or concert in an official capacity in my constituency, is that work?
If I attend a local play or concert in a private capacity, is that not work?
If I appear on Any Questions or Question Time, is that work part of being an MP?
If I write a newspaper article or web piece about public policy, is that part of my job as an MP?
When I go out campaigning for local elections, or in by elections elsewhere, that is regarded as politics, not as part of the MP’s paid for role.
An MP has to accept week-end working as necessary. It is no good on Remembrance Sunday on Carnival Sunday saying you do not work week-ends.
An MP is always on call. If a major disaster hits your constituency people rightly expect you to turn up and help.
Many people in managerial or professional roles have similar definitional issues before answering how many hours do they work. A true professional is always alert to views, news and opportunities that relate to his or her main profession. Just as a well known professional sportsman or woman always has to watch their diet, stay in training and be aware of the public reaction when they are out and about, so an MP has to seek to stay in tune and up to date to do the job properly.
Senior executives spend a lot of time visiting business locations, encouraging or training staff, attending dinners or other corporate hospitality to stay in touch with customers and employees, appearing at industry events. Some of these things are pleasurable as well as having a business purpose. Senior executives need to respond to troubles or disasters of their business or staff members whatever the date or time.