What do MPs do in the summer?

This has become the new and interesting question this summer. A long summer break has been traditional, and used to pass without much comment. Maybe then people accepted that MPs worked crazy hours for the rest of the year when Parliament was in session, regulary going on to midnight or beyond, that they thought the hours evened out with the summer break. Maybe they thought Parliament was doing a better job then, or just did not think about it.

This year is different. The summer break is very long, but follows hard on the heels of a Parliamentary year when the gullotine has been used to curtail debates, with many debates on the economy and other crucial matters delayed or ducked on a regular basis. It occurs after Labour has introduced the half term breaks as well. There is a general sense of lack of value for money throughout the public sector, and a growing understanding of the public spending crisis, so it is no wonder more good questions are being asked about what MPs are up to.

As readers of this blog will know, I am working on a review of public spending both by central and local government. I am publishing bits of it here as I make progress, and will be sending proposals to the Shadow Chancellor. One of the main issues is public sector productivity, which has failed to keep pace with the private sector, or in some cases has gone backwards.

If we just take the case of MPs the decline in productivity coupled with substantial increases in the public sector costs of doing the job is at once obvious. In 1997 my productivity was cut by around one quarter by the Boundary Commission who took a large number of electors away from my seat instead of proposing fewer MPs. They could have made larger seats out of the ones that were below average in size, but instead decided to lower productivity by creating more seats. Since then there has been a steady reduction in the hours that Parliament sits and the hours available to debate the important big national issues. Whilst I can still ask questions, the chances of any sensible answer have been reduced substantially by spin oriented Ministers wishing to avoid answering. Since 1997 there has been a big expansion of the public sector payroll with more staff helping MPs to do their jobs.,

The truth about the job is that it is more than full time when Parliament does meet, as we need to cram a lot into relatively few days. Anyone diligent ends up working very long hours on those days. The rest of the time more than half the job is prevented by the lock out from Parliament. It’s a crazy way to run anything. It is symptomatic of Labour’s public sector – overmanned, inefficient and very expensive. This summer once again Parliament is a building site, as some necessary maintenance work is mixed up with “improvements” and “security” measures. Pity the poor taxpayer, as the people’s Palace is turned into an fortified camp, and as their representatives are driven away by the absence of debate and by the need for the builders to have some space.


  1. Mike Stallard
    August 2, 2009

    “As readers of this blog will know, I am working on a review of public spending both by central and local government. I am publishing bits of it here as I make progress, and will be sending proposals to the Shadow Chancellor. ” This is the best news I have heard in a very long time.

    What is parliament for?
    Surely to check the suggestions of the executive? This is especially important now that the executive is in Brussels and it seems to have very little idea of self restraint or of the regional situation.
    The legislature (you MPs) are not there for any other reason than to check that the laws passed are sensible, enforceable and right.
    At the moment, frankly, you are failing abysmally. There is a huge incontinent rush of very bad laws (e.g. the working time directive this week, fox hunting, smoking, school meals) which have a lot of unintended consequences.
    Also there are totally wrong directives (Charity Commission, Ofsted, parking fines without trial, family courts without juries, extradition) which are just done without anyone commenting.
    I personally don’t care how hard you MPs do all the other stuff like kissing babies or visiting schools (CRB anyone?). So far as I am concerned you can all go and sunbathe to your hearts’ content, or go back to your daytime jobs.
    Just do what we hired you for, that’s all!

    1. Faustiesblog
      August 2, 2009

      I agree that terrible legislation has been passed due to inadequate scrutiny, but as JR said, much of this can be laid at the door of guillotining of debate time by Labour.

      Another serious flaw in the system, is the ability of the government to fast-track legislation. This reduces scrutiny further, particularly when MPs are faced with a 100+ page complex bill. How can they be expected to read it in a few days, let alone digest its full implications and debate the bill?

      I notice that the US is increasingly using this device too – something that Obama promised to stamp out.

      Bercow is, of course, as useless at reining in this practice as many of us expected him to be. I hope that the Tories will turf him out (assuming they win the GE).

  2. Waramess
    August 2, 2009

    It might have seemed a worrying problem had Labour the remotest chance of winning.

    We will soon see whether the Conservatives handle themselves differently

  3. Acorn
    August 2, 2009

    Dear Mr Redwood.

    The inefficiency of the public sector knows no bounds. By now we should have had six million school children fingerprinted and bio-metricated; my best guess is they have only achieved two and a half million. (This is essential for school meals and library book system control; and other nefarious purposes.)

    Interfering local government box tickers are preventing loads of council house tenants from sub letting their council houses for cash. This is preventing the reformation of family life in this country, (the kids move back in with mum and dad at their council house, and share the cash from the sub-let).

    And another thing; we have issued thousands of student visas to foreigners who absolutely genuinely want to study at our world class colleges and universities. What happens, they don’t turn up on the first day of term. They are obviously being held in detention at our ports by box tickers, mistakenly thinking that these students may not actually be genuine students and are likely to disappear into the council houses as mentioned above!

    These are not the actions of a caring sharing nation. This is blatant pettifogging inefficiency Mr Redwood !!!!!!!! Have a nice holiday 🙂

    Yours sincerely,
    Disgusted of Hampshire.

    P.S. Have you worked out your majority after the gerrymandering of your constituency?

    1. Acorn
      August 2, 2009

      Don’t forget Doug Carswell’s Great Repeal Bill.


  4. Jim Pearson
    August 2, 2009

    Spotted my local LibDem MP helping her daughter at the Library teach nursary songs! Mind you she sang wonderfully…

  5. alan jutson
    August 2, 2009


    I can think of better uses for the gullotine.

    Sure there would be no shortage of those willing to operate it !!!!

    Good to see you are still working, but have a good holiday when you can, and come back refreshed ready for a battle that you/the Country, cannot afford to lose.

  6. Denis Cooper
    August 2, 2009

    Commons debates can only be curtailed with the acquiescence of MPs; the government has no power to impose a guillotine, or to dictate the timetable, against the wishes of a majority of MPs.

    I’m not sure the same is entirely true regarding the length of sessions, as that may be a matter of Royal Prerogative, but I very much doubt that it’s the Queen who’s decided that Parliament should sit for fewer days each year.

    It may not make sense to propose a reform of the House of Commons, eg cutting the number of members, on the basis of malpractices endorsed by a majority of the present MPs, which could be solved simply by electing better MPs next spring.

  7. Robert George
    August 2, 2009

    The very idea that you are working for a babe like George Osborne is another of the insanities of modern politics – rather he should be working for you. Still never mind.

    This Public Spending review is the most interesting thing I have read of yours. Having been the CEO of a small Quango myself I know something about the reality of public service inefficiency and the scope for improvement.

    Anyway have a good break, and good fortune with getting the government out of our lives.

  8. Adrian Peirson
    August 2, 2009

    How come none of our Parlimentarians don’t tell us we as a country are woking under chapter 11 Bankruptcy laws, the Bankruptcy runs out soon under the 70 yr rule.
    I wonder if this is why they are provoking wars, to get us back in debt once we become Free again.

    And why not a word from Parliament, do I have to run this country on my own.

    And where do I send my Bill.


  9. Brian E.
    August 2, 2009

    “I will be sending proposals to the Shadow Chancellor”
    Very good, but will he take any notice?
    As I’ve said before, neither he, or David Cameron have said anything so far that have greatly impressed me; Nothing that will make me say “Yes, I must go and vote Conservative”. At present it looks as if it will be the actions of Brown that will make me decide how I will vote, not what the Tories say, simply because they’ve said absolutely nothing of substance.

  10. The Daley Dozen: Sunday 
    August 3, 2009

    […] Letts.8. Letters From a Tory reveals an unhealthy obsession with holes.9. Red Box on a Tory hug.10. John Redwood on what MPs do in the summer.11. Slugger O’Toole in gays in Northern Ireland.12. Platform 10 […]

  11. Boy16
    October 22, 2009

    The Copyright Office is not permitted to give legal advice. ,

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