Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 14:59 GMT
Should working hours be reduced for MPs?
MPs are considering moves to a four-day week and work from 10am to 5pm under controversial plans to modernise sittings in the Commons, reports the Sunday Times.

Late-night votes and all-night debates are to be abolished by Robin Cook, the leader of the Commons and chairman of its modernisation committee.

Those in favour of the modernisation of parliament claim the current antisocial hours damage MPs' family lives and deter many women from standing for parliament.

But it has angered some MPs, who fear it could marginalise and stifle discussion on controversial bills, which can often extend into the early hours.

Do you support the proposals? Do you think the current working hours are unreasonable? Or do you think the plans will stifle political discussion?

This Talking Point was suggested by Martin, UK:

With the UK's public services etc. the way they are, is it right for MP's to go on to a (proposed) four-day week, with parliament only meeting between 10am - 5pm, Surely this is making a mockery of our system? If you have any suggestions for Talking Points, please click here.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

MPs should be, first and foremost, able to manage their time

Brian, USA
I would suggest that those people chosen as MPs should be first and foremost able to manage their time. The number of hours spent on a given job, does not determine the results. In most team sports, there is a set time given to score the needed points to win. A golfer does not reduce his or her score by increasing the time spent waggling the driver before hitting the ball. Cut out the "grandstanding" in the House, set a time limit on debates and get results.
Brian, USA

Surely, the whole point about MPs' hours is that they should be scrutiny friendly rather than family friendly.
Peter Just, England

Doctors already work extended hours under a lot of stress, and we get told to see more patients every day by the government. I wish we could turn around and demand normal nine to five hours like everybody else.
Dr Rashid, UK

If the hours are so bad how is it that a number of members have the time to be MPs, members of a regional assembly, and an MEP all at the same time. I don't believe a word of the government's argument.
Anthony, UK

The fewer hours they work the less time they'll have to do further damage to this country

Chris B, England
Absolutely! Reduce MPs' working hours as much as possible. The fewer hours they work the less time they'll have available to do further damage to this country. It's a sad fact that the people who have the intelligence to run a country responsibly generally have better things to do than get involved in politics.
Chris B, England

Do you mean to tell me they actually work a five day week now? I think not. Their working hours should be in line with everyone else's.
Ian C, UK

Well, if they need to shorten their hours, then presumably they will also be cutting pay in line with this? Where in any other line of work can you imagine people who are responsible for making tough choices that will impact millions of people saying "okay it's five o'clock, lets all go home and not worry any longer about this". If you want to be an MP, accept the life that goes with it. We need to get the best people in - those willing to work the long hours. If you don't want that life, don't stand for election!
Des Whittall, UK

A shorter working week will allow our MPs to spend more time at their other jobs

Chris Cowdery, UK
Of course a shorter working week will allow our MPs to spend more time at their other jobs, William Hague being a prime example. Mind you, with their ever-diminishing powers with respect to the EU's increasing occupation of our law, they will not have so much to do anyway.
Chris Cowdery, UK

A 28 Hour week for MP's is all right if they only require that other public sector workers work the same hours. If not then they have no right to reduce their own workload.
Greg, UK

If my work was reduced to a 4-day week then I would get paid less. Will the Mps get paid less? No didn't think so. Typical.
Richard S, Scotland

Parliament says it cannot get through its agenda as it is, I can hardly see reducing the hours worked would help this. MP's already have perks way beyond the average tax payer, who incidentally is paying for their over indulgent life styles. I suggest they get back into the real world and do the job they are paid for. What will the next step be, a large cash sum, a house on a paradise island and a harem of mistresses for the duration of their term of office
Peter, UK

Presumably they will forego a proportion of their salaries

John B, UK
I think it is a great idea. Certainly there are some members of the cabinet who I would like to see working a zero-hour week. At least that way they can't do any more damage. As for the rest of them, presumably they will forego a proportion of their salaries. I wish I could just decide to cut my own hours by 20%.
John B, UK

Are they taking a massive pay cut as well? Who wouldn't want a 4-day working week and a 7 hour day? They are supposedly running our country - late night debates are part of it, and they all new that when they decided to become MP's. Ask the police or doctors/nurses what they think about this.
Sandra, UK

Great, can I now ask that the MPs vote for the same hours for us ordinary workers (or will that be considered unproductive?)
Gerry, Scotland

What a surprise! Does this mean that the MPs are going to fund the rest of business so that everyone can work only 4 days a week? I doubt it. The rest of us have to work antisocial hours so why should they get out of it!
Rachel, UK

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Simon Mallett, UK

An MP actually being in the House of Commons chamber is only a small part of the job

Andy W, UK
An MP actually being in the House of Commons chamber is only a small part of the job. Unfortunately, most of the public think this is all they do. They also have committee work, true and shadow ministerial work, and of course their constituency work. Together, this makes it a seven-day a-week job. MPs have to put their constituency and constituents first, their country second and their family last. If a prospective MP doesn't like the idea of not seeing his or her family, or not having the family life they desire, then they have no place in becoming or being an MP.
Andy W, UK

No. They get paid enough (55k or so, plus perks and expenses) to do a full week's work. Everyone knows that MPs have to work late sometimes in debates and votes. They went for the job in spite of it. Let them take the rough with the smooth like the rest of us do.
Simon, UK

I'm not impressed by these proposals at all. Running the country is a very serious business and office hours don't apply. I work in IT and I'm frequently expected to work late when projects need to be delivered or changes need to be made that can only be done outside of normal working hours. I'd like to think the job of running Great Britain was more important than anything I'm required to do.
Bill, UK

If MP's spent less time trying to score points over each other & more time concentrating on the business in hand then there would be no need for late night debates. It's high time they all stopped acting like juveniles & realised that the public, who are their bosses, expect them to do a real job, put the hours in and produce beneficial results for the country. That is what they are there for & their lack of perception in understanding that is why half the population cannot be bothered to vote anymore, because they don't take MP's seriously.
Simon, UK

Working 4 days a week 10 till 5 is a great idea. Why don't we all do it?
Jane, Wales, UK

The country must come first

Robin, UK
MPs are paid a not unreasonable salary and allowances to both serve and help run this country. It has long been considered a calling, not a just a job. A change in hours should also entail a change in salary. I don't find it acceptable. The country must come first.
Robin, UK

There is a lot more to being an MP than sitting in the House of Commons. If a more sensible regime in the House leaves MPs with more time to work for their constituents then that is a good thing. I have never thought it sensible that our laws are made at two o'clock in the morning!
Neil, UK

My husband works for an American company, he often starts work before 8am and holds telephone meetings with America well into the evening. These are part of his job description. He knew this when he accepted the job, hence if he wanted to reduce his hours his pay would also be reduced.
Carol, England

A 28 hour week, long summer holidays, a job for life (in safe seats) and set your own rate of pay - with all these perks and privileges you'd think that we could attract some decent and capable people into politics rather than the bunch of baying layabouts we have now.
Simon, England

I think on the contrary their working days should be increased

Qadeer, London, UK
I don't think so, if everyone else works five days(and even longer hours in some cases) a week why not MPs? I think on the contrary their working days should be increased, so that they have more time debating things which effect the country(not their working days)
Qadeer, London, UK

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories