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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 13:21 GMT
My working week
As the House of Commons decides whether to change its hours, BBC News Online asked two MPs to describe their working week and how they hope or fear it could change.

Julia Drown, Labour MP for South Swindon

My days vary, depending on whether I am working in Westminster or in my constituency.

I come into London on Monday morning and go back to my constituency on Thursday night.

In Westminster, I sort out my child in the morning and tend to get to work about 10am.

There is a danger it will turn MPs into clockwatchers

Brian Donohoe, Labour MP
In the mornings, I tend to do paperwork and have meetings before the House of Commons starts sitting at 2.30pm.

From then on I might be popping in and out of the chamber or attending other meetings.

Voting delays

That goes on into the evening and on most nights and it means I am lucky if I get home before 10.30pm or 11pm.

In that time there are huge numbers of inefficiencies, like us not really knowing what is going to be debated and when.

It takes us about 20 minutes to go through the division lobbies to vote when it could be done electronically.

If we had lists of who would be called to speak, as well as better programming, we could conduct the whole business more efficiently.

Changing to sessions which end at 7pm will relieve some of the pressure on wider families.

But actually I imagine I will still be here in Westminster in the evenings for meetings.

The Commons is meant to be the central, serious chamber in Parliament and it seems more sensible for it to sit in normal working hours, with other meetings held in the evenings.

It might also mean that more of the public will be able to come to see MPs at work.

Brian Donohoe Labour MP for Cunninghame South

I live in London from Monday to Thursday, so I would normally be at my desk in the Commons by 9am.

I take about 10 minutes to have something to eat and then I open the mail and phone the office.

I spend a fair amount of my time building contacts with outside agencies, and this is something which will be threatened by these new proposals, which contract all of the Commons business into the middle of the day.

On Tuesday morning, for example, I am meeting officials from Taiwan, to talk about employment issues affecting my constituency.

I will then be meeting a group of former US congressmen, as part of my work with the British/American parliamentary group.

'Crazy' proposals

Then I will be meeting representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority, as part of my work with the Commons aviation group.

I will be having dinner with representatives of the British retail industry.

I will then be returning to the Commons, where I hope to vote until 2am against some of the crazier aspects of these proposals.

Wednesdays are mostly taken up with reading and preparation for the transport select committee, of which I am a member.

'Sitting around'

I normally return to my constituency on Thursday evenings, where I spend the weekend holding surgeries and doing constituency work.

I think the danger, with these new proposals, is that you will get MPs with no outside interests or wider experience.

There is also a danger it will turn MPs into clockwatchers, who can't wait to get out of the place at 5pm, or whenever the Parliamentary day ends.

If MPs are in London all week, they will not see their families until the weekend no matter what hours they work in the Commons.

I don't know how it serves constituents, for them to be sitting around with nothing to do on an evening.

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"Traditionalists could yet scupper plans for reform"
Leader of the Commons Robin Cook
"If we want to set the agenda for debate, we need to start before the middle of the afternoon"
See also:

08 Jul 02 | Politics
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12 Dec 01 | Politics
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