Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2004 16:51 UK

Hours change fails to enthuse MPs

House of Commons
MPs have mixed views about their hours

MPs remain split over the merits of their new hours according to a survey completed by 57% of members.

Last year earlier starts were brought in as part of efforts to modernise the way the House of Commons works.

But the Commons' procedure committee survey found 52% of respondents want a return to the 1430 starts on a Tuesday.

A narrow majority favour keeping the 1130 Wednesday starts and also of Commons select committees starting at 0925 rather than the current 0855.

Leader of the House Peter Hain has already announced a review of sitting hours.

Mixed feelings?

The procedures committee urged the review take into account the fact that no single option would "achieve a large amount of cross-party support", although they said a possible compromise would be to allow the Commons to sit later on Tuesdays.

The report adds: "Not many other jobs involve a heavy workload in two places hundreds of miles apart, and it is not surprising that a working pattern which would suit the average office is unlikely to suit the House of Commons."

Since January 2003 MPs have sat on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1130 to 1900.

Before then the Commons day started at 1430 and went on late into the evening.

As a result of the new timetable, MPs hear important ministerial statements at lunchtime rather than in the afternoon and prime minister's is now at noon and not 1500.

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