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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 15:38 GMT
MPs opt for return to late hours
Commons Leader Peter Hain
Mr Hain said he respected the will of MPs
MPs have backed a move to restore late-night sittings on Tuesdays in the House of Commons.

The vote came after Commons Leader Peter Hain told them it would be "very odd" if they voted to return to sitting hours from the Victorian era.

Family-friendly reforms to the MPs' working day were introduced in October 2002 and meant they started earlier.

Critics have maintained that the new hours actually hampered members' capacity to scrutinise the executive.

Commons hours on Mondays and Tuesdays will start at 2.30pm and finish 10.30pm after MPs backed a return to late-night sittings by 292 votes to 225, a majority 67 for the move.

The modernisation committee, chaired by Mr Hain, had proposed that MPs keep Monday's start time at 2.30pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11.30am, but on Thursday that they sit earlier at 10.30am.

'Not a commercial office'

Traditionalists argued that under the new "family friendly" hours they have less chance to examine the government, and find time for committee and constituency work.

There is no law that says the quality of our speeches improves the later in the day we make them
Robin Cook MP

Senior Tory Sir Nicholas Winterton, who chairs the Commons procedure committee, argued sitting later on Tuesday would lead to more work being done.

"There still seems to be the idea in the minds of a number of colleagues that we can run the House of Commons as if it were an ordinary commercial office, with us all arriving at 9am and leaving at 5pm," he said.

Ex-Cabinet minister Robin Cook, who initiated the modernisation process when he was leader of the Commons, said effective scrutiny needed to be carried out when people outside were "listening and noticing".

'Absolutely knackered'

"There is no law that says the quality of our speeches improves the later in the day we make them," he said.

And Mr Hain told MPs: "I don't think our constituents feel we should be making the laws of the land, absolutely knackered, in the middle of the night."

The vote will be seen as a blow for the modernisers, although later Mr Hain said he respected the will of the Commons.

In a separate vote, MPs backed the proposal to add an hour onto the Thursday sittings, meaning the Commons will start at 10.30am instead of 11.30am.

Mr Hain said this would restore Thursdays to a "full sitting day".

MPs back Commons reforms
30 Oct 02 |  Politics

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