Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons

11 January 2005        Session 2004-05     Publication handout

"New sitting hours should stay ", says Modernisation Committee

In a report published today the House of Commons Modernisation Committee recommends that the revised sitting hours adopted at the beginning of 2003 should stay, with an extra hour added on Thursdays (1) (2).  

The Modernisation Committee has spent the last few months assessing opinion amongst MPs and has also taken evidence from staff representatives and lobby journalists about the effect of the earlier sitting hours.  Their report acknowledges that the Commons contains many differing views about the times of sitting, but concludes that, on balance, the earlier start time is of benefit to Parliament and public. 

The Modernisation Committee therefore recommends that the House should continue to sit from 11.30 to 7pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that business should start one hour earlier on Thursday at 10.30, adding an extra hour to that day's parliamentary business. 

The House originally agreed to the earlier sitting times in October 2002 on an experimental basis lasting until the next election.  The Commons will therefore need to vote on the Modernisation Committee's proposals before then.

Chairman of the Modernisation Committee, Peter Hain, said:

"The previous pattern of sitting from mid afternoon late into the night was established around the end of the Nineteenth Century.  It would be a backward step for us to return to such outdated sitting patterns only two years after the new hours were first introduced. Nor do we believe that the House should routinely be legislating late at night. 

"The diversity of Members of Parliament, their constituency workloads, their own working practices and their domestic circumstances means that there is no pattern of sitting hours that will suit everyone. However, we have sought to alleviate concerns with a balanced programme of change which we hope will command the support of both Members and the public."