HC Deb 25 March 1991 vol 188 cc607-8
34. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Lord President of the Council whether he is now in a position to announce the review of the hours and procedures of the House; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

With regard to procedures, shall continue to look at the scope for improvement and to liaise with the Procedure Committee at its work. As for the hours the House sits, I am considering the variety of opinions that have been expressed to me.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Leader of the House confirm that he has received many representations from all quarters, including some Members, about changing the hours and procedures of this place? Will he confirm also that no Member has asked him to include Sunday sittings? Does that mean that those Members who want to change the hours of work of people outside this place so that they work on Sundays are not altogether keen to work here—I use the word "work" loosely—in Parliament on Sundays? In other words, they wish to keep Sunday special for Parliament.

Mr. MacGregor

I can confirm that I have had a variety of opinions expressed to me about changing working hours. The difficulty is that they are often contradictory. I am considering what might be done in considering these matters. If we make any moves which go beyond the work that the Procedure Committee undertakes, it is important that they are made with some measure of agreement. I can confirm that no request has been made to have the House sitting on Sundays. The hon. Gentleman will know, however, that many Members do a great deal of work on Sundays.

Mr. Dykes

As the job of a Member of this place is definitely a full-time one now, apart from a small minority of thoroughly idle Members whose names he may be able to guess, does my right hon. Friend accept that, as well as making improvements which will modernise the hours and procedures of the House, it is essential to provide the mechanical and physical tools to enable Members to do their job more effectively? Does not that include the ability to make official telephone calls to other Community institutions?

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that Members who have some outside interests are idle, as I can assure him that that is not so. Indeed, many of them work very long hours in this place. I am always seeking to improve facilities. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Services Committee has recently agreed that steps should be taken to ensure that very soon it will be possible to make telephone calls as he requests.

Dr. Cunningham

Does the Leader of the House reca:ll the suggestion that he should commission a comparative study on the way in which Parliaments in other democratic countries work and place that study in the Library? What progress has been made on that?

Mr. MacGregor

It is one of the suggestions that may be worth pursuing in relation to looking at other aspects of the way in which the House works. As the hon. Gentleman knows, such comparative studies of other countries' legislature take a long time, and I have to bear that in mind. It is also relevant to bear in mind the different traditions and practices of other legislatures. However, I see the purpose of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

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