HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc18-9
39. Mr. Bradshaw

If she will make a statement on progress towards reform of the hours of the parliamentary day. [26138]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The Modernisation Committee is currently considering proposals to reform sitting hours and hopes to report soon.

Mr. Bradshaw

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is she aware of the growing concern among new Members—and some long-standing Members—about the time that it is taking to reform some aspects of the way in which the House is run? One of the most difficult aspects to understand is why we still have to have hours that run along the lines of those of a gentlemen's club.

Mrs. Taylor

The Modernisation Committee started its work by considering the legislative programme, which was believed to be the appropriate priority. We are moving on to other issues, but my hon. Friend should realise that not all hon. Members share his view on the desirability of changing our working hours in the way that he suggests. Hon. Members have a wide range of opinions and it is right that the Modernisation Committee should take account of the different views. It is not a matter of old Members versus new Members, or Labour Members versus Conservative Members: the working patterns of Members of Parliament are very different and we must try to accommodate everyone.

Sir Patrick Cormack

I thank the right hon. Lady for that balanced and fair answer, and for the work that she has done with the Modernisation Committee. May I urge her to consider all those issues with caution and to refuse to be over-influenced by hon. Members who have been here for a very short time?

Mrs. Taylor

We must balance the interests and needs of Members, but many new Members have made us look anew at the way we run our affairs in Parliament. That must be beneficial, although we must eventually come up with practical changes that will receive the agreement of the whole House.