HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc554-5
34. Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

What plans she has for reviewing the length of the summer recess; and if she will make a statement. [55917]

Mrs. Beckett

The length of the summer recess is one of the issues that the Modernisation Committee can consider in its inquiry into the parliamentary calendar. As the House knows, the length of the summer recess is affected by several external factors and I do not envisage any change in the immediate future.

Mr. Mullin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not healthy in a democracy for the Government to enjoy a holiday from scrutiny that amounts to the best part of three months every summer? A possible solution, which may also meet the concerns of those who want us not to sit during half terms, would be for us to sit for a couple of weeks in early September and then not sit during half terms.

Mrs. Beckett

I am aware of my hon. Friend's views. I understand his anxiety to ensure that the House properly holds the Executive to account. However, as anyone who has ever considered changing such arrangements has discovered, there are eminently sound and practical reasons for the shape of the parliamentary term as it has emerged. Changes frequently cause substantial inconvenience not only to Members of Parliament and their ability to hold the Executive to account, but to other organisations, such as political parties that hold party conferences.