HC Deb 17 May 1999 vol 331 cc638-40
40. Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

What plans she has to introduce a three-month notice period of the dates of the summer recess. [83449]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

The approximate dates of the summer recess are generally well known and do not vary much over the years. The uncertainties that affect parliamentary business make it very difficult for the precise dates to be announced as early as the end of April.

Mr. Gapes

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in addition to Members of Parliament, there are thousands of staff here—especially those with young children—who would benefit greatly from being able to plan and book holidays some time in advance, when it is more convenient, and perhaps cheaper? Is he also aware that the families of many Members of Parliament live in other parts of the United Kingdom, where the school holidays vary, and that there is a trend towards four-term school holidays in some parts of the country? Can further consideration please be given to giving at least a reasonable period of notice for those with families, to allow them to book their holidays in the summer recess?

Mr. Tipping

It is of course important to give reasonable notice of the holiday period, and I am sure that my hon. Friend, who has taken a close interest in the matter, will welcome the extra notice that was given for the Easter and Whitsuntide holidays. I join him in thanking the staff of the House and commending their efforts. It is important to treat them and hon. Members properly. We are aware of the issue, but he will be aware that a week is a long time in politics, never mind 12 weeks.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Would the Minister confirm that even if three months' notice of the dates of the summer recess were introduced, the Government have no intention whatever of allowing a situation in which the Cabinet decides not to sit during the summer recess? Will he confirm that the Government recognise that Parliament being in recess does not justify the Government abandoning their responsibility to the people who put them there?

Mr. Tipping

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this is a modernising and progressive Government who work not only when Parliament is open, but all the year round. People across the country are feeling the benefits of the hard work of the Cabinet.