To ask the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, what are the estimated savings in running costs if the House of Commons retained its average length of sitting days but imposed a limit of midnight on all proceedings.
The total savings possible as a result of the House deciding to alter its hours of sitting would depend upon a number of factors, such as the predictability of the duration of sittings, the terms of any renegotiated conditions of service that might be necessary and whether there was an overall reduction in sitting hours. Those factors would be difficult and costly to quantify. I do not think that the exercise could be justified unless the House was considering specific proposals.
Nevertheless, does the hon. Gentleman agree that such savings are likely to be considerable, because much money is spent in sustaining our acts of collective masochism? That money is not a good investment in our democracy.
Yes, Sir, so long as there was an overall reduction in the hours during which the House sat and a great deal of work did not bunch up, to such an extent that additional staff had to be recruited to deal with it.