Sittings Patterns

Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2010.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 2:30 pm, 21st June 2010

What proposals he plans to put to the House for the pattern of sittings of the House for the rest of 2010 and 2011.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The House has already agreed to a sitting in September this year. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I would welcome Members' views on how the pattern of sittings should be organised.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

May I make an early bid for a pattern of fixed and family-friendly sittings that allows colleagues to be away some time for school holidays in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in England, and that gives us an annual regular cycle, with the wash-up at the end of the Session in September before the conferences, and a fixed date for the start of the parliamentary year every October?

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Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I recognise the issue of Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish school holidays. Different local education authorities have different term dates, so it would be impossible to align the sittings of the House completely with the school terms, but I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. There is a case for a more fundamental review of the annual sitting patterns of the House.

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Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Marine and Natural Environment)

Will the hon. Gentleman also take into account the extra-curricular activities of MPs of the better kind, such as contributing to VSO overseas? I have reluctantly cancelled a two-week engagement with VSO this summer because of the uncertainty. It is undoubtedly the case that the additional activities that MPs undertake-for example, on promoting workers' rights overseas-are to be protected. Will the hon. Gentleman take that into account as well, in looking at how we manage our timetable?

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Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am not sure that we can guarantee to protect the timetable for all the extra-curricular activities of hon. Members, but the hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. We indicated at the earliest opportunity what we would be doing this summer, but hon. Members want a degree of certainty about the parliamentary calendar, so far as that is possible. I hope the hon. Gentleman will contribute to the review that we will set up to look at that.

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