Scheduling of Parliamentary Business

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 17th July 2017.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 6:57 pm, 17th July 2017

We shall have to agree to disagree, because I think that going through the Division Lobby is one way in which Members of Parliament can talk to each other. It can be cohesive. We can talk to Ministers about the policies that they are developing, for instance. I do not support the idea of electronic or remote voting; I think that the present system creates more of a team within Parliament.

I do not support the idea that a vote at the end of every day, sometimes in the wee small hours of the morning, gives anyone the edge. It gives no one the edge. It feels as if we were re-enacting the D-day landings, and trying to adopt guerrilla tactics, which, in my 12 years of being in Parliament, have never worked. They have never changed the outcome of a debate, or the outcome of a vote. I urge the Government to think about how they can modernise that aspect of our parliamentary schedule—which brings me to my next point.

I am reliably told by some Members who have been here much longer than I have that late sittings are an integral part of parliamentary life. I know that they are not as late as they have been in past generations, but we are still regularly here until 10 pm, as we will be tonight. We may not mind that, which is absolutely fine, but there are consequences. The late votes that we decided to have cost the taxpayer £5 million over the last five years, and those were staff costs alone: the additional costs of policing and security must at least double the amount. At what point will we, as a Parliament, realise that sitting until 10 pm, or voting at 10 pm, on a Monday is not an integral part of the work that we do? When will we realise that we could change that, and save taxpayers money? We could also improve the quality of life of the staff who work here, which we currently seem to disregard when we make decisions about the scheduling of our sitting hours.