CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

BUSINESS QUESTION – COMMONS SITTING HOURS – 6 May 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Leader of the House realise that he gives the impression that he is dragging his feet on the question of the review of the sitting hours of the House when he talks about the narrowness of the majority in the Committee? Does he recall Early-Day Motion 262, which was signed by 245 Members?

The Government have made a U-turn on allowing people to vote on the European Constitution, so how about allowing Members of the House to vote on their sitting hours?

The Leader of the House (Mr Peter Hain): There will be a vote on sitting hours.

Dr Lewis: When?

Mr Hain: Let me take the hon. Gentleman through the sequence of events. At the beginning of the year, I announced that the Modernisation Committee would conduct a review. In the meantime, the Procedure Committee had circulated a questionnaire to every Member and there was a large response to which I referred earlier. That response showed a very narrow division, not on reverting to the old hours on Wednesday – there was no real support for that – but on the Tuesday hours. The division was between those who wanted the hour of interruption to remain at 7 o'clock and those who wanted to move back to 10 o'clock. In the Modernisation Committee we need to reflect on the detail of the response to the Procedure Committee and, yes, at the end of that process the House will have a vote on its future sitting hours, as has always been promised. The current hours are only for the rest of this Parliament.