The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

September Sittings

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 2, 2010 @ 10:18

Dry, dusty, deathly dull. Academia: The new fragrance from Calvin Klein.

Being such a bore, I have just finished skimming through a few copies of Hansard relating to all the parliamentary fun of the past week or so. The most interesting part comes here, spoken by the Leader of the House, Sir George Young…

Colleagues will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise at the end of business on Thursday 29 July and, subject to the will of the House, return on Monday 6 September for two weeks.

That means Parliament’s failed attempt to introduce September sittings many years ago is going to be reattempted this year.

There are many arguments for and against September sittings. The most obvious one against it is that there seems little point coming together for two weeks, only to then bugger off again for the party conference season, before returning once more in October. In normal years, MPs would be returning for the fag-end of a session before the Queen’s Speech. This year, because it’s a long-session, there won’t be.

All a bit silly, but so much of politics is in this country, because we’ve never designed our system from the ground up. Everything is tacked on, modified, adapted, and scrapped in a piecemeal fashion.

In principle I’m not all that in favour of our parliament sitting more, not if it’s merely to pass more legislation. Our parliaments have done quite enough of that in the past 13 years. But if the extra sitting time is used for some more debates, some more private member’s business, genuinely topical stuff, and perhaps a debate initiated by a public petition, it might actually be worth it.

Might.

Unfortunately, the last time September sittings were tried most MPs just didn’t bother. Most resented losing their usual constituency time, and the whips only half-heartedly scheduled business. There was nothing interesting going on, and so no one bothered. The idea was quickly scrapped.

I have a feeling we’ll be going this way again. It looks like a new government trying to show how much they want change, and going out of their way to make a token gesture that will affect no one, and might even be made up for by adding bonus recesses elsewhere.

My only hope is this: Leader of the House Sir George Young and his deputy David Heath are both strong parliamentarians. They both want to strengthen scrutiny, both want to make the House more relevant, and make the government more accountable.

It remains to be seen whether they can convince their colleagues that it’s going to need more than just a tinkering with September sittings…

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