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How important is the House of Commons?

Commons_chamberIt's a light programme in the House of Commons today. This is the order of business:

"The House will sit at 2.30pm

Oral Questions - Children, Schools and Families; including Topical Questions

Motion - Ways and Means resolution on the Education and Skills Bill

Legislation - Education and Skills Bill - Lords amendments

Adjournment - Healthcare in Sutton - Mr Paul Burstow"

MPs usually have a long weekend away from Parliament - off on Friday and not due back until Monday afternoon. That is not to say that they have no other work to do during that period. Fridays are often given over to surgeries, there are typically events scheduled for Saturdays and sometimes Sundays ... and of course a member may have ministerial responsibilities too.

Moreover, with such a heavy workload during the week - certainly in terms of hours spent "on call" - (most!) MPs must welcome the chance to spend time with their families. One of the most disgusting things I have ever heard a Tory MP say was that he and colleagues had often deliberately made the House sit late purely in order to inconvenience Labour MPs. Hard graft to ensure effective legislation is one thing - adolescent games are another.

What do you think about all this - how important is the House of Commons?

Do MPs spend the right amount of time in the chamber? Do you think it's a talking shop, that everyone knows how they're going to vote and that MPs are better employed getting on with other things? Or is the Commons all too often bypassed, for example on Government announcements?

Should fewer decisions be made by executive fiat?

Shouldn't MPs have to fit all outside interests in around their Parliamentary responsibilities, and if that makes it hard for them to make morning board meetings, isn't that just tough?

Should a constituency hope that their MP becomes a senior minister because of the influence it gives them, or might we be better served as a nation if more ministers did not have constituencies?

Is it vital that the Prime Minister is an MP, or (if they were willing regularly to take questions from the lower chamber) could they come from the House of Lords?

Should recesses be quite so long?


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