Tories plan prime-time PMQs

AS more details of the parliamentary reforms proposed by David Cameron if he wins the next election are drip fed to the media, the more I like them.With the reputation of the Commons at an all-time low, an incoming government of whichever colour must be radical in its approach to reform and to cleaning up the stables.

Graham Dines

AS more details of the parliamentary reforms proposed by David Cameron if he wins the next election are drip fed to the media, the more I like them.

With the reputation of the Commons at an all-time low, an incoming government of whichever colour must be radical in its approach to reform and to cleaning up the stables.

Shadow Commons leader Sir George Young is considering moving Prime Minister's Questions from Wednesdays at noon to Thursday evenings during prime time television.

By making that move, it will shame part-time backbenchers from sloping off early to their country cottages - sorry, constituencies - with their wives or lovers.

It will also ensure a proper audience for the great weekly parliamentary confrontation between Prime Minister and opposition leaders.

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PMQs, which was brought in under Harold Macmillan's reforms, was switched by Tony Blair from a 15 minute twice-weekly slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3.30pm to a 30-minute session on Wednesday lunchtimes.

Blair could barely disguise his contempt for Macmillan's tryst with accountability, and as soon as he was finished answering questions, he was so fast out the door that one was left to wonder if Macdonald's had set up a free burger stand in the corridor behind the Speaker's chair.

Gordon Brown is distinctly uncomfortable at his weekly tussles with Cameron. He learns a few sound bites and repeats them over and over again, while Cameron has the Thatcher-like quality of having a rapier sharp wit and the ability to forensically destroy Labour's arguments.

The second reform that Young is proposing would be to make the House sit in August, similar to the House of Representatives and the Senate in the United States.

The UK parliament sits for ridiculously short hours. Debates are guillotined because there is not enough time for proper scrutiny, and even if Bills were given the debates they deserved, so few MPs bother to turn up that the public is left wondering what on earth their elected representatives actually do.

While Young and Cameron are about, let's restore the previous parliamentary hours, which saw select committees sitting in the morning and sessions of parliament starting at 2.30pm and with key votes at 10pm.

Labour made the change to morning sessions with votes at 7pm to appease the Blair Babes, who needed to be back in their London flats - funded by the taxpayer - in order not to miss Coronation Street because they were unable to work out how to video programmes.

They've got no excuse now that Sky Plus is so easy to use.

The New Labour experiment with the parliamentary timetable has been an unmitigated disaster. Let's return to the former hours of sitting, and if on occasion that means meeting throughout the night, then that's no bad thing.

Most MPs will be in their constituencies on Fridays and will be able to spend the weekends with their families.

Let's face it, the majority of Brits have just five weeks leave a year plus bank holidays - and MPs should not be a class apart.