Monday, October 13, 2014

MPs - a proper job?

"Members of Parliament work for an average of 70 hours a week, representing their constituents and performing their duties in the House of Commons," says this Guardian article.

In the 2013/14 session, Parliament sat for 162 days. Based on a 5-day week, that's 32.4 weeks, or 62% of the year. If each week was indeed a 70-hour week, that would be 2,268 hours a year, or the equivalent of 49 hours a week for the ordinary worker's 46.4-week working year.

That's assuming, of course, that 70 hours on site is 70 hours' work. I find it hard to believe that MPs work solidly for 14 hours per day, but perhaps they have amazing stamina. My brother tells me that he thinks the most you can expect to do is 6 hours' effective work per day, and that sounds more plausible.

Not that the average means everybody. Following an article about Sir Stuart Bell, who hadn't held a surgery in his constituency for 14 years and spent more time in France than in England, The Guardian surveyed MP absenteeism from the House in the first two months of 2011: 45 Members managed no more than 50% attendance, and the leader among these was Roger Godsiff - my former representative! - at 88.5% absence. In 2008, average absenteeism ran at about 36%.

The Government-Opposition pairing system liberates many from having to attend debates, but why should it be assumed that one side must automatically vote Aye and the other No?

And of those who do attend, how many follow the debate all the way through, and have read and understood the legislation they are passing? The Boiling Frog's sidebar quotes former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd on the Maastricht Treaty: "Now we've signed it - we had better read it."

No wonder MPs made £7 million in outside interests last year, and 20 of them earned more than their Parliamentary salary.

Richard North says windmills "are built to run, on average, for less than ten percent of the time." Perhaps we could replace a substantial number of MPs with windmills - at least the hot air in the Debating Chamber might finally be put to productive use.


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