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When will Parliament be reformed?

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Over the past three months I have bumped into a number of retired MPs and former Ministers. To a man and a woman they have said they do not miss the place and are grateful to have found some kind of work even if it is only one or two days (16 hours) a week. Some have said that for this they are being paid more than their £65k p.a. salary as an MP (80-100 hours a week).

Pay and Conditions are simply dreadful for MPs and becoming worse (no sane person could have dreamt up the new expenses regime). Worse though is that there will be no further reforms to the House of Commons and House of Lords because of the upcoming referendum on voting reform coupled with the change in constituency boundaries.

There should be a Secretary of State for Constitutional Reform. Then, there would be a permanent department charged with looking at reform.

As a for instance, why does electing the chairperson of a Select Committee really matter? Select Committees have no powers. They cannot bring their own Bills to the floor of the House and they cannot call the Secretary of State to order in the Chamber. Select Committees are a dance in time. They review policy; they make a report; the SoS has three months to respond by which time the Select committee has moved on to something else and the responses are so anodyne e.g. "The SoS agrees with the points made" as to be worthless. It is just another way of telling them that the system is broken and could they not bother the SoS again or at least not for a year or so.

Most of the working population manages to go to work between the hours of 0800/0930 and 1630/1730. Not so MPs. They operate a working day that is frankly bonkers. MPs actually sit in committees from 0900 but not in the Chamber; they have their priorities the wrong way round. MPs are there to change the law and make our life-chances better (or so it goes). 

Instead of tackling reform first they leave that until 1530/1630 on Mondays and Tuesdays finishing at 2200....and then come back for more on Wednesdays at 1230/1330 before finishing up at 1900 and then on Thursdays (where there are hardly any votes) they start at 1230/1330 and finish at 1800 by which time the place is empty as everyone has scarpered off home to do their social work and advice surgeries. They have in the recent past taken an eleven weeks holiday (2005-2009) though that has been reduced to eight this summer.  

One of the irritants is the political Conference season which requires MPs to have September off. Once again it is the tail wagging the dog's head. Conference has nothing to do with them being MPs; it is a party political thing and ought to take place NOT in September AND nor should it interrupt the schedule as it will this year BUT at Easter. A slightly longer Easter break would see all three parties' conferences shoe-horned into two weeks. Then, MPs can have four weeks holiday in the Summer and come back to work but come back to work from 0900-1800 NOT 0900-2200 five days a week like the rest of us.

Yes, five days a week.....five days a week (at 40 hours) with no Fridays working in the Constituency answering problems which largely have nothing to do with an MP's lot - Housing (local council), Schools places (LEA), Health (was PCT but who knows now) and Immigration (Police/courts/DoJ). Most of these are not the direct responsibility of an MP they are though the responsibility of the elected county or borough councillor who simply aren't up tot he task or do not have the proper support systems to deal with these issues.

I know it'll never happen. 


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