While supporting moves to make Parliament more relevant and topical last night (Tuesday 29th October 2002) in the debate on Parliamentary reform, Michael Fabricant condemned moves to close the House of Commons early in the evening as a "Charter for the lazy MP".
Michael Fabricant says: "The primary rôle of Parliament is to call the Government to account and to scrutinise legislation to try and get it right before it is made law. The changes introduced by New Labour weaken Parliament still further. Parliament carries out its work both in the Chamber and in Committee. By starting the Chamber earlier in the day to allow for a 7pm close down, I – and every other MP – will now have to make the choice whether to do Committee work or speak in the Chamber. We won’t be able to do both any more.
"A few days ago I was interviewing the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, in Committee and invited her to Lichfield to help funding of local organisations. In the afternoon, I was able to question other ministers in the Chamber about issues in the west midlands. This cannot happen in future. These reforms are a charter for lazy MPs who want to treat the job as a 9 to 5 career and who rarely contribute to debate. No serious Parliament can operate like that. It is a sad testimony that this Government has made the so called ‘Mother of Parliaments’ into the first which operates these hours. People in the west midlands should check whether their MP voted for a ‘cushy life’ in London or to ensure that Parliament carries out its work properly.
"There have been some improvements, however. In the past, questions to a minister had to be sent in two weeks in advance. This has now been reduced to 4 days making the questions far more topical. Unfortunately, proposals by the Procedure Committee to make Parliament even more relevant by calling in ministers at short notice to discuss urgent issues like the firemen’s strike or Iraq were rejected out of hand. Last night’s votes will weaken the Commons still further."