The following was published as the lead letter in the Daily Telegraph in its
edition of the 20th January 2003:-
PUBLIC DESERVE LONGER HOURS
Sir – Mihir Bose accurately reports (sport, Jan 17) that I "failed to turn
up for the two days of the hearing" of the Culture, Media and Sport Select
Committee, which is currently considering an Olympic bid by London. Mr Bose
went on to explain that I was "believed to have been more involved" in
another Commons hearing. Again correct.
I am serving on the Communications Bill, which is being scrutinised clause
by clause, four sessions a week, except when the Government guillotine comes
down, because "we don’t have the time" and whole tranches of legislation are
passed on the nod.
Robin Cook and the "modernisers" are to blame for their irresponsible
attempt to create "family-friendly working hours" and a four-day week. These
new hours came into effect on January 7 and have already forced some
difficult choices on those MPs who take their job seriously.
Like many other MPs, I like to be in the House of Commons chamber for
ministerial questions and any statements. I also like to participate in the
debates that follow. But I need to complete my office work and see my
secretary to deal with the hundreds of letters and e-mails I receive weekly.
With Standing Committees now meeting at 8.55am, it is almost impossible to
complete office work with staff unless they are expected to work
Then, if I am serving on a Standing Committee, I must be available for
debates on individual clauses and votes which may then arise. And finally, I
also need to attend the two Select Committees of which I am a member and of
one of which I am chairman.
And then there are the all-party groups to which we belong, ranging from the
Royal Marines All- Party Group – of which I am joint chairman – to the
All-Party Group on Obesity. Such variety.
Some of these committees clashed when the Commons met (in committee and in
the Chamber) from 10.30am to 10pm, and often later. Rotten hours, I agree.
But the only practical way to fit some of it in. I don’t know any
professional friends who enjoy "family-friendly working hours".
Mr Cook and his Blair’s Babes cronies are already finding out what I would
have thought was obvious: you can’t squeeze a quart into a pint pot. And
it’s Parliament and our nation’s democratic birthright that will suffer as a