By politics.co.uk staff
Backbench MPs are increasingly failing to attend the select committees they sit on, new parliamentary figures have revealed.
Overall attendance at various pivotal select committees covering topics such as education, foreign affairs and culture has dropped ten per cent in five years.
The attendance rate for the main committees is 64 per cent, down six per cent since 2002/03.
At least 60 of the 220 members on the most influential Commons committees missed over half their meetings last year.
The figures, which have been released just as MPs' allowances dominate the headlines, prompted calls from various chairmen for members to improve their attendance.
Phil Willis, chairman of the innovation, universities, science and skills committee, said: "I think it is the job of members to attend."
Select committees were once considered a vital route into a ministerial - or shadow front bench - position. They are now regarded far less optimistically, as a repository for backbenchers.
But their time-consuming nature leads many MPs to cite them as a justification for poor attendance in the Commons.
Many parliamentary commentators praise committee reports as some of the most sensible policy suggestions to come from parliament.
The process by which MPs listen to the views of experts and affected groups before formulating policy suggestions often lead to progressive, evidence-based solutions.
But without any clear career opportunities resulting from committee attendance, many MPs are simply failing to attend.
"There is no reward for being a diligent select committee member," said Tony Wright, chairman of the Public Administration Committee.
Dawn Butler, for instance, attended only 15 of the Children, Schools and Families Committee's 64 meetings since last October, although she did fall ill for some of that time.
And Conservative Adam Afriyie, who sits on the board of politics.co.uk's parent company Adfero, attended only three of the 45 meetings when he was a member.
The figures related to attendance for the year to November, and reveal that non-attendance is a cross-party affair, with each party failing to attend as much as the others.
MPs with low attendance
Nadine Dorries - Innovation, universities, science and skills committee
Attendance: two per cent
Bob Spink - DUIS committee
Attendance: two per cent
Daniel Kawczyanski - Justice committee
12.5 per cent
Adam Afriyie - Schools committee
Attendance: 6.7 per cent
Dawn Butler - Schools committee
Attendance: 23.4 per cent
Anna Moffat - BERR committee
Attendance: 23.5 per cent
Geoffrey Cox - Defra committee
Attendance: 25.5 per cent