Bercow: MPs’ holiday is too long

By staff

MPs’ 12-week summer holidays are too long and should be shortened, the Speaker has said.

John Bercow expressed discomfort with the length of the holidays at a meeting of researchers and educational charities organised by the Hansard Society.

The issue has been given added impetus this year, as observers take a critical eye to parliamentary culture in the wake of the expenses scandal.

“I am very sympathetic to those who say ‘why do MPs need to have a 12-week recess?’,” he said.

“I don’t think it is necessary.

“People cannot understand, even if MPs are working hard in their constituencies in September, why, when the vast majority of people are back at their place of work, we are not.”

Some MPs argue that the holiday is not in fact a holiday at all, but a chance for MPs to dedicate themselves to their constituencies without the distraction of Westminster.

Mr Bercow made a wide-ranging critique of parliamentary culture during the talk, in which he also suggested setting aside a Friday debating session for backbenchers’ bills.

There were also suggestions about where Cabinet members sitting in the Lords, such as Lord Mandelson, business secretary and Lord Adonis, transport secretary, could answer MPs’ questions. He appeared to favour debates in Westminster Hall, but left the possibility of them entering the Commons open.

He was similarly open to presiding over an English parliament, but stressed it was not the Speaker’s role to make judgements about the issue as a whole.