Should parliament sit through the conference recess?

Parliament returns from the summer recess on Monday with a new Conservative Party leader and, shortly afterwards, a new prime minister when the Queen gives her approval at Balmoral.

The details and consequences of those events will be discussed here on Lib Dem Voice. And just about everywhere else. But the Commons will only sit for 14 days from the end of the summer recess before it takes a month’s break for the party conferences. Some of the conferences. MPs will sit for two days during the Lib Dem conference.

The summer recess lasted for 53 days. Nearly two months at a time of growing national crisis, around 30 sitting days. The Lib Dems called for a recall of parliament during the summer recess, including to act on the energy price hikes.

MPs need their holidays, as do their staff and civil servants that support them. But while the Conservatives have been distracted while they gaze at their political navels, the nation has not been distracted. The world is more unstable than before the war in Ukraine and the tensions in the Asia Pacific. The cost of living crisis is getting scary. Very scary. There are issues to be resolved that cannot wait until after the conference season

MPs could sit for 11 additional days in between the party conferences, three more if parliament sits on a Saturday. We should be calling for that.

I doubt scheduling extra days for Commons and Lords sittings will happen.

We perhaps cannot expect any gestures towards democracy from a self-indulgent Conservative Party, which prorogued parliament illegally and has spent this summer tearing itself apart rather than getting on with the job of governing the country.

Although governments can act quickly and legislation can be passed in day, that is not the best way to run our country. We are likely to see a lot of legislation rushed through before the parliamentary recess for conferences, some of which we may well come to regret. Though if I am honest, we might just come to regret much of the legislation that comes forward under the new leader in the coming months.

Conference dates

Lib Dem: Brighton 17-20 September

Labour: Liverpool 25-28 September

Green: Harrogate 30 September to 2 October

Conservatives: Birmingham 2-5 October

SNP: Aberdeen 8-10 October

Plaid Cymru: Llandudno 21-22 October.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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11 Comments

  • In the absence of a written constitution, MPs do not have a proper job description, let alone conventional written contracts. In the education sector most professionals have holiday periods all at the same time, for obvious reasons. This is very different from, for example, the health and social care sector, and indeed local government, where annual leave is largely a matter of negotiation. The concept of time off in lieu is a proper component of health and well-being.

    We have discovered that it is possible to do a short term stint as Acting Prime Minister while taking holidays whenever you feel like – not the best example of flexibility for legislators taking time off. However it is not beyond the wit of party whips to work out ways in which people get adequate time for holidays whether or not Parliament is in session. It is ludicrous that no crisis is big enough to interfere with the recess timetable.

  • >MPs need their holidays, as do their staff and civil servants that support them.
    That can be accommodated by giving them the typical real-world employment contract ie. 24 days holiday pa. taken with the prior agreement of their employer.

  • Laurence Cox 1st Sep '22 - 5:39pm

    If MPs could simply vote remotely, instead of having to walk through the division lobbies, we wouldn’t need one long recess for Party Conferences. As it is, all the Party conferences have at least one weekend day and if we had Party conferences starting on Fridays, which is already a Private Members’ bill day for most of the session, we could get by with just three non-sitting days (for the Parties with 4-day conferences). Even if they all started on a Saturday, that would only be eight non-sitting days, even without remote voting.

  • Do we actually need Party conferences?

  • Brian Evans 2nd Sep '22 - 9:28am

    I find myself increasingly annoyed at the time this procedure for selecting a new leader has taken. As my friends in Make Votes Matter have pointed out, while constantly advocating the existing First Past the Post system for Westminster elections, this is not good enough for their own leadership election. If they really like FPTP, a single afternoon in July could have done the job. If they wanted to give the party membership a vote, this could have been done within a week, or two at most. The protracted system they adopted could have been achieved by allowing their entire membership preferential voting. It appears that the parliamentary party didn’t trust their national membership to make a choice from eight candidates, so they had to restrict them to just the two ‘favourites’. It has been a chaotic dog’s breakfast of an election, that has deprived the country of any kind of government for nearly two months, when the crises the country faces at present have demanded attention.

  • William Wallace 2nd Sep '22 - 10:45am

    The Tory right has a deep contempt for Parliament. I’ve listened to ministers asserting that the people elected Boris Johnson, and Parliament had no right to challenge what he puts forward. The Lords, in their view, is still dominated by ‘the liberal elite’ – and is therefore to be disregarded until it can be stuffed with enough right-wing populists. There are now 140 MPs on ‘the government payroll’, which assures effective control of the Commons given the flabbiness of Labour’s opposition. Time for constitutional change!

  • Suzanne Fletcher 2nd Sep '22 - 7:07pm

    on the holidays theme, you don’t get a holiday at all if a cllr.
    even if planning away time not to miss committees and such that you are on, extra ones pop up.
    you are bombarded with reports and such you need to at least skim to see what is happening relevant to your ward/issues.
    there is nobody else to do your casework.
    coming back from a holiday is exhausting trying to catch up.
    Same applies for going to conference (although I did negotiate behind the scenes after a number of years for full council not to be at our conference time).

  • John Barrett 2nd Sep '22 - 8:39pm

    The conference recess is a complete nonsense.

    Can anyone think of any reason for Parliament not sitting because a party with relatively few MPs will not be there?

    Giving all MPs a break from Parliament because a some from an opposition party will be at their conference is madness.

    Holding party conferences from Friday to Monday, or any other 4 days, is more than long enough for most parties. The Lib Dem conference will last four days, and the SNP conference next month will be three days.

    How many Labour or Conservative MPs attend their conferences is anyone’s guess, but they have more than enough MPs to keep Parliament going at the same time as their own conferences are on, and key votes, if there were any, could be held on pre-arranged days later on.

    Many MPs do not go to their own party conference and go on holiday at that time.

    With so many national crises to be dealt with, it’s time they got their priorities in order.

  • @Suzanne, regarding the work load of councilors, I concur. Which makes it odd that so many choose to take on extra roles on town/parish councils, plus endless trusteeships with local charities etc. If you have six roles are you really doing all of them to the best of your ability and that’s five people who don’t get a chance to contribute.

  • Ruvi Ziegler 5th Sep '22 - 6:15pm

    Relatedly, I would like to shed light on an under-considered element on conference season- the effect on Jewish party members.

    This year, both Labour and Conservative party conferences clash with the most important dates in the Jewish calendar – Jewish New Year (Rosh Ha-Shana) (Labour) and the day of atonement (Yom Kippur) (Conservatives). By luck of the draw, Lib Dem conference this year does not clash with either but, I daresay, would have probably taken place if it did.

    Given that the Jewish calendar is lunar but, unlike the Muslim calendar, has an additional month added in 7 of 19 years cycles, the high holidays virtually always fall during party conference season. Observant Jews are effectively prevented from attending, whereas for others it poses a real dilemma whether to spend time with family and their community or to participate in the most important event in the annual political calendar.

    With some planning and coordination, the effects can be mitigated. I hope our party can ensure that is the case in future years when the HHD season clashes with our conference.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 5th Sep '22 - 6:57pm

    @ChrisCory – but there isn’t necessarily anyone else willing!

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