OPINION: The Big Question - How would reduced MP hours affect the lobbying industry? Tory spokesman Archie Norman has called for a reduction in MPs’ work hours, describing them as counter-productive and claiming they dissuade dynamic captains of i

ANDREW PHAROAH - Hill and Knowlton

ANDREW PHAROAH - Hill and Knowlton

’The issue is wider than just hours worked. If MPs have a working day

and working practices more closely matched to the business world this

should help to bring greater focus and discipline to their work. It

would in turn necessitate much better time management. One likely result

would be even less time for those companies that pursue the vanity

meeting or offer pointless hospitality. Public affairs is growing up.

The modern elements of the industry can only benefit from increased

professionalism at Westminster.’

MARK OATEN MP - Liberal Democrats

’The problem is not so much the number of hours MPs work, but the way in

which the Parliamentary week is structured. The haphazard time-tabling

of Commons business often leaves groups without advance notice of when

to apply pressure. While late night voting may deliver a captive

audience of MPs to wine and dine, a meeting with an MP early the next

day will always be muted. Some of the archaic Parliamentary practices

are very frustrating and hinder relations with the lobbying industry.

More professional and resourced MPs who work a Parliamentary week that

has fixed hours and a structured timetable should be perceived by the

lobbying industry as a great opportunity.’

MICHAEL BURRELL - Westminster Strategy

’Not hugely, is the rather boring answer. Most lobbyists spend more time

with clients and talking with officials in Whitehall than they do

meeting MPs. The idea that lobbying is mainly about boozing and

schmoozing the palace of Westminster with MPs is very out of date. It

really is much more about providing strategic advice to clients on how

to most effectively make a case to those who have an influence on

Government decisions, so back-bench MPs are just a part of that and most

of the other players already work more conventional hours. Still, it has

to be a good idea that Westminster MPs can work more normal hours and go

to bed at sensible hours as members of the devolved assemblies and other

national parliaments already do.’

WARWICK SMITH - Citigate Public Affairs

’Not at all. First, MPs don’t stop working when the Commons isn’t

sitting and the idea that lobbyists prowl the corridors of the Commons,

schmoozing up to MPs and calling in favours is as ridiculous as it is


We help clients understand what the Government is about, how best to

make their case: we empower their participation in the democratic


Democracy is strengthened by a politically literate and active

population and MPs are a fundamental part of this scene. Well advised

clients will make their case directly to the Government. They will also

brief MPs who can then make up their own minds and question the

Government from a well informed position. Shorter sitting hours won’t

stop MPs doing that. It’s why they do the job.’

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