UK Politics

Boothroyd says Commons 'diminished' by lack of action

House of Commons Image copyright PA
Image caption Business in the Commons on Monday finished five hours earlier than scheduled

Former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd says the hours being worked by MPs in the Commons are "an insult to the Parliamentary system".

Amid claims of a dwindling amount of legislative business before the general election, Baroness Boothroyd said Parliament was being "diminished in the eyes of the electorate".

Monday's Commons proceedings were completed in just over three hours.

No 10 said important legislation was still being considered by MPs.

The prime minister's spokesman pointed to counter-terror, infrastructure and criminal justice legislation going through Parliament, saying: "If you look at the Parliamentary schedule I would describe it as one that enables it to get this legislation through."

Baroness Boothroyd, who was Commons Speaker between 1992 and 2000, said the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act was "an act of irresponsibility" that had led to MPs sitting around waiting for the election.

Under the act, passed in 2011, there has to be five years between general elections, unless there is a vote of two thirds of MPs or a motion of no confidence is passed in the government.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Baroness Boothroyd was Commons Speaker until 2000

Former ministers including Labour's Jack Straw and Conservative Ken Clarke have supported a bid by Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan to get it repealed.

Research shows that MPs sat for just 44% of weekdays over the past year, and only 11 new bills have been introduced in this Parliamentary session - the second lowest in recent history, BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said.

This has led to criticism of a "zombie" Parliament.

Speaking after Monday's business finished almost five hours early, Monday, Labour MP John Spellar said the government was "trying to fill time".

He added: "You can see this by how empty Parliament is and by the government whips letting people off on some Mondays and Wednesdays."

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