Summoning Parliament: Turnbull’s Timing And The Historical Experience

Is Malcolm Turnbull taking longer than previous prime ministers to bring the Parliament back after the election?

Several times during the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard commentators and journalists suggest that Turnbull is dragging the chain on getting the parliament back in session. They seem to suggest that nothing is happening unless the parliament is sitting. It’s a seductive notion for those who deal in the theatre of parliament and the drama of set-piece occasions such as Question Time.

Of course, it’s a nonsensical argument. At any point in time, the parliament is likely not to be sitting. On average, it sits for around 70-80 days a year, in about 20 weeks of the year. For the rest of the time, the business of government is carried on by the executive and the public service.

Nevertheless, it set me wondering about the times parliament sits following an election. The table below shows the dates for the past 115 years, covering all 45 elections since 1901. [Read more…]


British Reforms To Parliament’s Sitting Times

Sitting times for Britain’s House of Commons will change from early next year.

This article is extracted from The Backbencher email newsletter published by The Guardian.

The Guardian’s political editor, Michael White, hopes he is wrong to be sceptical about the reforms to parliament’s working hours.

Today was the last prime minister’s question time to be held at 3 o’clock. It’s difficult to remember now, but five or six years ago prime ministers used to arrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3.15pm for two sessions a week – two different accountabilities, as opposition and backbench MPs might put it. Tony Blair unilaterally changed it to one session of 30 minutes: the same amount of time but only one period of accountability. It annoyed quite a lot of people, but we have got used to it. [Read more…]