News

Parliament Matters Explains: What do MPs actually do? (Bonus episode 11)

15 Dec 2023
The former Clerk of the House, Robert Rogers, speaking to new MPs in the House of Commons Chamber shortly after the 2015 General Election. ©UK Parliament
The former Clerk of the House, Robert Rogers, speaking to new MPs in the House of Commons Chamber shortly after the 2015 General Election. ©UK Parliament

Members of Parliament do not have a job description. So, what exactly is their role? How do they balance constituency and parliamentary responsibilities? How do they manage ministerial and party work?

At some point in the next 12 months we will have a general election. Within days, a large cohort of newly-elected MPs will arrive at the Palace of Westminster. How can they prosper and flourish in the House of Commons? How should they decide what to focus on? How do they maintain a work-life balance?

In this special explainer, we discuss the nature of an MPs work and the challenges they face in balancing often competing demands and obligations.

Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

Parliament Matters Episode 11 (bonus)

Please note, this transcript is automatically generated. There are consequently minor errors and the text is not formatted according to our style guide. If you wish to reference or cite the transcript copy below, please first check against the audio version above. Timestamps are provided above each paragraph.

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:17:13

You are listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn more at hansardsociety.org.uk/pm.

00:00:17:15 - 00:00:49:00

Hello and welcome to Parliament Matters Explains, a new bonus feature from the Parliament Matters podcast. I’m Mark D’Arcy. And I’m Ruth Fox. In these editions we’ll be focusing on issues raised by you, the listeners. So send us your questions at hansardsociety.org.uk/pmuq. This time our subject is, what do MPs actually do? Take it away, Ruth.

00:00:49:02 - 00:01:13:09

Well, Mark, we've had quite a few questions from our listeners about exactly what is it that MPs do, and short answer is they're not like the rest of us generally speaking, because they don't have a job description. So there's no sort of specifically defined tasks that they must do. You can look at breaking it down. They've got their parliamentary responsibilities, so they've got responsibility for scrutinizing legislation.

00:01:13:10 - 00:01:53:16

They've got responsibility for scrutinizing public finances, scrutinizing policy. Of course, if they become a minister, then they'll have departmental responsibilities within government. And of course, then they've got their constituency responsibilities, which is a growing aspect, has been for decades, but even more so since the pandemic, a growing aspect of their workload, performing some, frankly, some of the functions almost like a social worker dealing with, you know, very, very local problems of of their constituents, whether it's housing, whether it's, you know, problems with the local authority or another, you know, another body that they've come up against, sort of an organ of the state where there's a lot of bureaucracy they're trying to fight through sorting

00:01:53:16 - 00:02:19:06

out pensions and benefits, immigration questions. And then, of course, they've got a policy role. So they've got a party political role as a representative of their respective party in the community, and sometimes with wider regional or national responsibilities. And my short answer to the question, what do MPs do is what they want, essentially because a member of Parliament has to choose the balance that they strike between all those different things.

00:02:19:06 - 00:02:42:19

If you're a a new MP, you may be very much on your mettle in the constituency putting yourself about and devote more time to that. If you're a new MP with a very large majority who's perhaps not on TV worried about what their constituency thinks, you may be in the chamber the whole time asking questions and making life difficult for ministers or the Opposition are making endless speeches on debates and random parliamentary occasions.

00:02:42:21 - 00:03:07:04

So the constraints on that are very much from their own party. You know, the whips might come to a particular MP and say, We'd like you to be on the committee that's going through the detail of this particular new piece of legislation, and then you'll find yourself spending day after day potentially in a Commons committee room, and they can often be either subtropical or absolutely freezing depending on the weather.

00:03:07:06 - 00:03:26:24

But you can be in that committee room going through the process of what some slightly fictionally referred to as line by line scrutiny. One of the slightly difficult things about land is if you've been into one of these committees, you sometimes notice that a lot of members are going through their constituency paperwork while they're sort of making up the numbers on a committee and occasionally sticking up their hands to vote on key when their party whips tell them to.

00:03:27:03 - 00:03:51:02

But what I'm working round to here is a lot of the time the parliamentary duties that an individual MP takes on are directed to them by the party whips. I suppose it's possible for an MP to say no, I'm not doing that, but there may be sort of disciplinary consequences. And also sometimes the party whips can make you suffer if you fail to do their bidding by putting you on particularly boring bill committees.

00:03:51:05 - 00:04:09:05

So I would, you know, so, so that's, that's the I think probably the main constraint on an individual MP is just doing what their party tells them to or being a spokesperson for their party perhaps, or a shadow minister or even the Prime Minister making you a minister as is the other way that those those kind of duties can change.

00:04:09:06 - 00:04:32:11

Yeah, and that's why it varies from from individual to individual. And that's, you know, it also you've got to think about an MP in London has a rather different life, both in terms of their work life balance to the MP in the north of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands, for example. If you're Angus MacNeil, the MP for the Western Isles at the moment, you can find just an awful lot of traveling much greater than if you're the MP for the city in Westminster.

00:04:32:11 - 00:04:47:13

Yeah, so you know the amount of time that they can devote to certain things and how they balance out that constituency in parliamentary work is necessarily very, very different. And indeed you can often find an individual MP ends up going to the whip saying, I think I'm under pressure in my constituency, I've got to spend more time there.

00:04:47:13 - 00:05:21:09

Can you not impose on me vast, time consuming duties elsewhere so that I can go and fight for my survival back home? And that's what you're seeing already, You know, how far out are we from an election? It depends who you ask. A year out, possibly less. Well, we are already seeing MPs, even in not so emotional constituencies wanting to be on the ground, you know, fighting, doing the local campaigning, very high local presence in terms of visits to community events, lots of visiting local schools, you know, opening fetes, opening envelopes.

00:05:21:11 - 00:05:55:06

It's been an awful lot. You know, there'll be a lot of them this Christmas will be out in A&E departments. They'll be out with the emergency services over the Christmas period. That's quite a common a common thing that they will do to see sort of life on the frontline over the festive period. I know one particular MP once told me the story that they had a young child and that young child was born early in November and that young child for I think the first six or seven years of their life, spent every birthday weekend going around mining villages to a succession of different remembrance services because the MP had to be there.

00:05:55:08 - 00:06:23:22

And that's the kind of way that, you know, constituency life can intrude into your parliamentary duties. I mean, it used to be the case that the constituency work was focused primarily Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It has intruded now not obviously for all MP because of the distance and traveling issue, but for a lot of employees now they are getting away on a Wednesday afternoon after pay and queues or very early on a Thursday morning and it's, you know, it's encroaching more into the parliamentary time.

00:06:24:02 - 00:06:44:16

And we're also being told, you know, picking up for MPs that whereas once upon a time, you know, they'd be able to sort of preserve that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, impossibly Thursday is full parliamentary activity and there were no expectations at the local level that they'd be in their constituency now because of Zoom. As a result of the pandemic and the sort of the virtual parliament, expectations have changed.

00:06:44:16 - 00:07:08:04

So employees are finding that when they normally be in the Westminster office on a Wednesday morning waiting for Prime Minister's questions going into the chamber, you know, local organization, whether it's a school or a hospital trust, you know, just a group of constituents, maybe a housing association wants to speak to them about an issue. And there's a sort of expectation that they will be available even if they're in Westminster.

00:07:08:04 - 00:07:25:02

Well, you can get online, you know, here's the link. And it's the MP equivalent of the curse of email that, you know, your boss is expecting you to respond to emails sort of 9:00 at night when you're trying to have dinner or wind down watching the telly. Instead, you've got to be pinging back emails, your bosses, the parliamentary.

00:07:25:08 - 00:07:44:16

Yeah. So upscaling of that issue. Yeah. So you know you're seeing this sort of this real clash in terms of priorities and use of time between the local and the national. And I think there's no doubt that we've seen a trend over many years where employers are spending much more focused on the local and that has been accelerated.

00:07:44:21 - 00:07:59:14

Yeah, I think it's particularly a result of the pandemic. It's not just the zoom thing, it's the fact that when there were the lockdowns and members of Parliament found themselves having to explain the rules to people in their constituency who wanted to do the rules, let me do this. And they were almost the only people who could get an answer.

00:07:59:14 - 00:08:30:18

The local institutions that you might otherwise have turned to just didn't know any more than the MP. The MP could at least go and ask a minister or get a rapid response out of a minister on things like that. And so the role kind of escalated during that crisis. And again, when, for example, there was the great pull out of Afghanistan, a lot of MPPs found themselves absolutely deluged with queries from people who had relatives in Afghanistan and who wanted to get them out with who might have been aid workers, they might have been Afghans with relatives in that constituency.

00:08:30:23 - 00:08:57:23

But the amount of constituency work suddenly mushroomed out of nowhere because of that particular crisis was absolutely enormous for at least a quite considerable group of MPs. Yeah, and now when you think about the economic crisis, the energy crisis, it's affecting not just the residents within their communities, but also business. So you're dealing with, you know, the concerns of the sort of the local business that struggling with business rates or are struggling to pay their electricity and energy bills.

00:08:58:00 - 00:09:15:00

And, you know, they're wanting answers about how are we going to fix this problem, because my business is at risk of going under. And what you tend to find as an MP, I experienced this myself because I worked for an MP, albeit quite a number of years ago now, is that employees are the kind of the final resort.

00:09:15:03 - 00:09:37:02

Everything else has failed. I can't get anywhere. I can't get any satisfaction, I can't get anybody to answer my questions. I'm banging my head against a brick wall, the MP and the advice surgery or writing to them ringing their office is what we do in desperation. And very often it's almost too late for the MP to be able to to resolve the issue and source anything in the the time that's left.

00:09:37:03 - 00:09:59:02

And usually there aren't very many good answers left for MP at that stage because you know what avenues have been exhausted under the ombudsman of last resort? I mean a lot of the smart MPs will try and have local councilors at their constituency surgery who might be able to help with a specific problem about planning or housing or whatever it is that they can immediately get someone to talk to because this is the person that.

00:09:59:06 - 00:10:25:14

But the person that MPs absolutely hate is the one who says, I'm not going to bother with the council, I'm going to go straight to the top. So if the MP somehow at the top of some hierarchy can give orders to a local councilor, but also the value of that depends on the local politics. So absolute if you are a Labor MP in a an area with a conservative council versa, well vice versa, you're not going to get that kind of help necessarily, and you're certainly not going to want the councilor from the opposition party in your advice surgery.

00:10:25:16 - 00:10:57:19

So again, it's contextual dependent, depends on what's happening and what the political situation is in that constituency and also what you find within parties that you know, there isn't necessarily always a strong relationship between the MP and the councilors because quite often what the MPs raising the issues and problems, if it is the same party that's running the local authority, you're basically being quite critical of what they're doing because you're having to raise these problems all the time and, you know, bang on the door of the chief executive of the council, the leader of the council, and say, Can you please sort this out?

00:10:57:21 - 00:11:29:15

Well, absolutely. But, you know, the MP can sometimes have very close links to people who can help. You know, can I text the manager of the local hospital to say my constituents waiting for something? It hasn't happened yet. Can you get them an appointment? Those kind of things. And please can do. The other point about this is that it can be very, very valuable in the sense of being kind of good for the MP soul, even if it's an awful lot of work, because unlike in other systems where parliamentarians perhaps a bit more detached from a particular geographical area, these are people are getting their noses rubbed in the daily problems and realities of their

00:11:29:15 - 00:12:02:08

constituents. You know, in America it's possible to be very, very senior secretary of state or something and never actually have to meet the constituents you get from high level meeting in Washington to international summits to symposium to come up to Davos or wherever it is, and never actually have to meet an ordinary person. The British equivalents have to spend regular Friday afternoons in a damp church hall somewhere listening to people's housing problems, immigration problems, whatever it is, and know what really concerns them.

00:12:02:08 - 00:12:29:20

And it's not necessarily the great sort of make up public policy issues that they'd like to sink their teeth into. It's the very mundane that concerns the people that they serve and who would like them. Yeah, but sometimes you can find the worlds of the minister and the local MP clash. I mean, I remember the MP that I worked for, he was a Foreign Office minister and it was not unknown for us to be sitting in the advice surgery in the constituency 6:00 on a Friday evening.

00:12:29:22 - 00:12:59:19

And for me having to be working with his private office staff in the Foreign Office to set up a private phone call in the advice surgeries, that he could go off into another room to take it, to take a phone call with one of the defense ministers in the United States at the Pentagon to talk about basically, you know, more often than not, problems in Afghanistan that they were having to resolve and he'd have to step outside the advice surgery while everybody else outside was waiting with that complaints about, you know, the local I can't get an appointment with my GP or, you know, one sort of problem was often potholes.

00:12:59:22 - 00:13:22:24

I mean, that is a huge issue for for local MP getting constituents coming through the door complaining about that. And you know, that juxtaposition of a major national issue, international issue and the most local and mundane you could possibly imagine. And you know, within seconds they were having to turn from one to the other. The defense minister on the other end of the phone wasn't to know where he was in the constituency.

00:13:23:01 - 00:13:42:01

You know, and the defense minister in the US would be in his nice plush office in the Pentagon, in Washington with the flag behind, I mean, a huge staff and another minister is sort of sat in this sort of dingy advice center with with his local Westminster staff sitting in, trying to plug the phones in the right way.

00:13:42:03 - 00:14:06:15

But there's also the question of how much influence do individual MPs have and how do they use it. And I suppose the thing that a member of Parliament has, whichever party they're in, is that they do have a bit of access to government ministers where there's some problem. I mean the classic example, placing a button, holding a home office minister about an immigration issue, for example, once upon a time MP even had an almost sort of statutory right to stop someone being deported while their case was reconsidered.

00:14:06:15 - 00:14:23:16

I think that one that ships eloquent want to go now, but it used to be the case. So that's where I think the prime influence law is for a member of Parliament, is that they can whisper into the show lucky ears of ministers, often while they're going through their incredibly extended voting process where it takes 20 minutes for MP to file through a division.

00:14:23:19 - 00:15:02:05

Yeah, well, this, this is why when you know the issue of electronic voting and you know, should we still have MPs walking through the lobbies to register they vote in-person, taking 20 minutes to do so. Would it not be more effective, more efficient to have electronic voting like that during lots of other parliaments? And the answer comes back from a lot of MPs is no, and that's the reason they want that opportunity in the lobby to be able to sidle up to a minister and make their case, make their point, possibly get a commitment to have a meeting, be put in touch with a civil servant who can help them answer a policy question, you

00:15:02:05 - 00:15:22:12

know, whatever it might be. But that that personal contact direct with the minister is what they want to preserve. And it is an unusual part of the system that is not a feature of many other parliaments. And so if they all just had to swipe a card or turn a key or something to express their vote, they just wouldn't have that chance to buttonhole a minister.

00:15:22:18 - 00:15:37:05

And it matters more than people might imagine. I mean, of course there are other formal ways you can make a point. You can have an adjournment debate at the end of the day where you want to look about the planning issues in your local high street or access to your local ayeni or whatever it is. You can have a Westminster Hall debate on a similar subject.

00:15:37:11 - 00:15:59:14

You can get a group of MEPs together to raise a generic subject. So there are all sorts of ways that employees can make a point. But the person to person one seems to be usually the most important informally below the radar, but nonetheless important for that. Yeah. And that ability also to be able to say to your constituents, I've spoken to the minister, you know, you've had that personal face to face contact.

00:15:59:16 - 00:16:37:10

It also matters, of course, for party management purposes, you know, the ability you know, you always hear the sort of the minister who's in trouble has been seen in the tea room in Westminster, you know, meeting the backbenchers, trying to, you know, soothe relations over whatever problem they've got that week and that personal contact. A lot of what happens in politics and in Parliament that is really essential and valuable to keep the the the wheels moving to sort of grease the wheels is what happens offstage in the private behind the scenes.

00:16:37:12 - 00:16:57:03

It's a piece of work that we don't see unless, of course, you're a journalist like you sat in Portcullis House Cafe collaring them as they as they walk past. But what we're not talking about here and listeners will notice this is we're not talking about individual MPs having a vast amount of leverage over laws that are passed on a day to day basis.

00:16:57:03 - 00:17:21:10

The way you get leverage over that is either the government majority is so small individuals really do have a lot of traction or alternatively, if a group of like minded M.P.s can get together and say with this, we will not put you've got to make changes, ministers. But most of the time MPs are, I'm afraid, lobby fodder. They are marched through the lobbies on the orders of their party whips, often for stuff that they don't really know about and haven't even read.

00:17:21:12 - 00:17:38:16

Yeah, I mean, it's not as true today as it used to be. I mean, you know, you can go back, you know, again, I'm quoting the work of Professor Philip Cowley at Queen Mary. He's he's studied sort of backbench rebellions, but you can go back to the 1950s and find whole sessions of Parliament, whether or government backbench rebellions.

00:17:38:18 - 00:18:00:06

That's very rare these days in a session. But yeah, it's difficult to get a sufficient sufficient number of MPs together on an issue if a government has a majority because, you know, first of all they're signed up, you know, they are party representatives, the whip. It is a form of discipline. And as you say, you know, there are consequences that flow from it.

00:18:00:06 - 00:18:15:11

If you lose the whip, there are consequences that will flow even if you don't lose the way the pressure will be applied. The whip can be correct, to coin a phrase. Yeah, but also the politicians recognize that they're also dependent upon the party, for example, for support. If they're in a marginal constituency, you know, it works both ways.

00:18:15:11 - 00:18:45:16

Loyalty, you know, is a two way street. Yeah, there is no doubt that there is a real concern amongst many sort of observers like House of Westminster that the legislative role of parliamentarians in the House of Commons is being abrogated. It's not as big as it ought to be on most things. Occasionally, when there's a really hot topic which perhaps has concerns that cross party lines, you can occasionally get stuff done.

00:18:45:21 - 00:19:19:01

As a backbencher that you wouldn't be able to do otherwise. But it is quite a rare occasion and you know, in some ways the role of a backbench rank and file MP is not particularly earmarked, some for future glory as a Cabinet minister or something like that is a pretty low profile, almost demeaning one. Yeah, I mean, this is one of the things I think looking ahead to the to the general election and the new cohort of MPs that will be coming in, I mean, you know, we don't yet know what the final number will be, but already based on the number of employees who've announced that they are stepping down, it's going to be

00:19:19:01 - 00:19:46:18

a significant level of churn before you start factoring in seats. Changing hands. Yeah. So look at the polls and one of the things that time and again you find amongst a new group of MPs who come in after a general election is how they struggle to find their feet in those these early months. It's a very, very unusual and different environment and, you know, the pressures are piling in to be up and running immediately.

00:19:46:20 - 00:20:04:06

You know, some of them, you know, they might never have really, ever looked at a bill piece of legislation. They wouldn't know, you know, a statutory instrument. What is it? They haven't came up with them. Yeah, they don't know what the estimates processes. So there's the procedural and sort of technical side of scrutiny that they're going to have to learn.

00:20:04:08 - 00:20:27:08

And Westminster is sometimes, you know, it's another language. It does not make its rules, the processes as accessible and is easy to understand not just for the public, but for its own people. It's another language. It's also another country. I mean, if you're an MP whose constituency is some distance away, you may be operating this for several nights a week on your own with your family and friends.

00:20:27:08 - 00:20:53:09

You'll have to make new social connections. You'll have to try and, you know, find ways of staying out of trouble, frankly, as well. Make sure that you're gainfully employed during that period and you're using the time effectively. And it can be a very alienating, very lonely environment for someone who doesn't perhaps quite fit in. Yeah, I mean, we found we did we did some research in amongst the new cohort of MPs after the 2005 election and after the 2010 election.

00:20:53:09 - 00:21:16:11

And we we sort of surveyed them at different points in time after they'd got elected in the study that was called A Year in the Life from a member of the public to Member of Parliament, and he tracked a lot of different aspects of their lives. But one of the things that came out of it was how quickly they were alienated, how frankly, some of them were, you know, saying it after three months, You know, what?

00:21:16:11 - 00:21:36:01

What are you most looking forward to finishing? You know, what are you most looking forward to Christmas break? Because I you know, I want away from here. And I think that that's going to be a concern if the parties, particularly the seeming the Labor Party wins the election based on the polls, they could have quite a significant number of new members.

00:21:36:03 - 00:21:56:00

I need to think very carefully about how they're going to manage the induction and the orientation program for new members and organizations like ourselves. The Constitution Unit, the Institute for Government and others can help and assist with that. But, you know, they need to give some really careful thought, too, to what support they're going to put in place as parties.

00:21:56:04 - 00:22:17:17

Well, you know, mentoring, you know, sort of almost like putting systems between older hands and PS, we've got a lot of experience who can who can help them, you know, try and get them over those those first few months. Because as you say often and we found this after the 1997 election, we found out after the 2010 election, you know, a big churn, a lot of new MPs coming in.

00:22:17:19 - 00:22:34:24

There will be some who think and there will be some who swim and they need to find ways to manage those who are at risk of sinking. I one suggestion is give them something interesting to do. Give them something that feels like it's a role. This is where perhaps places on the select committee system can come into play because those can be fantastically interesting.

00:22:34:24 - 00:22:54:07

If you can get a place on the select committee that you particularly want to be on. I mean, it can also be that you're sent off into the salt mines a bit by the whip. So there was a point a couple of parliaments ago where any Conservative MP who had even a vague Scottish connection was being drafted onto the Scottish Select Committee because there weren't any Conservative seats in Scotland at the time.

00:22:54:09 - 00:23:08:02

So if you had a book in your name, you know of if you went more or less regardless, but the HST bill is gone, know you're not going to get you're not going to get put onto that. The HS2 bill committee, so seen as a kind of parliamentary guru like for the best of the worst offenders as well.

00:23:08:06 - 00:23:42:08

But yeah, there are useful and very, very interesting things that can be done on select committees. Although the competition for places because they have to be elected from within party groups to get on to select committees can really top one's foreign affairs or defense for example can be pretty pretty serious competition. Yeah, I mean, the advice that an MP that I spoke to about this said best advice he would give to a new member is to think about a couple of issues that really matter in your constituency that you care about and that you want to try and fix on a couple of matters at the sort of national level and that you are interested

00:23:42:08 - 00:24:11:13

in and care passionately about. And if you can get a link between the two, all the better. But find an area, a niche for yourself that you can focus on, can concentrate on, can get some expertise in, and it will give you a purpose in Parliament. Absolutely. And if you do speak on a constituency matter in Parliament, it can get picked up, which is why you endlessly see at Prime Minister's Question Time people suddenly asking the Prime Minister about some particular very niche constituency matter.

00:24:11:15 - 00:24:38:07

People do notice that and they and it does get picked up and noticed in the constituency and covered in the local media. If there still is any local media in the constituency, that's it. Yeah. Which is a declining, declining issue service. Which brings us to, to mark to one of the sort of question areas of questions and comments that came in is a couple of weeks ago the political editor of ITV, Robert Peston, he basically puts out some ideas and proposals about how he thought Parliament should be reformed.

00:24:38:07 - 00:25:10:23

And key to it was he thought dealing with the role of the MP and he proposed that we should get rid of two thirds of them, pay them £250,000 a year, transfer a lot the constituency responsibilities to an elected House of Lords. And he thought that this was a potential solution to some of our problems. And it seemed to me I'd welcome your thoughts on this, because it seems to me that for somebody who spent quite a lot of time around politics and Parliament, that didn't really seem to grapple with the key issues and the key problems that surround the role of of of MP.

00:25:10:23 - 00:25:27:14

I'm not quite sure what problem that is the solution to. I saw that and I was a little bit baffled by it when they contemplated at one point under the Coalition cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600, they then did a sort of cookie cutter exercise to redraw constituency boundaries, that they were all a little bit bigger.

00:25:27:16 - 00:25:53:08

And what you found was that Nmps would suddenly be dealing in practical terms with many more local authorities than they were before. So when they were being asked to solve a housing problem, they'd have to have developed contacts with lots more local authorities, health boards, hospitals, whatever it is, whenever some problem arose. And that was just a sort of ugly, practical difficulty of making a relatively small cut.

00:25:53:08 - 00:26:26:10

Now, if you're going to cut the number of MEPs by two thirds, then they're going to have that problem times ten. Yeah, I would have thought. I'm not quite sure how transferring constituency responsibilities to an elected House of Lords helps the thing. You could end up with people competing with each other in a probably unhelpful way. Well, the great virtues of the House of Lords at the moment is that unencumbered by constituency work, peers can focus on legislation far more than MPs can stick to constituency duties, and then we'll having to have surgeries, etc. onto the work of a peer.

00:26:26:12 - 00:26:44:00

And I think that the quality of scrutiny for new laws would go down even below what it is at the moment, and that would not be a good thing. No. And I mean, one of the arguments that Robert was making was that this is, you know, partly to try and increase the competence of MPs. I mean, that's a very subjective thing.

00:26:44:02 - 00:27:10:08

I don't think a salary. I mean, my sense is the salary is not a barrier to if you're doing it for the salary, you're doing it for the wrong reason. Yeah, yeah, yeah. However much you paid. And there will always be people who would be fabulous MP who decide they can't afford to do it. Yeah, but, but also most, most people that I've ever spoken to who thought about, you know, going into parliament, standing for selection and haven't gone ahead with it, it's nobody's ever said to me that the salary was the problem.

00:27:10:10 - 00:27:42:20

It's, you know, the lifestyle, it's the split lifestyle with your family, the lifestyle. It's being eviscerated on social media. It's the harassment and also the what we call talking about earlier the humdrum nature of the job. When you hear the kind of treadmill of political life in parliament. Yeah, I mean, I was told in 2010 by a female MP who became a cabinet minister a few years later, but in her first few months in Parliament in 2010, she said that the biggest shock to her was loss of control of her diary.

00:27:42:20 - 00:28:03:18

She'd been she had a background in business, in banking, and, you know, she'd reached a level of seniority where she had control over her diary and she had control over her own personal time. And the biggest problem was the lack of control when she got into parliament because she was at the mercy of the whips. You know, the announcement of business every couple of weeks, not much in advance.

00:28:03:20 - 00:28:27:06

And you can plan for anything. And, you know, she she couldn't decide herself what to what she was found at on them. Well, that's quite an interesting exploration of what MPs actually do aplenty is the answer, but not necessarily the things you might accept. But we've enjoyed this. Thanks everyone. Well, thanks for listening to that and we hope you enjoyed that discussion.

00:28:27:06 - 00:28:54:09

If you've got any more matters you'd like us to explain about things that go on in Parliament, why things happen in a certain way, why some other things don't happen. You can send your questions to us at hansardsociety.org.uk/pmuq. Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

00:28:54:15 - 00:29:05:18

For more information, visit hansardsociety.org.uk/pm or find us on social media @HansardSociety.

Subscribe to Parliament Matters

Use the links below to subscribe to the Hansard Society's Parliament Matters podcast on your preferred app, or search for 'Parliament Matters' on whichever podcasting service you use. If you are unable to find our podcast, please email us here.

News / Parliament Matters – Commons chaos: Can the Speaker survive a monumental misjudgement? (Episode 21)

There were chaotic scenes in the House of Commons this week - as bad as anything seen during the Brexit convulsions – as the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle made a hash of handling the SNPs Opposition Day debate on a ceasefire in Gaza. Furious MPs signed a motion expressing no confidence in the Chair. But why and how did the Speaker end up in this position and can he survive?

22 Feb 2024
Read more

News / Parliament Matters – Urgent Questions: We answer your questions about how Parliament works (Episode 20)

This week we have a special ‘Urgent Questions’ episode to answer your questions about how Parliament works. Topics include e-petitions, Prime Ministers' Questions, the powers of the Speaker, whipping, office support provided to Sinn Fein MPs, access to the Palace of Westminster, hospitality venues in Parliament, and the value of Written Questions.

15 Feb 2024
Read more

Blog / How should Parliament scrutinise new treaties?

Today, for the first time in its history, the House of Lords will discuss a motion that the Government should not ratify a treaty until the protections it provides have been fully implemented: the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership. How Parliament deals with treaties has long been the subject of debate. A new report on Parliament's role in scrutinising international agreements offers some practical proposals for reform.

22 Jan 2024
Read more

Blog / Why are MPs speaking more often but for less time? Five possible reasons

How often do MPs speak in the House of Commons and for how long? New data shows that MPs are speaking more frequently, but for less time. We identify five possible reasons that may explain this recent trend and discuss the effect this could be having on the quality of debate.

16 Jan 2024
Read more

Submissions / Commons scrutiny of Secretaries of State in the House of Lords: Evidence to the House of Commons Procedure Committee

Following the appointment of the Rt Hon Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton to the role of Foreign Secretary on 13 November 2023, we submitted evidence to the Procedure Committee inquiry into the options for MPs to effectively scrutinise Secretaries of State in the House of Lords and the work of their departments.

18 Dec 2023
Read more