The Daily Telegraph reports this morning that when the Commons rises and MPs return to their constituencies on Thursday, they will enjoy their longest Christmas break away from Westminster in a decade.
With Parliament not returning until January 12, that makes a 24-day recess.
On the one hand, the libertarian-minded among us who favour a small state will welcome the idea of nearly a month going by without our politicians being afforded the opportunity to ban things, interfere, regulate and so on.
And MPs obviously have valuable constituency work to be getting on with as well.
But they are also uniquely placed to hold the Government to account, as pointed out by two sources quoted in the Telegraph article.
Says Tory MP, Peter Luff:
"We still need to properly debate the economic situation. There are so many issues, so much legislation that needs scrutiny, and all we get is a longer holiday."
And Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers Alliance:
"The record length of MPs’ holidays is utterly at odds with the situation of ordinary people this Christmas. Whilst everyone else works longer and longer hours to survive the recession, it is frustrating to see Parliament shutting down. Given
the huge quantities of taxpayers’ money put at risk by the recent
bailouts, we need our representatives to be scrutinising the Government
as closely as possible, not shutting up shop."
They both make very pertinent points.
Furthermore, whilst this Government is proud to have abolished all but the very occasional late night sitting of the Commons on the grounds of being "family friendly", people need reminding that it has also brought in timetabling of every Bill put before the Commons – which means that reams of legislation is no longer given proper scrutiny by MPs. It is often now the House of Lords which is better placed to hold the Government’s proposals to account as goes through new laws line by line.
And just the other day, for example, a time limit was imposed on the debate on the situation surrounding the Damian Green arrest. Why?
Don’t we need to ensure that MPs have sufficient time to fulfill that scrutiny role before extending their absences from Westminster?