The 82-day summer parliamentary recess means that ministers cannot be held accountable by MPs for their actions until October. It also means that ministers can avoid making announcements to Parliament on account of the fact Parliament is not sitting (although their record at doing so even when it is sitting is hardly exemplary).
Yesterday saw the first complaint of the recess from the Opposition front bench with shadow transport minister Stephen Hammond writing to the Speaker complaining about the Government's announcement about the electrification of a major rail line just two days after the Commons began its recess.
Here's the letter Mr Hammond has sent to the Speaker:
Dear Mr Speaker,
I write to protest about the discourtesy shown to the House today by the Secretary of State for Transport.
This morning, merely two days after the House rose for the summer recess, Lord Adonis made a major announcement on the UK national rail network – with significant implications for public spending. The announcement to electrify the main rail route between London and Swansea was made on the morning BBC broadcast.
Today’s announcement was trailed by the Government back on 29 June. On that day the Prime Minister launched a document entitled Building Britain’s Future, which included a reference to plans for a major electrification programme. It is clear therefore that the plans were in place long before the House rose and could have easily been made to Parliament. Indeed, it seems that the only reason for making the announcement today is that it coincides with a Cabinet meeting in Cardiff.
Today’s events are in blatant disregard of your, and the previous Speaker’s, instructions to Ministers to make announcements to Parliament first.
This is regrettably the second time this has happened this month. On 1 July Lord Adonis announced the nationalisation of the National Express East Coast rail franchise not to Parliament but, again, on BBC Radio.
Ministers persistently disregard your instructions to respect the protocols of Parliament, and I would be grateful for your advice as to what can be done to ensure that Ministers respect your wishes.