Several hours of Commons time left unused despite EU pleas to resolve Brexit
More than 23 hours of sitting time in the House of Commons has been left unused since the EU warned Britain not to waste time to resolve Brexit.
The main chamber rose early several times between the Easter and May recesses, despite EU Council President Donald Tusk telling MPs “please do not waste this time” after granting the UK a Brexit extension until the end of October.
The SNP claimed calling it a “zombie Parliament would be to actually disrespect the brain-eating living dead” after the rising times of the Commons were analysed by the Press Association.
The Commons rose early 14 times on the 18 sitting days ahead of the May recess.
With a lack of business put forward by the Government and little legislation to scrutinise, one day saw the Commons sit for just three and a half hours – rising four hours and 26 minutes ahead of schedule.
On five other days proceedings have been cut short by more than two hours and three times by more than an hour.
One day saw the chamber finish 16 minutes early and on another four days the chamber finished within a handful of minutes of the scheduled rising time, as business ran its normal course.
Business went beyond the rising time on two days – one totalling 21 minutes and another 20 minutes – and finished on time on two further days.
The chamber is now on an 11-day recess, not returning until Tuesday June 4.
Since April 10 there have only been two formal votes, one of which was on a Labour opposition motion and another a deferred vote on secondary legislation.
The current parliamentary session is the longest since the English Civil War in the 17th century, with the last Queen’s Speech setting out the Government’s legislative agenda tabled back in June 2017.
Plenty of parliamentary time has been given over to backbench motions or general debates given the Brexit deadlock.
Labour has also been granted several opposition day debates in recent weeks, having not had one for 150 days before that.
The “main business” on Monday May 20 – the remaining stages of the Government’s Non-Domestic Rating (Preparation for Digital Services) Bill – was completed in about 15 minutes.
SNP Commons leader Pete Wishart told the Press Association: “We have been told by the EU not to waste the time granted to find a Brexit solution but yet the House is doing everything possible to do just that.
“The House now regularly rises early because of lack of business.
“Calling this a zombie Parliament would be to actually disrespect the brain-eating living dead.
“We are now in business purgatory and this can not go on. We have to get down to work.”
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery added: “While they are ripping themselves apart, our country is in crisis.
“The Government has botched the Brexit negotiations, our steel industry is under threat and Universal Credit is pushing people into poverty.”