Election campaign

Once summer’s over, the Commons will sit for just three-and-a-half months before the election

The House of Commons shuts up shop for the summer on Tuesday 22 July.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of MPs having such a long summer recess from Westminster, time is starting to run short for the government to push through the last legislation of this parliament.

MPs return from the recess on 1 September – but only until 12 September, when they take another break for the party conference season.

They’re back on 13 October until 11 November, when they get their half-term holiday. The final session of the calendar year is from 17 November until 18 December.

By my calculation, this means that once the summer recess is over, MPs will sit at Westminster for a total of 56 days before Christmas.

There will be only a further 11 sessions of prime minister’s questions in the whole of 2014.

Remember that the government is attempting to pass 11 brand new bills before the general election next May, while another three have been published for pre-legislative scrutiny and a further six have been carried over from the 2013-14 session, including the distinctly low speed High Speed Rail bill.

We’ll have a few months of parliament at the start of next year, of course. The Commons returns on 5 January and parliament will be dissolved for the election on 30 March.

In between there will be a half-term holiday, the dates for which have yet to be announced. If it conforms to the pattern of this year, however, the Commons will take a break for six days in the middle of February.

Assuming that to be the case, that means MPs will sit for a total of 55 days in 2015 before the general election. We’ll also get 11 sessions of prime minister’s questions.

Adding everything up, there will be 111 days on which the House of Commons is sitting between the summer recess and the general election. David Cameron will have 22 sessions of prime minister’s questions to enjoy and/or endure – though a couple of these might see Nick Clegg take his place if foreign trips come up.

111 days is around three-and-a-half months. That’s not at all long, especially when you factor in unexpected developments, like the current “emergency” legislation on access to phone and internet data.

The government will undoubtedly struggle to pass all of its bills. The question will be what gets saved and what gets ditched. I imagine some things will be dropped entirely (one example is the recall of MPs, which has already caused disagreement both within and between parties), while others will be rushed through in truncated or compromised form with the agreement of the opposition in the dying days of the parliament.

It’ll be an undignified spectacle – but then it always is.


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