Longer sitting hours for Parliament opposed
MPs have poured cold water on a proposal for Parliament to sit for longer hours.
The Urgency Report, a New Zealand Law Foundation-funded submission presented to a parliamentary standing orders committee yesterday, included a survey showing a shortfall in the number of hours Parliament sat in comparison to other Commonwealth countries.
According to a survey, in 2008 Parliament sat for 486 hours, while Britain's House of Commons sat for 1188 and its House of Lords sat for 1010. Australia's House of Representatives sat for 639 hours.
"Even allowing for the fact that 2008 was an election year for New Zealand, the sitting hours for the House were at the lower end of the range," the report said.
"There is, therefore, a real issue that needs to be addressed as to whether the New Zealand House of Representatives ought to sit for longer hours."
Among the suggestions in the report were that Parliament sit on Fridays, that it sit for longer hours on current sitting days, and that there be less recess weeks.
However, the committee did not appear to welcome the suggestions, with Labour MP Rick Barker opposing in particular an idea that parliamentary committees run at the same time as the House was sitting.
Mr Barker said the strategy had been used before, but had caused problems when people needed to be in the House and in committees.
"It sounds attractive but our experience is that it doesn't work."
Mr Barker also said MPs did not want to spend more time in Wellington, and preferred to be spending time in their electorates doing other things.
"I would think it would be hard thing to get MPs to agree to more sitting hours on a Friday and so on," he said.
"In the early days they just didn't go home so the Fridays were no problem, but now they want to go home."