Government criticised as Commons business finishes at 3.27pm

PUBLISHED: 08:54 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:02 07 February 2019

House of Commons business finishes four hours early. Photograph: Parliament TV.

House of Commons business finishes four hours early. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Archant

The government has been criticised for ending business in the House of Commons at 3.27pm in the afternoon - despite the country facing the biggest political crisis since World War II.

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The Commons usually runs until 7.30pm on Wednesdays - but ended four hours early - and only started at 11.30am.

Labour’s Diana Johnson said the situation was “bang out of order”, writing on Twitter: “Considering Brexit is just 51 days away this is totally irresponsible!”

SNP chief whip Patrick Gray said: “Seemingly the Tory government thinks there’s nothing worth debating or discussing.”

Proceedings began with Cabinet Office questions followed by Prime Minister’s Questions.

Ten minutes were then used up by the introduction of a backbench bill, before a debate on two social security motions.

The adjournment debate focused on prostate cancer and started at 2.37pm rather than 7pm, as would normally be the case.

Elsewhere in Parliament, MPs were involved in afternoon debates in Westminster Hall - their second debating chamber - while proceedings in the House of Lords chamber began at 3pm and were predicted to run until 9pm.

The government last week announced it was cancelling the February recess for MPs, and legislation connected to Brexit still has to be approved.

Downing Street insisted there was “a lot of work going on”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The business of the House is set out in advance, there have been days recently where they have been working beyond midnight dealing with statements and with debates on Brexit.

“I think this week they have been dealing with some important domestic statutory instruments and other significant issues which are going to be debated in the coming days.”

Asked if the situation was “embarrassing”, the spokesman said: “There is a lot of work going on in relation to Brexit.

“We have not moved the motion to have February recess in order that MPs can have extra time to be dealing with Brexit and other domestic matters.”

Best for Britain supporter Virendra Sharma MP said: “This is not on. Parliament still has tons of legislation to get through before the end of March, including thousands of pages of statutory instruments.

“Brexit is the most important legislative and political process since the Second World War. It makes no sense to go home and avoid working on ensuring the country’s future when there’s so little time left.”

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