Many people across the UK have regular and consistent working hours; however, in the House of Lords it can vary depending on the day. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the House sits from 2:30PM, Wednesdays it is 3PM, yet on Thursdays it’s 11AM and the occasions the House sits on Fridays it starts at 10AM. The House usually sits until 10-11pm, occasionally much later and sometimes all night.
Only one in ten (9%) Peers stated the current working hours have a positive impact on their policy making decisions
These irregular working patterns stem from the long history of the House of Lords, giving Peers the opportunity to conduct other business away from politics. It has been argued that these irregular working hours are a detriment and not constructive in creating modern legislation, therefore change is needed to reflect modern working practices.
Using the Savanta ComRes House of Lords Panel, Peers were asked several questions on the topic of sitting hours, giving insight into the thoughts of those that sit in the Chamber.
Half (50%) of Peers are satisfied with sitting hours in the House of Lords starting at different times depending on the day, with nearly six in ten (57%) Conservative Peers satisfied with the current working arrangements. Liberal Democrat Peers are not so pleased however, with only three in ten reporting (30%) feeling satisfied. One in three (36%) Peers are dissatisfied with the current sitting hours, including half (50%) of Liberal Democrat Peers.
As sitting hours fluctuate, and can go on until late in the evening, Peers were questioned on whether this impacts their ability to make clear policy decisions. Only one in ten (9%) Peers stated the current working hours have a positive impact on their policy making decisions, whilst one in three (31%) Peers stated it has a negative impact. Although this appears to be a stark contrast in opinion, over half (55%) of Peers stated that sitting times of the House makes no difference in their ability to make legislative decisions.
Given a base understanding of the views of Peers and the House of Lords sitting hours, Peers were then asked an open question, in which they had the opportunity to outline their view on the current working hours structure of the House of Lords. This gave a range of insight in detail, in which several trends can be found.
Many Peers argued that the current structure needs updating, with one Peer claiming it is “antiquated based on Edwardian concepts of work”, whilst another described it as “crazy”, outlining issues such as childcare, safety in the evenings and well-being. One Peer argued the current structure was “developed to accommodate the gentry”, another Peer agrees, going on to state the Lords “needs to reflect modern working practices – particularly with a new generation of younger Peers”.
Other Peers disagree, claiming that the sitting hours allow them to tend to outside work. One Peer states that it works for them as it means they can do outside charity work in the morning. Another Peer concurs, stating it “provides a balance in the day, enabling involvement in activities such as charity work and time to visit projects”. Another Peer argues that the working hours separates the Lords and the Commons, declaring “we need working hours that allow for portfolio working on parliamentary and other interests. Anything other will mean we become like a second House of Commons only older!!”.
There have also been a number of times suggested from a range of Peers across the aisle, some arguing a 9-5, others that sitting starts at 11AM every day, whilst others argue starting at 1PM would be ideal. This shows that there is not going to be agreed upon sitting hours that will satisfy every member the House. This is outlined by the number of comments left by Peers, stating the current structure is “adequate”, it “works fine” and is “ok”. Perhaps this data can be summed up by one Peer, claiming “we are a part time House and the times suit the majority of peers. I acknowledge the hours do not suit a vocal few”.