The House of Commons rose for the summer recess on Tuesday and the House of Lords on Wednesday. By the end of Wednesday, after the House had risen, there was still a good deal of activity. The Despatch Box (the snack bar) in the Atrium in Portcullis House was well patronised. The giveaway that we were entering the recess was the number of staff in casual dress: it looked more like a dress-down Friday.
On Thursday morning, it was much quieter. I enjoy getting in early, in part because that is the best time of day to walk through Victoria Tower Gardens (on the left in the picture) and in part because I enjoy walking through the Palace when it is quiet. Without people being around, one can appreciate much more the magnificence of Pugin’s work. Despite all the problems associated with an ageing building, it is an awe-inspiring place. There’s always something new to discover in the artwork or the design of the ceilings and alcoves.
Although both Houses are in recess, the Palace remains a working environment. Some committee work continues, MPs’ offices continue to be staffed – even if MPs take holidays, letter writers do not – and there is a good deal of work to be undertaken in terms of restoration and repairs. I’ll be variously spending time in my office in order to get through all the paperwork on my desk. There’s also the preparation necessary for the return of the House. The Commons will be back in September (September 6-16) and the Lords on 5 October.
The Commons are sitting in September in order to get to work on the Government’s constitutional legislation on boundary changes, the referendum on AV, and fixed-term Parliaments. As there is not time to subject the legislation to pre-legislative scrutiny, the Constitution Committee in the Lords is undertaking an inquiry into fixed-term Parliaments. It is designed to be completed in time for when the Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill reaches the Lords. We aready have our witnesses lined up.
Once we get back, we will be much busier than we have been in recent weeks, and even busier when the constitutional reform legislation reaches us from the Commons. What form it will be in when it leaves the Commons remains to be seen.