The House of Commons was sitting last week and again this week. It has been busy with the Second Readings of the Government’s two major constitutional measures (the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and the Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill). The House of Lords is not sitting, but the fact that MPs are in session has consequences for many peers. There is a great deal of parliamentary activity, including meetings of all-party groups and briefings by ministers.
I have been struck by just how many peers are in the Palace. My office has been busy – almost as busy as when the House is sitting – with the Baronesses O’Cathain and Fookes busy at their desks. I have bumped into several peers in or on the way to Portcullis House. The Atrium in Portcullis House has been as busy as it normally is when both Houses are in session.
This activity, though, creates some problems on our side. The fact that the Commons is sitting means that some of the building work and refurbishment has been suspended or completed. However, at our end of the Palace, the work continues, with some parts inaccessible because of building works. Indeed, the River restaurant is presently accessed primarily from the courtyard rather than from within the Palace. Getting from one part to another is a bit like negotiating an obstacle course, though it is less problematic than it has been in recent weeks.
Normal service will resume in less than three weeks’ time. The House of Lords returns on 5 October. In the interim, we have the excitement of the party conferences.