Parliament has risen for the summer. MPs will not be sitting again until the first week of September.
With Brexit less than 100 days away and Downing Street intent to deliver Brexit by Halloween ‘by any means necessary’, why is Parliament rising now, when does parliament normally rise for recess, and what do MPs do while on recess?
Recess is a set period of time when Parliament is not sitting and there is no Parliamentary business; it’s essentially Parliament having a break. At the time of writing, Parliament is in the first week of its Summer Recess. This is the longest recess of the current session, lasting from the 25th of July until the 3rd of September. During Summer Recess, MPs use the opportunity for two main things: constituency work and rest. Despite the number and length of Parliamentary Recesses, being an MP is a never-ending job. MPs may not be sitting in the Commons, but they have their constituencies. Constituency work is unpredictable, constant, and vital. While on Recess, MPs will be catching up on constituency work that has piled up while Parliament has been sitting. This can be anything, from meeting with constituents, listening to their concerns and issues, to meeting with local businesses and various civic events. It’s this work that makes an MP and sends them to Parliament. It is the vital and important link between the government and governed that is the foundation of British parliamentary democracy.
MPs also need a break. It’s hard to forget sometimes, but MPs are just like us. They tire, they stress, they have a life. Much like us, they need to switch off and recharge. This is all the more important given Brexit. The past few years have put an immense amount of pressure MPs and their families. As we enter the final Brexit showdown in September and October, MPs need to make rational and informed decisions about what to do. They cannot do that if they’re exhausted and stressed.
Parliament does not have set recess dates. Dates are prone to change in the fluid nature of politics. Recent modernisation has seen Recess dates announced at the beginning of a parliamentary session, with the caveat they are subject to the progress of parliamentary business. Normally, Parliament rises at the following times;
- Christmas and New Year – Last two weeks of December and the first in January
- February half-term – One week in mid-February
- Easter – Two weeks around Easter
- Whitsun – One week at the end of May
- Summer – Seven weeks from mid-July to early-September
- Conference season – The last week of September and the first in October
- In addition, there is also a brief recess prior to the State Opening of Parliament after prorogation.
During the past year, Parliament has risen on the following dates;
- Summer: 24th July to 4th September
- Conference: 13th September to 9th October
- November: 6th – 12th November
- Christmas: 20th December to 7th January
- Easter: 11th – 23rd April
- May: 2nd – 7th May
- Whitsun: 23rd May – 4th June
- Summer: 25th July to 3rd September