John Howell MP Writes - May 2018


A look back at recent key issues in Westminster and the Constituency

Last month I wrote about campaign emails on particular issues and the different ways in which I try to deal with them. Another type of circular I often receive are those asking me to attend a particular debate or meeting. Whether or not I can may depend as much on my other diary commitments as anything and sometimes it is just not possible. This month I thought it might be helpful if I set out the different demands on an MPs time within the House. It may also help to explain some emails that do the rounds suggesting that the attendance of MPs in the Chamber of the House is only high when debating issues relating to MPs themselves. Pictures are circulated which show an empty chamber when important topics such as welfare reforms or the child sex abuse enquiry are debated but a full chamber when MPs expenses are being discussed! Every picture tells a story but not necessarily the whole story or the right one! Let me explain how it all works.

Firstly there are two main debating chambers in the House of Commons – the main Chamber and Westminster Hall. Debates in these two chambers take place at the same time so an MP cannot be at both. The main Chamber is where Government, back bench and opposition business is debated. In Westminster Hall there is a series of debates each day on issues put forward by individual MPs. I try to speak in debates where I am able and feel that I have a contribution to make. Analysis assessing the contribution to debates by individual MPs indicate that I have spoken in around 100 debates in the last year which, it says, is above average. Most debates last for several hours and the Chamber will be full at times and empty at times. When a debate is drawing to an end MPs are required to stop what they are doing to vote. At this time the Chamber will fill again as the MPs have to come from across the Estate to be in the lobby at the right time. So in just about any debate it will be possible to show pictures of times when the Chamber is full and times when the Chamber is emptier. It depends on what time in the duration of the debate that the photo is taken.

However these debating Chambers are but a part of the other business going on in the Palace of Westminster at any one time. There will also be a series of committee meetings and All Party Parliamentary Groups. There are also many other meetings and events that take place and I cannot list them all here but I hope this gives you a flavour of the range of activities going on and why it is not always possible for an MP to attend a particular debate or meeting. The inability to do so does not reflect a lack of interest, simply conflicting demands on time.

If you would like to know more about my work in Westminster please do look at my website which is regularly updated. As always, I am interested to hear constituent’s views on the proposals before the House. If you would like to share your thoughts on an issue with me you can email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or write to me at the House of Commons.