The other day, after lunch in the Palace of Westminster, I made my way to the atrium of Portcullis House, where hundreds of MPs have their offices, and settled down at a table which allowed a clear view of the entire space, with its water features and two rows of fig trees. If you sit there long enough the whole world passes by. On this Wednesday afternoon, however, I was struck by the absence of recognisable faces. There were many staffers and officials, but scarcely any MPs. A sad truth dawned on me: for many of the present generation of MPs, the business of Parliament occupies only two days a week. Most out of town MPs travel down on a Monday morning and leave soon after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. Anyone who has seen the chamber on a Thursday, or indeed at any time other than Wednesday at midday, will know it is usually embarrassingly empty. The majority of debates and even important statements are thinly attended. Increasingly the business of Parliament has to be shoe-horned into the two days on which sufficient MPs can be guaranteed to be present.
Chris Mullin on Parliament London Review of Books 24th May 2018 p20