Parliamentary sessions begin in either May or June.
They are marked by the State Opening of Parliament – when the Queen comes to Westminster and gives a speech, outlining the government’s plans for the year.
A session normally lasts for 12 months, but sometimes the government decides to extend it.
This happened with the 2017 session, which was extended to two years because of the looming Brexit battles.
There are a number of “recesses” during a session too, similar to the timetable of school and bank holidays.
But they are not set in stone, and it is up to the Leader of the House – currently Andrea Leadsom – to lay down the dates in the Commons.
On an average week, MPs tend to sit for four days:
Monday: From 14:30 up until 22:30
Tuesday: From 11:30 up until 19:30
Wednesday: From 11:30 up until 19:30
Thursday: From 09:30 up until 17:30
MPs don’t have to be there for these hours.
When less important business is going on in the Commons, MPs are able to do other things, such as travel abroad on fact-finding trips or even carry out other jobs – like Labour MP Karen Lee who works as a nurse, or Conservative MP Dan Poulter who does shifts as a doctor – or they can do nothing.
But if important votes are expected, MPs will be put on a “three-line whip” by their party leadership, meaning they have to be in the vicinity.
This has been the norm during the recent Brexit storm, with MPs reporting blanket three-line whips when there would usually be more flexibility.
The late start time on Monday allows MPs who represent constituencies further away from Westminster to travel. The member with the longest commute is Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael, who has a 713 mile journey to work.
MPs also sit on 13 Fridays in each session between 09:30 and 15:00 to discuss Private Members’ Bills – bills proposed by backbench MPs, rather than ministers.
The government can propose additional Friday sittings if extra time is needed.
However, this cannot be used for MPs who are sick or choose to go on holiday.
Also, if an MP dies – as in the case of the murdered Jo Cox – another member from a neighbouring constituency might take on their urgent cases so people still have a voice, but they do not receive extra pay.
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