Parliament is currently 'dissolved' for the General Election campaign so will not now meet until after the new House of Commons is elected on 7 May.
Most days in Parliament follow a regular pattern, although the exact business is often confirmed only a week or so in advance. You can watch Parliament live on the BBC Parliament channel (free on Freeview) or on the internet at BBC Democracy Live website.
Parliament's website contains details of each day's business including a smuch forward business as has bee announced. Click here and look for the 'What's on' tab.
A typical day can include:
- From 9.30am, debates begin in Parliament’s second chamber just off the historic Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall debates can be led by any MP on a subject important to them, always conclude with a reply from a government minister and sometimes include other MPs and ‘frontbench’ speeches too. Martin has contributed to many Westminster Hall debates.
- From 10am, select committees meet to investigate areas of government policy. Select committees involve MPs of all parties working together to hold government to account. They summon officials and ministers but also expert witnesses to give evidence. Martin was for several years a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, an influential select committee that interrogates the impact of government policy on the environment.
- From 2.30pm on Mondays and then earlier during the rest of the week, the main business begins in the chamber of the House of Commons. After brief prayers, the first business will be a ministerial question time when MPs question different government departments – on Wednesday at 12.00 they question the Prime Minister. And, no, he doesn’t know the questions beforehand!
- After questions, ministers sometimes come to the House to make a ministerial statement on an important issue of the day or another MP can force them to attend to answer an Urgent Question. MPs can then question the minister on their statement or the subject of the Urgent Question.
- Most of the rest of the day is taken up by the House undertaking its lawmaking function or sometimes holding a debate on a topic chosen either by government, the opposition leadership or the backbench business committee which represents 'backbench' MPs not the leaders of the various parties. For details of how laws are made click here.
- Main business usually finishes around 10.30pm on Mondays and earlier at other times of the week. This can be followed by an adjournment debate called by an individual MP. As in Westminster Hall debates, ministers have to be on hand to answer but no votes are taken so this is principally an opportunity to raise an issue of concern.
MPs rarely spend all day sitting in the chamber of the House of Commons, preferring to work in their offices nearby, meet visiting constituents, experts or colleagues or prepare for future debates or legislation. They can follow proceedings in the House on TV monitors in each office. When votes are called, a ‘division bell’ summons MPs to the chamber from all over the parliamentary estate.
The House of Lords meets at roughly the same time and conducts business in a similar – but traditionally more genteel – manner.