At TheyWorkForYou, we recently received an email from a novelist who was researching a historical work. She wanted to know whether a certain MP would have been present in the House of Commons on a specific date in 1953.
We had to reply that the only way to be sure was if he had spoken or voted on the date in question.
Perhaps strangely, Parliament does not keep official records of MPs’ attendance — nor are there lower limits on how many times an MP must be present in order to keep their position, although their own party will have strong feelings about their attendance.
So, in terms of an official record, the only way to be sure that an MP was in the House on a specific date is if they spoke, or voted, both of which actions are of course reflected in Hansard and on TheyWorkForYou.
Things are, it seems, quite different in Ghana, where the TheyWorkForYou equivalent, Odekro, has recently drawn attention to its country’s non-attending MPs. Odekro runs on our parliamentary-monitoring platform, Pombola.
In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament, they point out that 125 MPs, or 45.2% of the house, failed to meet the constitution’s requirement for attendance, having been absent for more than 15 days of proceedings. If the MPs are unable to give reasonable explanations for their absence, Odekro is calling for their seats to be declared absent:
If the court order is granted and/or the Speaker declares these seats vacant, the practical result would be that many of the MPs who were recently re-elected by the NDC and NPP as Parliamentary candidates will have to contest by-elections to retain their seats, before the general election in November 2016. Source: Modern Ghana
It’s a fascinating situation, and one we’ll be watching with interest – even if the data that would allow for a similar campaign doesn’t exist here in the UK.
Edited to add: Here’s Odekro’s more in-depth blog post on the matter.
Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament.