A petition calling on MP’s to work weekends, as junior doctors were asked to do earlier this year, has reached more than 100,000 signatures – enough to force a parliamentary debate.
Dr Ivan Ratnayake, a General Practitioner at the Ashley Centre Surgery, Ashley Avenue in Epsom launched the petition in February this year as the debate over new contracts for junior doctors was raging at its highest.
The 47-year-old was “absolutely outraged” that junior doctors are being asked to sign a new contract in the summer to agree to working on Saturday’s as part of a normal working week.
Since then an agreement which would see a increase in pay for those working weekends has been reached between the Government and the British Medical Assocaiotn, but was rejected in a vote conducted of 40,000 junior doctors in June.
The doctor said he started the petition, which called on Parliament to sit on Saturdays as part of a normal working day for MPs, somewhat flippantly, but has since received lots of support.
So far 100,090 people have signed it, taking it over the debate threshold.
Questioned in February, Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling said MP’s do work on Saturdays routinely and their pay does not reflect hours they work.
In response Dr Ratnayake said: “I don’t agree with it (that all MP’s work on Saturdays routinely). I think it is rather hit and miss that they all work on weekends. I have seen my local MP, Tom Brake, (of Carshalton) working at weekends but I don’t believe this is reproduced up and down the country reliably. I haven’t seen much evidence of Jeremy Hunt doing his bit.
“The Government says that Saturday is a normal working day. I don’t believe it is. The clue is in the name: weekend, which is how most people would describe Saturdays and Sundays. However, if MPs think Saturday should be treated as a normal weekday, then it stands to reason it should be a normal working day for them too.
“Chris Grayling has said that MPs work routinely on Saturdays. What work is he talking about? Perhaps he can provide a list of all the MPs who have regular timetabled weekly constituency surgeries?”
Dr Ratnayake is now waiting for a reaction from the Government to see if there will indeed be a debate in Parliament.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is responsible for the pay, expenses and pensions of MP’s. As Mr Grayling previously said: “The rate of MPs’ pay, pensions and expenses, which is not linked to the numbers of hours they work, is set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority”.
When asked to respond to the petition, IPSA said: “IPSA has analysed and consulted on MPs’ pay and pensions to determine what to pay MPs and we cannot comment on petitions submitted to Parliament”.
Its decisions are based on a number of other factors and these can be viewed in reports found under the transparency section on their website parliamentarystandards.org.uk
Mr Grayling said he was concerned those signing the petition are not aware that the real people affected are not MPs themselves.
He said: “MPs already work at weekends and I’m not sure that those who signed the petition realised that the real impact would be on staff who work in parliament. In addition, those with constituencies a long way from Westminster would spend much less time there”.
The decision of whether a debate will be held will take place on September 6. The debates usually take place on Mondays with the earliest chance of a debate regarding this issue happening on September 12.