Masrur talks us through his day working as a Second Clerk in the House of Commons...
People tend to come in between 9-10am. I prefer the quiet in the morning, so I get in earlier than most. It is very common for colleagues to come in at 10am.
I check my emails and deal with anything urgent. The House of Commons can sit late sometimes so there may be things to pick up from last night. Members of the Committee may also decide to work late in the evening and come back with comments, queries or responses to various papers.
I also try to make it a habit to check the order paper for the coming day. The order paper tells you what’s on the agenda for the coming day throughout the House of Commons. It’s useful to keep an eye on what’s happening in the House in case Members ask. I usually raise any interesting procedural points with my manager, and we have a chat about it.
I also check for any news related to the work of the Committee or may be of interest to Committee Members. You’ll see that it is useful to try and anticipate what MPs may be thinking about.
As Second Clerk, I am usually managing a Committee inquiry. There are various stages of an inquiry. These stages are usually: issuing terms of reference; evaluating written evidence received; taking oral evidence from witnesses; and publishing a report.
I may spend the day analysing the written evidence the Committee has received in response to the terms of reference. We usually receive over 80 submissions for an inquiry, although this varies by Committee. I would go through each of these submissions, looking to draw out key themes and issues. I usually highlight key quotes and statistics. Going through the written evidence can take between a few days and a few weeks.
Throughout the day I will usually be answering queries from colleagues and external stakeholders about the inquiry. I might have stakeholders asking questions about how best to make their point in their written or oral evidence. Colleagues may have questions about producing social media content, or there may be procedural questions about how to go ahead with something to ensure it is in accordance with parliamentary procedure.
At 12 noon
I’ll usually go to the cafeteria downstairs with friends from other departments for reasonably priced hot food. Most Parliamentary buildings have a cafeteria that serves hot food. Each building also has a multi-faith room.
We have a weekly procedural seminar where a more experienced colleague will come and deliver a talk/presentation about a particular aspect of parliamentary procedure. Some of the things we might cover for example: Lords amendments to a bill; casting vote by the Speaker; and pre-appointment hearings in a Committee.
Back at my desk, I’ll check my emails and check in with colleagues. We don’t have much a “meeting” culture here. Most of our conversations take place ad hoc over the desk.
If I have checked the written evidence, I will usually write a briefing for the Committee. This includes researching various topics within the subject of the inquiry, often drawing heavily on the written evidence that we have received and other external resources. Our briefings also include suggested questions for Members of the Committee to ask. Briefings should be impartial and evidence based. I often read over another colleague’s briefing to check it for clarity and impartiality. Briefings can take between a few days to a few weeks to write depending on experience and the substance of the inquiry. My first brief took 3 weeks to write. 9 months into the job it usually takes me a couple of days.
If we are sending papers round to the Committee that day, I will be asked by my colleagues to double check the documents to be sent out.
Before leaving I’ll check with colleagues that they aren’t waiting on me for anything. Since I get in earlier than most, I’m usually the first to leave to enjoy my evening!
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