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In the Commons: what does your MP do?

As MPs return to the House of Commons – and the headlines – this week, following the Easter recess, we take a look at what contribution Jim Shannon makes to the chamber.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 19, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 19, 2022.

As MPs return to the House of Commons – and the headlines – this week, following the Easter recess, we take a look at what contribution Jim Shannon makes to the chamber.

In the first of this series, analysis shows how often the Democratic Unionist Party MP for Strangford has voted, how many debates he has taken part in, and how many parliamentary questions he has asked since the last general election.

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The figures, from the House of Commons Library, show the activities of MPs between the state opening of Parliament on December 16 2019 and March 7 this year.

Of the 491 votes over this time, Jim Shannon, who serves in the official Opposition, recorded 410 ayes or noes, and acted as a teller to count two divisions.

He recorded no vote, or abstained, on 79 occasions – giving the DUP representative a participation rate of 84%.

This was above the average for all UK politicians who have sat in the House of Commons since the election (excluding the Speakers) of 81%.

Several MPs had participation rates as high as 95%, while Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope voted in just 36% of divisions.

The Conservatives had the highest average rate of 86%, while Alba's two Scottish MPs had the lowest – just 51%.

Meanwhile, DUP had an overall rate of 64%.

The HoC Library said MPs may not vote because they are carrying out other work related to their parliamentary, government or opposition roles.

And participation rates may be affected by ‘pairing arrangements’, whereby MPs from different parties who cannot attend a division agree to cancel out one another’s vote.

Before divisions, debates are held for Members to discuss government policy, new laws and topical issues of the day to help the House reach an informed decision.

Since the last election, Mr Shannon, 67, has taken part in 1,158 debates, speaking a total of 560,190 words – more than any other MP, including the Prime Minister.

By comparison, the average MP has spoken 44,530 words over the same period, Prime Minister Boris Johnson around 394,000 .

These include spoken contributions and oral questions in the House of Commons chamber and in Westminster Hall, but not those shorter than four words.

The figures also show Jim Shannon, who was elected to his seat on May 6, 2010, has asked 1,564 Parliamentary Questions since the last election – more than almost any other MP.

These are put formally to a government minister about a matter they are responsible for – to seek information or to press for action from the Government.

This included 65 put to a government minister in person, 1,480 in writing and 19 topical questions – those asked during the last 15 minutes of most ministerial question sessions.

But he has not asked any during Prime Minister's Questions – the weekly session when the PM faces scrutiny in the House.