Last year, the timetable for Australia’s parliament showed it was due to sit for as few as ten days during the first quarter of the year.

Many suspected the Australian government wanted to close down opportunities for parliamentary mischief-making.

British MPs probably feel a touch of envy at their Antipodean counterparts this week as they settle down for an unscheduled extra fortnight in the Commons.

The government announced last week the Easter recess is cancelled so MPs are on hand for any last-minute Brexit votes.

The move prompted ­grumbles that it is a stunt, laced with a desire to put the Commons on the naughty step for ­repeatedly rejecting the ­withdrawal ­agreement.

Parliament has been able to clear the backlog of Brexit-related legislation, which must be in place if the UK ends up exiting the EU without a deal on 12 April, an option that was still in play as Utility Week went to press.

Last week, the suspension of the House of Commons due to a leak, provided a graphic reminder about the deteriorating physical condition of parliament. MPs seem just as mentally frayed too.

It may seem a dim and distant prospect, but parliament must tackle the pressing issues facing the UK, which Brexit has crowded out, such as the future of energy and water policy.

To do that, MPs will need clear heads, a quality that has been in short supply at Westminster recently.

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