Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords - Contents

CHAPTER 6 statements, questions and motions



6.01  Members may by leave of the House make a short factual statement of a personal character, such as a personal apology, a correction of information given in a speech made by them in the House or a reply to allegations made against them in the House. Personal statements are usually made at the beginning of business and are not debatable.


6.02  Statements by ministers on matters of public importance may be made by leave of the House without notice.[187] Such statements are commonly synchronised in the two Houses. Annunciators in the House also show this information.


6.03  If the responsible minister is a member of the House of Commons, the statement is made first in that House and may be repeated in the House of Lords. The timing is agreed through the usual channels. [188] Where a statement of exceptional length has been made in full to the House of Commons and made available in the Printed Paper Office before it is due to be repeated in the House of Lords, the minister in the Lords may (with the agreement of the usual channels) draw the attention of the House to the statement made earlier without repeating it, and the House then proceeds immediately to the period for exchanges with the Opposition front bench or benches. In such circumstances the text of the statement is reproduced in full in the Official Report.[189]

6.04  If the responsible minister is a member of the House of Lords, the statement is usually made after questions (on Fridays, at the beginning of business).

6.05  If the House is in committee, it is resumed on the motion of a member of the government for the purpose of hearing the statement. When the statement and exchanges following it are finished, the House again resolves itself into a committee, on the motion of the Lord in charge of the bill. On days when there are two balloted debates or time-limited debates, any Commons statement repeated in the House is normally taken between the two debates. Only in exceptional circumstances are such debates interrupted for a statement.

6.06  There is no limit on the number of ministerial statements that can be made in one day, but lengthy interruption of the business of the House is not desirable. If the Lords are not sitting on a day on which a statement is made in the Commons, it is not the practice to repeat it when the Lords next sit, save in the case of an exceptionally important statement.


6.07  Ministerial statements are made for the information of the House, and although brief questions[190] from all quarters of the House are allowed, statements should not be made the occasion for an immediate debate.[191] The time for the Opposition front bench or benches and the minister's reply to them should be limited to 20 minutes;[192] ministers should not, however, cut short their replies, even if this means going beyond the 20-minute limit.[193] The period of questions and answers which then follows for backbench members should not exceed 20 minutes from the end of the minister's initial reply to the Opposition.[194] If a debate upon a statement is desired, a notice should be tabled for a later date.

6.08  As a matter of courtesy, members who wish to ask questions on an oral statement should be present to hear the whole of the statement read out.[195]


6.09  Where a statement contains material which is too lengthy or too complicated to be given orally in the House the additional material may be published in Hansard without being given orally.[196]

6.10  Where a Commons statement is not repeated an italic reference to the appropriate place in the Commons Hansard is made on the cover of the Lords daily Hansard.[197]


6.11  Written statements may be made when the House is sitting, by ministers or the Chairman of Committees. Notice is not required. Written statements made by a Lords minister repeating Commons statements may also be published in editions of Hansard produced when the House is not sitting. Written statements are placed in the Library as soon as they are made, and are printed in Hansard.[198]



6.12  Questions and motions are expected to be worded in accordance with the practice of the House. The Clerks are available to assist members in drafting questions and motions, and the advice tendered by the Clerks should be accepted.[199] However, there is no official who has authority to refuse a question or motion on the ground of irregularity. Members are responsible for the form in which their questions and motions appear in House of Lords Business, subject to the sense of the House which is the final arbiter.

6.13  It is open to any member of the House to call attention to a question or motion which has appeared on the day's order paper or in the future business section of House of Lords Business, and to move that leave be not given to ask the question or move the motion, or to move that it be removed from House of Lords Business. Such a motion should only be used in the last resort; it is debatable and is decided by the House.[200]



6.14  The purpose of parliamentary questions is to elicit information from the government of the day, and thus to assist members of both Houses in holding the government to account. The House has resolved that it is of "paramount importance" that ministers should give "accurate and truthful" information to Parliament, and that they be as "open as possible" in answering questions.[201] Such requirements are inherent in ministerial accountability to Parliament. A parliamentary question is not a "request for information" under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


6.15  Parliamentary questions should relate to matters of government responsibility. Questions should be as short and clear as possible and are drafted so as to be precise in their requests for information. Statements of fact should be included in questions only to the extent necessary to elicit the information sought. Questions should be worded neutrally, and should not presuppose their own answer. They should not contain expressions of opinion or argument. It is not in order to italicise or underline words in the text of motions or questions in order to give them emphasis.[202]

6.16  Questions are normally addressed to "Her Majesty's Government", rather than to a particular department or minister. It is for the government to decide which department or minister should answer a particular question. There are certain exceptions, including oral questions addressed to Secretaries of State sitting in the House of Lords, which may be taken in a designated question time. Such questions are addressed to "the Secretary of State for [department]" (see paragraph 6.25). For questions addressed to the Leader of the House or the Chairman of Committees see below, paragraph 6.21.

6.17  In drafting a question, thought should be given to the nature and scope of the response:

  • Oral questions are not intended to give rise to debate, and should be drafted in such a way that the minister can make his or her initial reply in no more than 75 words. Proceedings on each question, including supplementary questions and answers, are normally limited to a total of seven or eight minutes.
  • Questions for written answer should usually be answerable using no more than two columns of Hansard. The government apply a "disproportionate cost threshold", currently set at £800,[203] to written questions, and may decline to answer questions where the cost of answering would exceed this figure.


6.18  Although the House allows more latitude than the House of Commons, questions are generally regarded as inadmissible if they fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Questions that cast reflections on the Sovereign or the Royal Family.
  • Questions that relate to matters sub judice.
  • Questions that relate to matters for which the Church of England is responsible.[204]
  • Questions that relate to matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Questions that contain an expression or a statement of opinion, or whose purpose is to invite the government to agree to a proposition, or to express an opinion.
  • Questions that are phrased offensively. The principles of Standing Order 32 (asperity of speech) also apply.


6.19  In addition, questions which are not matters for which the government are responsible are regarded as inadmissible. In judging government responsibility, members should take account of the following guidance:

  • Questions should relate to ministers' official duties, rather than their private affairs or party matters.
  • Where government functions are delegated to an executive agency, accountability to Parliament remains through ministers. When a minister answers a parliamentary question, orally or in writing, by reference to a letter from the chief executive of an agency, the minister remains accountable for the answer, which attracts parliamentary privilege, and criticism of the answer in the House should be directed at the minister, not the chief executive.
  • Questions should not ask about opposition party policies.
  • Questions should not ask the government for a legal opinion on the interpretation of statute or of international law, such matters being the competence of the courts.
  • Questions should not ask about matters which are the particular responsibility of local authorities or the Greater London Assembly.
  • Questions should not ask about the internal affairs of another country (save for questions about human rights or other matters covered by international conventions to which the United Kingdom is party).[205]
  • In general, questions should not contain accusations against individuals. The names of individuals or bodies are not introduced into questions invidiously or for the purpose of advertisement.
  • Questions should not ask the government about the accuracy of statements in the press, where these have been made by private individuals or bodies.
  • Questions should not ask about events more than 30 years ago without direct relevance to current issues.
  • The tabling of questions on public utilities, nationalised industries and privatised industries is restricted to those matters for which the government are in practice responsible.
  • Questions should not be hypothetical, and should address issues of substance. Questions which are "trivial, vague or meaningless"[206] are not tabled.


6.20  The government are not responsible for the business or decisions of either House of Parliament. Questions should not criticise the decisions of either House.

6.21  In respect of the House of Lords, questions may be addressed to certain members of the House as holders of official positions but not as members of the government. Thus the Leader of the House has been questioned on matters of procedure, and the Chairman of Committees on matters falling within the duties of his office or relating to the House Committee and other domestic committees.

6.22  Questions are not tabled about the internal affairs of the House of Commons. Questions should not ask about House of Commons select committee reports to which the government have yet to publish their response. Nor do questions usually refer to evidence given before a Commons select committee.


6.23  The Clerks can advise on how questions may be amended to conform to House style—for instance, the use of punctuation and abbreviations, the standard form for references to previous answers, and so on. Questions should use plain English and should generally be understandable without reference to other documents (with the exception of Hansard).


6.24  Question time in the House of Lords takes place at the start of business on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Question time may not exceed 30 minutes.[207]

6.25  In December 2009 the House agreed, on a trial basis, that Secretaries of State sitting in the House of Lords should each, on one Thursday each month, answer three oral questions addressed to them in their ministerial capacity.[208] Although no Secretaries of State sat in the House of Lords in the first session of the 2010 Parliament, the procedure itself was made permanent in November 2011, with a view to its revival as appropriate.[209] Questions to Secretaries of State take place immediately after oral questions, and last for up to 20 minutes. Arrangements for selecting such questions, by ballot, are described below (paragraph 6.35). Except where indicated in the following paragraphs, the procedure for Secretary of State's questions is identical to that for normal oral questions.


6.26  Oral questions, marked * in House of Lords Business, are asked for information only, and not with a view to stating an opinion, making a speech or raising a debate.[210] The arrangements for tabling such questions are as follows:

  • oral questions may be tabled up to four weeks, including recesses, in advance of the date on which they are to be asked (e.g. a question to be asked on Monday 31 March may not be tabled before Monday 3 March);
  • oral questions are accepted by the Table Office (or the Duty Clerk in recesses) from 2 p.m. on the day on which they become available;
  • no oral question may be tabled less than 24 hours before the start of the sitting at which it is due to be asked (or after 2.30 p.m. on Friday for Monday);
  • the number of oral questions is limited to four;
  • no member of the House may have more than one oral question on the order paper at any one time,[211] but topical questions and Secretary of State's questions are excluded from this rule;
  • when oral questions become available, priority in tabling them is afforded to members in person, followed by members telephoning the Table Office in person; questions are offered to members who have contacted the Table Office either via email or fax, or whose questions have been brought in by others, from 2.15 p.m.[212]


6.27  Oral questions are asked by leave of the House. The form of words to be used in asking a question is:

"My Lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the order paper."[213]

6.28  If a member of the House is not present to ask a question, the question may be asked by another member with the permission of the member named on the order paper.[214] On such occasions, the member who is in fact to ask the question should inform the Table, who will inform the government. The unanimous leave of the House is required for one member's question to be asked by another when the authority of the member named on the order paper has not been given.[215] If the Clerk of the Parliaments knows that an oral question is not going to be asked, he informs the House before he calls the first question;[216] the full 30 minutes is available for the remaining questions.


6.29  Ministers' initial answers should not generally exceed 75 words. Supplementary questions may be asked but they should be short and confined to not more than two points.[217] If a supplementary question exceeds these guidelines, the minister need only answer the two main points. Supplementary questions should be confined to the subject of the original question, and ministers should not answer irrelevant questions.[218] The essential purpose of supplementaries is to elicit information, and they should not incorporate statements of opinion. They should not be read. The member who tabled the question has no automatic right to ask a final supplementary question.

6.30  Members should not take up the time of the House during question time by making trivial declarations of non-financial and non-registrable interests. Questioners should not thank the government for their answers, nor ministers thank questioners for their questions.[219]

6.31  Where a minister's answer contains material that is too lengthy or too complicated to be given orally in the House, it may be published in Hansard.[220]


6.32  The fourth space for an oral question each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is reserved for a question which is topical. The questions are chosen by ballot.[221]

6.33  Members may enter the ballot even if they already have one oral question on the order paper; but they may not enter the ballot if they already have an oral question on the order paper for the day concerned. No member may ask more than four[222] topical oral questions in one session. The Clerks discourage members from tabling questions which are clearly not topical and indicate to members which questions have already been tabled for ballot. No more than one question on a subject may be accepted for inclusion in the ballot and priority is given to the first which is tabled.


6.34  The timetable for the ballot for topical questions during any sitting week is:
Day question is to be asked Ballot opens Ballot drawn Questions appear in HL Business
Previous Wednesday, after oral questions Friday 1 p.m. Monday or Tuesday morning
Previous Thursday, 3 p.m. Monday 1 p.m. Tuesday morning
Previous Friday, 3 p.m. Tuesday 1 p.m. Wednesday morning

All questions for the ballot should be submitted to the Table Office.


6.35  The three questions addressed to Secretaries of State, which are asked on a Thursday, are selected by means of a ballot which takes place at 1 p.m. the preceding Monday. The ballot opens one week earlier. The timetable is thus as follows:
Day questions are to be asked Ballot opens Ballot drawn Questions appear in HL Business
Monday of the preceding week, 10 a.m. Monday of the same week, 1 p.m. Tuesday morning


6.36  A private notice question (PNQ) gives members of the House the opportunity to raise urgent matters on any sitting day. A PNQ should be submitted in writing to the Lord Speaker by 12 noon on the day on which it is proposed to ask it, or by 10 a.m. on days when the House sits before 1 p.m. The decision whether the question is of sufficient urgency and importance to justify an immediate reply rests with the Lord Speaker, after consultation.[224]

6.37  PNQs are taken immediately after oral questions, or on Friday at a time agreed by the Lord Speaker, the Lord asking the question and the usual channels. They should not be made the occasion for immediate debate.[225] Proceedings on PNQs follow the rules for oral questions. In particular, supplementary questions should be short and confined to not more than two points. Proceedings on a PNQ are limited to 10 minutes. For these reasons it may at times be more convenient for the House if the PNQ procedure is not used but instead the government makes a statement on the matter which the PNQ is intended to raise. Circumstances in which statements may be more appropriate than PNQs include: when a long answer is required; when the responsible minister is a member of the House of Lords; when the House of Commons is not sitting.[226]

6.38  When the answer to an Urgent Question tabled in the Commons is, by agreement between the usual channels, to be repeated in the Lords, it is repeated in the form of a statement, synchronised with the answer in the Commons. In November 2012 the House agreed, on a trial basis, that in such cases the repetition of the answer should be followed by ten minutes of question and answer, to which the rules governing PNQs apply.[227]

6.39  When an oral question in the House of Commons is deferred by a minister in that House to be answered at the end of normal question time,[228] the PNQ procedure may be used in order to repeat the question and answer in the Lords.


6.40  Members may also table "Questions for Written Answer".[229] Questions may be tabled only on sitting days, and on two days during the summer recess, normally the first Monday in September and the first Monday in October.[230] Guidance on the wording of written questions is given at paragraphs 6.12-6.23. Answers to written questions are sent directly to the member by a Lords minister in the relevant department and are published in Hansard. Answers are issued to the Press Gallery from 4.30 p.m., with no embargo on use and publication.

6.41  When a minister undertakes in the House to write to a member on a matter of general interest to the House, it is open to that member or any other member to ensure that the minister's reply is available to the House by putting down a question for written answer.[231]


6.42  Written questions, including those tabled in the summer recess, are expected to be answered within 10 working days.[232] Answers are sent to members by post. When the House is in recess, answers should be sent to the member concerned within 10 working days. They are printed in Hansard either on the next sitting day, or, in the case of the summer recess, on the day following the second tabling day, with a reference to the date of the answer. Where appropriate, written questions may be answered on the day on which they are tabled. The length of ministerial answers to written questions should not exceed two columns of Hansard, and the normal practice is for longer answers to be placed in the Library of the House; a covering reply stating that the information has been placed in the Library is published in Hansard.[233] The Leader of the House advises on individual cases of difficulty.[234]


6.43  Members of the House of Lords are not entitled to table more than six written questions on any one day, or more than 12 written questions per sitting week.[235] The tabling of a series of different requests for information in the form of a single question is deprecated.[236]


6.44  A question for short debate is distinguishable from a motion in that there is no right of reply.[237] Such a question may be tabled for any day on which the House is sitting. Members should table such questions in the list contained in House of Lords Business, and then consult the Government Whips' Office to agree upon a suitable date when the question can be asked.[238] The date of tabling is given in House of Lords Business; if the question has not been asked within six months of tabling, it is removed from the list. Members are limited to one question for short debate in House of Lords Business at any one time.[239] A ballot is conducted to determine the order in which questions for short debate tabled on the day of State Opening are entered in House of Lords Business.[240]


6.45   Questions for short debate are entered last on the order paper,[241] and more than one question for short debate should be put down only on a day when business appears to be light. They are taken either as last business (in which case they are subject to a time limit of 1½ hours[242]) or during the lunch or dinner break (in which case they last for a maximum of one hour[243]). Thus questions for short debate should be limited in scope.[244]

6.46  Questions for short debate may be taken in a Grand Committee with the concurrence of those concerned. No business of the House motion is required. Such questions are time-limited to 1 or 1½ hours.[245]


6.47  Whether a question for short debate is taken as last business or in a lunch or dinner break, the questioner is guaranteed 10 minutes and the minister 12 minutes. The remaining time is divided equally between all speakers on the list; there is no guaranteed time for opposition frontbenchers. If the list of speakers is small, the maximum allocation for all speeches is 10 minutes, except for the minister, who is still guaranteed 12 minutes.

6.48  No member may speak more than once except with the leave of the House. If a member does speak more than once it should be only for the purpose of explaining a material point in his or her speech and not to introduce new subjects for debate.[246]

  • The member who asks the question has no right of reply since no motion has been moved.
  • It is not in order for members to continue the debate after the government's reply has been given, except for questions to the minister before the minister sits down.



6.49  In a normal full session every Thursday[247] from the beginning of the session until the end of January[248] is set aside for general debates. The House has agreed that it is desirable that there should be regular debates on general topics, and on select committee reports, in prime time.[249]

6.50  Motions are tabled on the order paper in the name of one member only. It is not the practice to add names of other members in support of a motion.

  • The leave of the House is not sought when a motion is moved. The motion is moved as follows: "I beg to move the motion standing in my name on the order paper".[250]
  • Every motion, after it has been moved, must be proposed in the form of a Question from the Woolsack before debate takes place upon it.
  • Motions, other than for the Humble Address in reply to the Queen's Speech, are not seconded.
  • At the conclusion of the debate, after every member who wishes to speak has spoken, the mover has the right of reply. At the end of his or her speech in reply, the mover may either withdraw the motion or press it. If it is pressed, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair then completes the Question on the motion, if necessary reading its terms.
  • It is contrary to the practice of the House for a Question once decided to be put again in the same session.

6.51  General guidance on the wording of questions and motions, and on Government responsibility, may be found above at paragraphs 6.12-6.23.

6.52  The two types of motion are

  • resolutions;
  • "take-note" motions.


6.53  Resolutions may be put down in cases where a member wishes the House to make a definite decision on a subject, if necessary on a vote. A resolution, if passed, constitutes the formal opinion or decision of the House on the matter.

6.54  Resolutions begin with the words "To move to resolve …" or "To move that this House …", and it is in order to incorporate statements of opinion or the demonstration of a point of view.


6.55  Most debates take place on a motion "That this House takes note of …". This formula enables the House to debate a situation or a document without coming to any positive decision. Such motions are usually agreed to, since they are neutral in wording, and there is neither advantage nor significance in opposing them. The opinion of the House is expressed in the speeches made in the debate rather than on a division. The formula is regularly used for debates on the general debate day and for select committee reports. It is also appropriate when a minister wishes to put down a neutral motion.

6.56  "Take note" motions should be short and neutrally phrased to avoid provocative or tendentious language, although members are not prevented from advancing controversial points of view in the course of debate. A "take note" motion should not include a statement of opinion or demonstrate a point of view. "Take note" motions are not amendable.[252]

6.57  General debates may be held in Grand Committee;[253] the proceedings are the same as those that take place in the Chamber.


6.58  One Thursday in each month from the start of the session to the end of December[254] is set aside for two balloted debates.[255] These balloted debates are limited to 2½ hours each, and their subjects should be narrow enough to be debated within the time limit. These debates may be initiated only by backbench and Crossbench members and a member may initiate only one balloted debate per session.

6.59  The choice of the two subjects is made by ballot, which is carried out by the Clerk of the Parliaments, two or three weeks before the debates are due to take place. A member wishing to initiate a balloted debate must give notice by tabling the motion in House of Lords Business under Motions for Balloted Debate. It is not in order to put down a motion for a balloted debate which is the same, or substantially the same, as a motion that is already entered for the ballot.[256] It is assumed, unless notice to the contrary is given to the Table Office, that any member who has a motion down for the ballot is willing and able to move his motion on the day appointed.

6.60  The purpose of these debates is to provide a forum for discussion rather than questions which the House may decide on a division. They always take place on "take note" motions, which should worded neutrally.

6.61  When a motion has been set down for a particular day, it may be amended in form but not in substance: that is to say, a member who has been successful in the ballot may not substitute another subject for that originally proposed.


6.62  The House may limit debates, either in the House itself or in Grand Committee, to a specific number of hours. A business of the House motion in the name of the Leader of the House (of which notice is required) must be moved before the start of the debate if a time limit is to be applied. Within the overall limit, the amount of time allotted to particular speakers is calculated in advance and stated on the speakers' list.

6.63  Speaking time is allocated equally between all the speakers on the speakers' list, subject to a guaranteed minimum number of minutes being given to the mover of the debate, the official opposition frontbencher or frontbenchers and the minister replying. The table below shows these guaranteed minimum allocations of time for debates of various lengths, in minutes.
4 hrs or over
2 hrs or over
Less than 2 hrs
Opposition frontbencher(s)
Minister replying

6.64  For speaking time in Questions for Short Debate, see paragraph 6.47.

6.65  If the number of speakers on the speakers' list is small, every speaker enjoys an equal speaking time (up to the recommended maximum of 15 minutes for any speech), except for the minister in reply who has at least the guaranteed minimum time set out in the table.

6.66  At the appropriate time, whoever is speaking is expected to give way to the front benches.

6.67  The digital clocks in the Chamber show the number of minutes that have already elapsed since the start of each speech.

6.68  Speakers in time-limited debates should respect the time guidelines and keep their speeches short, so that all those who wish to speak may do so. Members may also speak briefly in the gap (for a maximum of 4 minutes) if time allows, subject to the guidance set out in paragraph 4.28). During time-limited debates, speeches should be interrupted only if time allows.

6.69  If time-limited debates are interrupted by other business, for example by a statement, the time limit is extended correspondingly and an appropriate announcement made to the House.

6.70  If the debate on a motion is still continuing at the end of the time allotted to it, the Clerk at the Table rises, and the Lord on the Woolsack brings the debate to an end by either putting the Question forthwith or asking whether the mover of the motion wishes to withdraw it.[258]


6.71  A motion for debate, other than a "take note" motion, may be amended with or without notice.

6.72  In principle the discussion of an amendment to a motion is a separate debate, which must be concluded before the House returns to the original motion (or the original motion as amended). However, in practice, once a motion and an amendment to it have been moved, the rest of the debate takes place on that amendment, and the members in whose names the motion and any subsequent amendments stand speak in this debate to indicate the reasons why they prefer their own form of words. When the first amendment has been disposed of, any remaining amendments and the original motion (as amended) are usually put and decided without further debate.

6.73  The following principles apply to a debate during which amendments, and possibly amendments to amendments, are proposed to a motion:

  • a motion, an amendment to the motion, and any amendment to the amendment, must each be moved and proposed in the form of a Question from the Woolsack before they can be further debated;
  • a member of the House who moves a motion, an amendment to it or any amendment to the amendment, may speak for that purpose and has a right of reply on his or her motion or amendment;
  • a member whose motion is sought to be amended by one or more proposed amendments may make separate speeches dealing with each amendment, but may not move any amendment; if, having seen the terms of any proposed amendment, the mover seeks to modify the motion he or she should indicate in moving the motion the terms of the motion which he or she is actually moving so that the original Question can be put in that amended form;
  • a member who has neither moved the original motion nor any amendment to it may speak once on the motion and once on any amendment or on any amendment to that amendment;
  • a member who moves an amendment should not speak separately on the original motion, but has a right of reply on his or her amendment.

6.74  At the end of the debate on an amendment to a motion, the Lord on the Woolsack states the terms of the original motion and of the amendment and then puts the Question "that this amendment be agreed to".

6.75  If there is an equality of votes in a division on such an amendment, the amendment is disagreed to.

6.76  If there is more than one amendment to a motion, the amendments are dealt with in the order in which they relate to the motion, or, if they relate to the same place in the motion, in the order in which they were tabled.

6.77  If amendments are moved to an amendment, such amendments are dealt with in the order in which they stand on the order paper, in the same manner as if they were amendments to a motion, until all are disposed of. Then the original amendment is dealt with.

6.78  If any amendment is agreed to, at the end of the debate the Lord on the Woolsack puts the Question:

"That the original motion, as amended, be agreed to".


6.79  On rare occasions when the House considers that the structure of debate set out above is too restrictive, it can go into committee on a motion, so that the limit on the number of times a member may speak is removed. The motion to do so may be moved without notice.


6.80  A motion for the adjournment of a debate may be moved at any time during the debate without notice and may be debated. But when it has been arranged in advance for a debate to be adjourned (for example, the debate on the Queen's Speech), it is usual for its adjournment to be moved formally by the member who will speak first when the debate is resumed. The House may make an order, without notice, for adjourned business to be taken later the same day, or taken as first business on another day.[259]


6.81  If, at the conclusion of the debate, the mover decides not to seek the opinion of the House, he or she asks leave to withdraw the motion or amendment. A motion or amendment may be withdrawn only by unanimous leave of the House, though it is rare for any objection to be made.

6.82  The member in whose name the motion stands should conclude the debate by saying:

"I beg leave to withdraw the motion"

6.83  No formal motion for withdrawal is made and no formal Question is put. The Lord on the Woolsack asks the House:

"Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the motion be withdrawn?"

6.84  A single dissenting voice is sufficient to prevent withdrawal.[260] If there is none, the Lord on the Woolsack adds:

"The motion is, by leave, withdrawn."

6.85  If any member dissents, the Lord on the Woolsack must put the Question on the motion.

6.86  When a member begs leave to withdraw a motion, other members are not precluded from rising to speak; and if they continue the debate the mover may again beg leave to withdraw the motion at a later stage. If, however, the Lord on the Woolsack has asked the House whether leave to withdraw be granted, and any member has objected, the mover cannot again seek leave to withdraw his motion, which must be decided on Question.

186   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1984-85. Back

187   SO 35. Back

188   When considering whether to require repetition of a Statement made in the Commons on a Wednesday, the usual channels bear in mind the extra pressure on business created by the late start, and consider the additional options of (i) a Private Notice Question on the subject of the Statement and (ii) taking the Statement the next day (Procedure 2nd Rpt 2005-06). Back

189   Procedure 8th Rpt 2010-12. See Official Report for 29 November 2011. Back

190   Procedure 8th Rpt 2010-12. Back

191   SO 35; often restated by the Procedure Committee, most recently in 1st Rpt 2002-03. Back

192   Procedure 1st Rpt 1998-99. Back

193   Procedure 1st Rpt 2000-01. Back

194   Procedure 1st Rpt 1989-90; 1st Rpt 1994-95. On 26 January 2004, additional time was allowed for an intervention by the Lord Chief Justice (HL Deb. col. 12). On 10 June 2009, the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers was permitted to intervene during the time for the front benches, and the time allowed for backbenchers was extended to 40 minutes (HL Deb. col. 638). Back

195   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2010-12. Back

196   Procedure 4th Rpt 1963-64; 3rd Rpt 1984-85; 1st Rpt 1987-88. Back

197   Procedure 1st Rpt 1987-88; 1st Rpt 1998-99.  Back

198   Procedure 1st Rpt 2003-04. Back

199   Procedure 1st Rpt 1985-86. Back

200   LJ (1982-83) 108. Back

201   LJ (1996-97) 404.


202   Procedure 1st Rpt 1985-86, 9th Rpt 1970-71. Back

203   HL Deb., 20 January 2010, col. WS60. Back

204   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1988-89. Back

205   See also Erskine May, p. 361. Back

206   Erskine May, p. 365.


207   Procedure 1st Rpt 1990-91. Back

208   Procedure 1st Rpt 2009-10. Back

209   Procedure 8th Rpt 2010-12. Back

210   SO 34. Back

211   Procedure 1st Rpt 1998-99. Back

212   Procedure Committee minutes, 14 February 2011. Back

213   Procedure 1st Rpt 1967-68. Back

214   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1984-85. Back

215   SO 42(2). Back

216   Procedure 1st Rpt 1999-2000. Back

217   Procedure 1st Rpt 1984-85; 1st Rpt 1987-88. Back

218   Restated in Procedure 1st Rpt 2002-03. Back

219   Procedure 6th Rpt 2010-12. Back

220   Procedure 4th Rpt 1963-64. Back

221   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02; 3rd Rpt 2003-04. Back

222   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02; 3rd Rpt 2003-04. The limit was increased to five for the long 2010-12 session (Procedure 3rd Rpt 2010-12). Back

223   SO 35; Procedure 1st Rpt 1959-60; 5th Rpt 1971-72. Back

224   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2005-06; 2nd Rpt 2009-10. Back

225   SO 35. Back

226   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1990-91. Back

227   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2012-13. Back

228   See Erskine May, p 353.  Back

229   SO 44; Procedure 1st Rpt 1990-91. Back

230   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2006-07. The Leader of the House has discretion to vary the standard pattern of dates, by agreement with the usual channels, in case of exceptional recess dates. Back

231   Procedure 7th Rpt 1971-72. Back

232   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2009-10. Back

233   Procedure 4th Rpt 1998-99. Back

234   Procedure Committee minutes, 4 April 2000.  Back

235   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1988-89, 3rd Rpt 2006-07, 11th Rpt 2010-12. Back

236   Procedure 1st Rpt 1977-78. Back

237   SO 36. Back

238   Procedure 6th Rpt 2005-06. Back

239   Procedure 8th Rpt 2010-12. Back

240   Procedure 10th Rpt 2010-12. Back

241   SO 40(9). Back

242   Procedure 1st Rpt 1994-95. Back

243   Procedure 3rd Rpt 1993-94. Back

244   Procedure 8th Rpt 2010-12. Back

245   Resolution of the House 31 January 2005; Procedure 5th Rpt 2006-07. Back

246   SO 30(2). Back

247   Procedure 6th Rpt 2005-06. Back

248   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2010-12. Back

249   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

250   If a member of the House is absent when a motion standing in his or her name is called and has authorised another member to act on his or her behalf, that member may do so, explaining the situation. Otherwise, the motion cannot be proceeded with on that day unless unanimous leave is granted by the House. See paragraph 3.37. Back

251   Procedure 1st Rpt 1985-86. Back

252   Minutes of Proceedings, 8 November 2011. Back

253   Procedure 9th Rpt 2010-12. Back

254   Procedure 6th Rpt 2010-12. Back

255   Procedure 1st Rpt 1974. They were formerly called "short debates". Back

256   Procedure 5th Rpt 1974-75. Back

257   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1983-84; 2nd Rpt 1990-91; 3rd Rpt 1992-93. Back

258   SO 37(1). Back

259   SO 45. Back

260   SO 31. Back

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