STATEMENTS, QUESTIONS AND
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. 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. 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.
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
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
Discussion on a statement
6.07 Ministerial statements are made for the information
of the House, and although brief questions
from all quarters of the House are allowed, statements should not be made the
occasion for an immediate debate.
The time for the Opposition front bench or benches and the minister's reply to
them should be limited to 20 minutes;
ministers should not, however, cut short their replies, even if this means
going beyond the 20-minute limit.
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
If a debate upon a statement is desired, a notice should be tabled for a later
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.
Publication in Hansard
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.
6.10 Written statements may be made when the House is
sitting, by ministers or the Senior Deputy Speaker. Notice is not required.
Written statements may also be published online and in editions of Hansard
produced when the House is not sitting. Written statements are available online as soon as they
are made and are published in Hansard.
The digital copy of written statements is the definitive record copy.
Commons Urgent Questions
repeated as statements
6.11 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. The repetition of the answer is followed by 10 minutes of
question and answer, to which the rules governing PNQs apply.
and motions: general principles
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.
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
The nature of parliamentary questions
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
importance" that ministers should give
"accurate and truthful" information to Parliament, and that
they be as "open as
possible" in answering questions. 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.
Form and scope of questions
6.15 Parliamentary questions should relate to matters of
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.
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 Senior Deputy Speaker 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 their 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 500 words. The government
apply a "disproportionate
cost threshold", currently set at £850, to written questions, and may
decline to answer questions where the cost of answering would exceed this
What makes a question inadmissible?
6.18 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.
· 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)
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:
should relate to ministers' official duties, rather than their private affairs
or party matters.
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.
should not ask about opposition party policies.
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
should not ask about matters which are the particular responsibility of local
authorities or the Greater London Assembly.
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).
· 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.
should not ask the government about the accuracy of statements in the press,
where these have been made by private individuals or bodies.
should not ask about events more than 30 years ago without direct relevance to
· The tabling of
questions on public utilities, nationalised industries and privatised
industries is restricted to those matters for which the government are in
should not be hypothetical, and should address issues of substance. Questions
which are "trivial,
vague or meaningless"
are not tabled.
Questions relating to the business of either House
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 Senior Deputy
Speaker on matters falling within the duties of his office or relating to the
House of Lords Commission 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.
Wording of questions
6.23 The Clerks can advise on how questions may be
amended to conform to House stylefor 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.
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. Although no
Secretaries of State sat in the House of Lords in the 2010 Parliament, the
procedure itself was made permanent in November 2011, with a view to its
revival as appropriate.
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
Tabling 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. The
arrangements for tabling such questions when the House is sitting are as
· oral questions
may be tabled up to four weeks 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 from 2 p.m. on the day on which they become
· 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
but topical questions and Secretary of State's questions are excluded from this
· no member of
the House may table more than seven oral questions in each session;
· 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 via email, or whose
questions have been brought in by others, from 2.15 p.m.
6.27 When the House is in recess oral question slots
that become available are allocated by ballot.
The arrangements for the ballot are as follows:
· oral questions
may be tabled up to four weeks in advance of the date on which they are to be
· oral questions
are accepted by the Duty Clerk in person, by telephone, by email, or by a
person authorised on a member's behalf, at any time after the previous ballot
is closed (or, if applicable at the start of a recess, when the previous
deadline for tabling oral questions has passed); the deadline for submissions
is 1pm on the day four weeks before the question is to be asked;
after the 1pm deadline has passed a ballot is drawn by the Duty Clerk. If more
questions have been submitted than there are slots available, the ballot
determines which questions are tabled and their order. If fewer questions are
submitted than there are slots available, the ballot determines only the order
in which they are tabled;
· a member may
submit only one question for inclusion in each oral questions ballot;
· if the oral
questions ballot falls on the same day as the separate ballot for topical
questions, a member may enter a question in both ballots but the questions
should be on different subjects;
· no more than
one question on a subject will be accepted for inclusion in the ballot and
priority is given to the first which is received;
· members cannot "roll over"
submitted questions from one day to the next: questions must be re-submitted
for each ballot;
· in the event
of the day four weeks before a sitting day being a public holiday in England,
the ballot will take place on the next working day if that is a non-sitting
day. If it is a sitting day then normal tabling arrangements will apply and
there will be no ballot;
· if, by the time the ballot is drawn, fewer questions have
been submitted than there are slots available, the remaining slots will be
allocated on a first-come-first-served basis from 2pm.
Asking the question
questions are asked by leave of the House. The form of words to be used in
asking a question is:
Lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the order paper."
6.29 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.
The form of words to use in this circumstance is:
"On behalf of my noble friend/the noble Lord, Lord X, and with his/her permission,
I beg leave to ask the question standing in his/her name on the order paper."
6.30 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
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; the full 30
minutes is available for the remaining questions.
Ministers' replies and supplementary questions
6.31 Ministers' initial answers should not generally
exceed 75 words. Supplementary questions should be short and confined to not
more than two points.
If a supplementary question exceeds these guidelines, the minister need answer
only the two main points. Supplementary questions should be confined to the
subject of the original question, and ministers should not answer irrelevant
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
6.32 Members should not take up the time of the House
during question time by making trivial declarations of non-financial and
non-registerable interests. Questioners should not thank the government for
their answers, nor ministers thank questioners for their questions.
6.33 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.
Topical (balloted) oral questions
6.34 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.
6.35 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 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.
6.36 The timetable for the ballot
for topical questions during any sitting week is:
Day question is to be asked
Question appears 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.
Previous Friday, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, 1 p.m.
All questions for the ballot should be submitted to the
The ballot for Secretary of State's questions
6.37 When a Secretary of State is a member of the House
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
Day questions are to be asked
Questions appear in HL Business
Monday of the preceding week, 10 a.m.
Monday of the same week, 1 p.m.
Private notice questions
6.38 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.
6.39 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
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
Questions for written answer
6.40 Members may also table "Questions for Written Answer". Questions may
be tabled only on sitting days and on tabling days during recesses. There is
one tabling day each week when the House of Commons sits but the House of Lords
does not, plus a tabling day on the first Monday in October. Guidance on the
wording of written questions is given at paragraphs 6.12-6.23. Answers to
written questions are published online.
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.
6.42 Written questions,
including those tabled in the summer recess, are expected to be answered within
10 working days.
Answers are sent to members via the electronic question and answer system. When the House
is in recess, answers should be sent to the member concerned within 10 working
days. They are published online on the day they are answered and in a collated
daily report either on the next sitting day or, during 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 following criteria are used to determine whether a
written answer is admissible:
substantive answers to questions are admissible. Except where due to shortage
of time answers cannot be prepared in response to questions tabled within five
working days of the end of a session, holding answers are not permitted.
· Answers should
not exceed 500 words, though the Editor of Debates has discretion to exceed
this in exceptional cases.
· Answers should
be complete and comprehensible and should not rely on references to external
documents or web pages.
· Up to three
electronic attachments may be included with an answer. In the interests of
long-term accessibility, supporting documents should be included as attachments
rather than by means of hyperlinks (which may break in future). Electronic
attachments will be published on the parliamentary website but will not be
published in Hansard (the Library will print attachments on demand).
attachments should be referred to in the substantive answer so that readers of
hard copy know that they exist. A note indicating where readers can find the
additional material will be inserted in the text of Hansard.
· Tables will be
printed only if submitted in such formats as are approved from time to time by
the Editor of Debates. Tables not in approved formats may be included as one of
the electronic attachments.
material such as graphs, charts or maps may be included in an electronic
6.43 The Leader of the House advises on individual cases
Limits on number of written questions
6.44 Members may table six written questions on any one
day and a maximum of 12 written questions per sitting week. The tabling of
a series of different requests for information in the form of a single question
Questions for short debate
6.45 A question for short debate is distinguishable from
a motion in that there is no right of reply.
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.
The date of tabling is given in House of Lords Business; if a date for
debate has not been allocated within six months of tabling the question, it is
removed from the list. Members are limited to one question for short debate in House
of Lords Business at any one time.
A member may not table in House of Lords Business a question for short
debate on a subject on which the member has a motion for balloted debate.
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
Timing of questions for short debate
6.46 Questions for short debate
are entered last on the order paper.
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) or during the
lunch or dinner break (in which case they last for a maximum of one hour). Thus
questions for short debate should be limited in scope.
6.47 Questions for short debate
may be taken in a Grand Committee with the concurrence of those concerned.
Such questions are time-limited to 1 or 11/2 hours. Once every six
weeks when the House is in session a Grand Committee sits for five hours to
consider five questions for short debate tabled by backbenchers.
Topical (balloted) questions for short debate
6.48 In a normal full session on every Thursday from
the beginning of the session until the end of January there is a topical question
for short debate between the general debates (or after the general debate if
there is only one). The
topical question for short debate is chosen by ballot.
6.49 Only backbench and Crossbench members may enter the
ballot and a member may initiate only one topical question for short debate per
session. The test of topicality is whether the subject has been covered by at
least two mainstream media outlets on either of the two days that the ballot
was open or over the preceding weekend.
The same subject may not be debated as a topical question for short debate more
than once in a six-month period. 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. The clerks advise members on the interpretation and application of
6.50 The ballot is drawn at 12 noon on Tuesday for
Thursday of the following week. The ballot is open from 10 a.m. on Monday until
12 noon the following day. Members should table entries anew for each ballot;
undrawn questions are not automatically entered into the next ballot. If there
is no entrant in a ballot, or if none of the entries is topical, the slot
Guidance on the conduct of questions for short debate
6.51 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.
6.52 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.
· The form of
words used when asking the question is:
"My Lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my
name on the order paper".
· 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.
6.53 In a normal full session every Thursday from the
beginning of the session until the end of January 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.
6.54 Motions are tabled on the
order paper in the name of one member only.
· The leave of
the House is not sought when a motion is moved. The form of words used is: "I beg to move the
motion standing in my name on the order paper".
· 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 to a short reply. At the end of their short 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
6.55 General guidance on the wording of questions and
motions, and on Government responsibility, may be found above at paragraphs
6.56 The two types of motion are
· "take note"
6.57 Resolutions may be put down in cases where a member
wishes the House to come to 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.
6.58 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.
Motions to take note
6.59 Most debates take place on
a motion "That
this House takes note of ...". This formula enables the House to debate
a subject 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.
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.
6.61 Debates on "take note" motions
may be held in Grand Committee;
the proceedings are the same as those that take place in the Chamber.
6.62 One Thursday in each month from the start of the
session to the end of December
is set aside for two balloted debates.
These balloted debates are limited to 2 ½ 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.
6.63 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.
Members should table motions anew for each ballot; undrawn motions may not be
entered into the next ballot automatically. A member may not enter into the ballot a motion on a subject on which the
member has a question for short debate in House of Lords Business. 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 or her motion on the day appointed.
6.64 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 be worded neutrally.
6.65 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.
6.66 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.
6.67 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.
LENGTH OF DEBATE
4 hrs or over
2 hrs or over
Less than 2 hrs
6.68 For speaking time in questions for short debate,
see paragraph 6.50.
6.69 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.
6.70 At the appropriate time, whoever is speaking is
expected to give way to the front benches.
6.71 The digital clocks in the Chamber show the number
of minutes that have already elapsed since the start of each speech.
6.72 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 4.27).
During time-limited debates, speeches should be interrupted only if time
6.73 If time-limited debates are interrupted by other
business, for example by a statement or in Grand Committee by a division in the
House, the time limit is extended correspondingly and an appropriate
announcement made to the House or Grand Committee.
6.74 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.
Amendments to motions
6.75 A motion for debate, other than a "take note" motion,
may be amended with or without notice.
6.76 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.
6.77 The following principles apply to a debate during
which amendments, and possibly amendments to amendments, are proposed to a
· 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
· 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,;
· 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.
6.78 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".
6.79 If there is an equality of votes in a division on
such an amendment, the amendment is disagreed to.
6.80 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
6.81 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.
6.82 If any amendment is agreed to, at the end of the
debate the Lord on the Woolsack puts the Question:
the original motion, as amended, be agreed to".
Committees on motions
6.83 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.
Adjournment of debates lasting more than one day
6.84 A motion for the adjournment of a debate may be
moved at any time during the debate without notice and may be debated. 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 at
the end of the sitting. The adjourned business may be taken later the same day,
or taken as first business on another day.
Withdrawal of motions and amendments
6.85 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.
6.86 The member in whose name the motion stands should
conclude the debate by saying:
beg leave to withdraw the motion [or amendment]"
6.87 No formal motion for withdrawal is made and no
formal Question is put. The Lord on the Woolsack asks the House:
it your Lordships' pleasure that the motion [or amendment] be withdrawn?"
6.88 A single dissenting voice is sufficient to prevent
If there is none, the Lord on the Woolsack adds:
motion/amendment is, by leave, withdrawn."
6.89 If any member dissents, the Lord on the Woolsack
must put the Question on the motion or amendment.