Normal days and hours of sitting and rising

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17.2The House normally sits on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Under Standing Order No 12 the House sits on 13 Fridays in each session to debate Private Members' Bills under Standing Order No 14(8), though it can meet on additional Fridays. The House can also meet—though this is rare—on Saturdays and on Sundays. Standing Order Nos 9 and 11 provide that the House shall sit on Mondays at 2.30 pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11.30 am, and on Thursdays and Fridays at 9.30 am.1 Monday timings apply to any Tuesday or Wednesday (but not Thursday) sitting immediately after a periodic adjournment of more than two days and on the first day of a session.1A The House also sits at 2.30 pm on any day of the week on which a Speaker is to be elected (Standing Order No 1B).

Standing Order No 9(3) provides for the interruption of business under consideration at 10 pm on Monday, 7 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 5 pm on Thursday. Standing Order No 11 makes similar provision for the interruption of business at 2.30 pm on Friday. This point in the sitting day, known as the ‘moment of interruption’, usually marks the end of the main business of the day, and only certain kinds of business (though this may occasionally include important business) can be taken after this point.2

When the main business is concluded, a motion for the adjournment of the House is necessary to enable the House to rise, and this motion can be debated until half an hour after it has been proposed. The procedure in closing a sitting is described below in detail (see paras 17.8–17.19 ).

The official announcement of the hour appointed for the next meeting of the House is made by an entry placed, under the Speaker's authority, at the close of the Votes and Proceedings (see para 7.14 ).3

The following table sets out the timings of the main types of business on each day:

Event (and SO No) Monday Tuesday/Wednesday Thursday Friday
Application for urgent debates to Speaker no later than (24) 12 noon 10.30 am 9 am
House sits (9, 11) 2.30 pm 11.30 am 9.30 am 9.30 am
Private business after prayers ends no later than (20) 2.45 pm 11.45 am 9.45 am
Question time ends (21) 3.30 pm 12.30 pm 10.30 am
Urgent questions and statements (21, 9, 11) 3.30 pm 12.30 pm 10.30 am 11 am
Main business interrupted (9, 11) 10 pm 7 pm 5 pm 2.30 pm
Westminster Hall sittings (10) (*extra time for divisions in House) *4.30–7.30 pm 9.30–11.30 am; & *2.30–5.30 pm *1.30–4.30 pm

In practice, the Speaker expects applications to be made as early as possible to allow for their proper consideration and not later than 11.30 am on Mondays, 10 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 8.15 am on Thursdays.

Footnotes

  1. 1. The times were initially brought into force under a sessional order of 13 November 1946, which was incorporated into standing orders on 4 November 1947. On 17 January 1980 the Standing Order relating to Friday Sittings, now SO No 11, was amended to provide that the House should meet at 9.30 am instead of at 11 am. Following experimental arrangements in Session 1994–95, standing orders were further amended on 2 November 1995 to provide that the House should not sit on ten Fridays in each session to be appointed by the House and that on Wednesdays the House should meet at 9.30 am instead of 2.30 pm. Provision for Wednesday morning sittings was suspended at the beginning of Session 1999–2000, when the House began to sit in Westminster Hall, and was removed from standing orders in October 2002. At the same time the House agreed a temporary standing order (new provision for earlier sittings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and for Thursdays and Fridays) with effect from 1 January 2003 to the end of the 2001 Parliament, under which the House sat at 2.30 pm on Mondays, 11.30 am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 9.30 am on Fridays. On 26 January 2005, the House agreed amendments to the standing orders which brought in starting times of 2.30 pm for Mondays and Tuesdays, 11.30 am for Wednesdays, 10.30 am on Thursdays and 9.30 am on Fridays with effect from the start of the 2005 Parliament. On 11 July 2012, the House considered further changes to standing orders (principally the 11.30 am start on Tuesdays and 9.30 am start on Thursdays) resulting in the current hours.
  2. 1A. If the House is recalled to the day before it would otherwise be scheduled to sit on Monday hours on a Tuesday or Wednesday after the return from an adjournment, the normal sitting pattern is restored. For example, after its recall on 12 April 2021 the House met at 11.30 am on Tuesday 13 April, rather than at 2.30 pm, as had originally been indicated.
  3. 2. A motion may be moved by a member of the Government to exempt business after the moment of interruption on a Friday, but such motions on Fridays are very rare.
  4. 3. The announcement of the appointed hour of meeting in the motion which adjourns the House is an exceptional occurrence, CJ (1909) 547. The usual practice is for the House to vary the hours of a future meeting by a motion at the commencement of public business, eg CJ (1981–82) 100 or more commonly after the main business, eg CJ (2008–09) 659.