Suspension of a sitting
17.20The sitting of the House is occasionally suspended without any question being put with the intention of resuming the transaction of business at a later hour.1
An informal suspension of this kind always occurs on the opening day of a session (see para 8.32 ).
A sitting may also be suspended on other occasions, as when a bill awaited by the Commons is under consideration by the House of Lords,2 or until the Royal Assent to various bills could be signified,3 while the House waits for a message from the Lords Commissioners4 or, where a non-government amendment has been made to a relevant bill, following consideration stage during the certification of bills or parts of bills as applicable only to certain parts of the UK.5
If business is concluded before the point three hours before the moment of interruption on a day opposed private business has been set down for that hour by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means6 (see para 19.38 ), the sitting may be informally suspended until that time.7 In recent times, however, it has been common for a business of the House motion under Standing Order No 9(6) to allow the opposed private business to be taken at any time, rendering a suspension unnecessary.8 Occasionally, suspensions have been necessary until the moment of interruption on Estimates Days when debate has ended early and questions necessary to dispose of proceedings are deferred until that hour under Standing Order No 54(4).9
For the Speaker's powers to suspend the sitting in cases of grave disorder, pursuant to Standing Order No 46, see para 17.18. Occasionally, an informal suspension is granted to allow a period of reflection following a procedural impasse.10 The House has also been suspended to await an urgent ministerial statement or for the provision of documents during a ministerial statement.11
During the suspension of a sitting the Speaker, the Mace being left upon the Table, retires from the House, and returns at the appointed hour, when business is resumed.12 As, technically, the House continues sitting, these occurrences were not noted in the Journal prior to Session 2008–09 (since when they have been so noted in order to account more fully for time spent on the Floor).
- 1. Suspension of sitting on the occasion of a river pageant, HC Deb (1919) 119, cc 36, 65; owing to failure of the lighting system, ibid (1927) 210, c 2117; for the convenience of the House, during a long speech by the Prime Minister, ibid (1943–44) 403, c 487; after the sudden collapse of a Member, ibid (1961–62) 658, c 886; ibid (1973–74) 866, c 707; and ibid (1982–83) 36, c 1232); to investigate an explosion occurring in the precincts of the Palace, ibid (1978–79) 965, cc 875–76; owing to failure of the sound broadcasting system, ibid (2001–02) 388, c 1219; on account of a security incident, ibid (15 September 2004) 424, c 1337 and ibid (22 March 2017) 623, c 92; during Prime Minister's question time on the occasion of the death of the son of the Leader of the Opposition, ibid (25 February 2009) 488, c 284; for a commemorative photograph, ibid (8 June 2016) 611, c 1305; on account of a water leak, ibid (4 April 2019) 657, c 1326.
- 2. Parl Deb (1884–85) 298, c 1532; HC Deb (1971–72) 831, c 1454; ibid (1990–91) 188, c 1092.
- 3. HC Deb (1992–93) 229, c 1058.
- 4. HC Deb (12 May 2016) 609, c 761; see also HC Deb (1991–92) 205, c 1243 when the House was suspended, resumed, was immediately suspended and then resumed again.
- 5. HC Deb (3 March 2020) 672, c 783; see also para 27.16.
- 6. HC Deb (1956–57) 567, c 455.
- 7. For example, HC Deb (2001–02) 374, c 1030.
- 8. For example, Votes and Proceedings, 24 March 2017.
- 9. For example, HC Deb (1995–96) 281, c 1394.
- 10. HC Deb (1984–85) 77, c 762; ibid (1988–89) 144, c 212.
- 11. HC Deb (7 July 2005) 436, c 463; ibid (12 July 2018) 644, c 1155.
- 12. If the business before the House is subject to a timetable, the period of suspension is not added to the time allowed for the debate then in progress, HC Deb (15 September 2004) 424, cc 1335–36.