Interruption of item of business

17.21Public business normally continues until the moment of interruption (see para 17.8 ). But an item of business under consideration is liable to be interrupted, or, more technically, suspended and postponed at an earlier hour: (i) by a motion that the House has considered a specified matter which has satisfied the conditions prescribed by Standing Order No 24 (although these motions are now more usually taken at the commencement of public business on the day following their being granted) (see para 19.22 ); or (ii) by opposed private business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No 20(5) (see para 19.38 ). At the conclusion of such business, the business postponed on its account is resumed. On Estimates Days under Standing Order No 54 (see para 34.26 ff) after questions have been deferred under that Standing Order, other unrelated business may then be taken before itself being interrupted at the moment of interruption when the deferred questions, and possibly other questions relating to Estimates, may be taken. Occasionally, the normal business of the House is interrupted to allow the making of ministerial statements (see para 19.21 ). On Fridays, the business may be interrupted at 11 am for ministerial statements and/or urgent questions.

Besides the interruption of business at the moment prescribed by the standing orders (see para 17.8 ), or by a Member rising to move the closure of debate (see para 20.52 ff), proceedings in the House may be interrupted by a point of order, which calls for the immediate intervention of the Chair; by motions under Standing Order No 163 (motions to sit in private (see para 17.22 )); by the announcement of deferred division results (Standing Order No 41A) and the election of select committee Chairs (Standing Order Nos 122B and 122C); to welcome distinguished visitors to the public Gallery;1 by occasions of sudden disorder in the House, and by the suspension of Members, or other proceedings for the enforcement of order (see para 21.40 ff); by a message from the Queen or the Lords Commissioners, commanding or desiring the attendance of the House in the House of Peers;2 by the presentation of the answer to an Address to the Crown3 (see para 9.14 ); by an announcement of Royal Assent being granted; by a message from the other House, and by proceedings taken in consequence4 (see para 9.17 ); by a report of reasons for disagreeing to Lords amendments5 (see para 30.16 ); by a statement from the Speaker indicating he would be giving precedence on the next day to a matter of privilege raised earlier that day;6 by the Clerk of the Crown attending by order of the House to amend a return7 (see para 2.20 ); and by a report from the Serjeant at Arms regarding the execution of the orders of the House.8 Business has also been interrupted by the observance of periods of commemorative silence.9

When the cause of interruption has ceased, or the proceeding on it has been disposed of, the debate, or the business in hand which was interrupted, is resumed at the point where the interruption had occurred.10 The resumption of a proceeding, subjected to an interruption, has, however, been sometimes delayed by further interruptions.11


  1. 1. HC Deb (5 March 2018) 637, c 17; see para 21.30.
  2. 2. See HC Deb (1962–63) 669, cc 409–12. The reading of a petition has been so interrupted, and was resumed on the return of the Speaker from the Lords, CJ (1863) 168. Points of order have been interrupted by a message to attend the Lords Commissioners, HC Deb (1979–80) 992, c 770.
  3. 3. CJ (1852–54) 438; ibid (1870) 377; ibid (1878–79) 23. This rule, however, does not apply to a message from the Crown: ibid (1865–67) 366.
  4. 4. A message brought from the Lords does not ordinarily interrupt the business under discussion, but there are occasions when such an interruption can arise, CJ (1871) 57; ibid (1914–16) 31; ibid (1919) 315; and when consequential on a message relating to corrections to a bill, the Speaker has interrupted the business to announce that a message had been received from the Lords in respect of those corrections and the question was put forthwith and agreed to, that the bill be now read the third time, HC Deb (1973–74) 877, cc 366–67.
  5. 5. CJ (1880) 431; ibid (1882) 452; HC Deb (1976–77) 919, c 669.
  6. 6. HC Deb (3 December 2018) 650, c 624.
  7. 7. CJ (1837–38) 276, 308; HC Deb (1955–56) 545, cc 55, 57. The Clerk of the Crown has attended at the end of statements, pursuant to an Order of the House to attend forthwith, CJ (1960–61) 325.
  8. 8. For example, the Deputy Speaker has read a report he had received from the Assistant Serjeant of Arms on conduct at the doors of the ‘Aye’ lobby during a division on the previous proceeding, HC Deb (1970–71) 810, c 1097. The business of the House was in former times interrupted by a motion that candles be brought in: but by an order of 1717 the Serjeant was charged with the duty of having the House lighted when ‘daylight be shut in’, ibid (1714–18) 718.
  9. 9. CJ (2005–06) 131. A period of silence at an appointed time has also been observed in Westminster Hall (HC Deb (11 November 2008) 482, c 220WH; ibid (14 May 2018) 641, c 1WH). Where the House wishes to observe such a period of silent respect outwith a nationwide observance, this has been done after prayers at the start of business (CJ (2003–04) 199; (2015–17) 130); see CJ (2009–10) 104, for a minute's silence in Westminster Hall on the occasion of the death of a Member; recent observations of silences have interrupted business, for example HC Deb (14 June 2018) 642, c 1102 during the Business Question and ibid (19 June 2018) 643, c 170 during questions.
  10. 10. See para 19.11, fn 5 for an example of private business so interrupted.
  11. 11. CJ (1847–48) 550, 551, 755.