Proposals to hold an emergency debate under Standing Order No 24
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19.22Standing Order No 24 gives Members an opportunity to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter which should have urgent consideration, if the Speaker agrees that the matter in question so warrants. Under the terms of the Standing Order, such proposals may be made only on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
The Member1 wishing to make such a proposal must inform the Speaker of the intended application before 11.30 am on Mondays, before 10.00 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and before 8.15 am on Thursdays if the urgency of the matter is then known, and if not as soon thereafter as it becomes known.2 The Speaker has declined to accept an indication of intention given by a Member in the House on the previous day, and unsupported by any subsequent written application, as sufficient notice.3 The Speaker indicates privately to the Member concerned whether the application should be heard. If the Speaker is satisfied that the application is proper to be heard,4 the Member rises in their place after all questions have been disposed of and before the commencement of public business, and asks leave for the matter to be debated.5 Standing Order No 24 limits to three minutes the time permitted for such an application and this limit is strictly enforced using a countdown clock.6 It is not in order for another Member to make a further submission while an application is being made;7 interventions are not permitted, nor are points of order normally taken. A further application on the same subject on the same day from another Member will not normally be accepted by the Chair.8
In coming to a decision, the Speaker is expected to have regard to the extent to which the matter concerns the administrative responsibilities of Ministers of the Crown or could come within the scope of ministerial action, and the probability of the matter being brought before the House in time by other means. Under the terms of the Standing Order, the Speaker has to state whether or not they are satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed without giving the reasons for the decision to the House.9 If the decision is that the application should not be granted, further debate on the submission is out of order.10 If it is considered that the terms of the motion are in order, the Speaker asks whether the Member has the leave of the House. This is not usually challenged, but if such leave is not unanimously given, the Speaker calls on those Members who support the motion to rise in their places. If 40 or more Members then rise to support the motion, the question as to whether it should be proceeded with is decided in the affirmative. If, however, fewer than 40 Members, but more than 10 rise, the question is decided on a division.11
Once the leave or assent of the House has been obtained, the Speaker announces the length of the debate up to a maximum of three hours and the time at which it is to be held, or else announces that such a statement will be made at a later named hour during that sitting.12 The debate usually stands over until the commencement of public business the next sitting day (when proceedings on it are interrupted after the conclusion of the allocated time), or, on a Thursday, until the following Monday.13 If the Speaker considers the matter sufficiently urgent, it may stand over until later the same day,14 when it has precedence over all other business. Proceedings are interrupted at the end of the period of time allocated to the debate or at the moment of interruption, whichever is the earlier. In this case any business postponed by the emergency debate is not15 interrupted at the moment of interruption and may be resumed and proceeded with at or after that hour for a period of time equal to the duration of proceedings on the emergency debate.16
The Speaker has on occasion declined to hear any further applications for a debate under Standing Order No 24 when leave has been granted by the House for a debate on a related topic, taking the view that all other subjects which were proposed to be raised at that time could be debated within the terms of the motion which had been granted.17
The Speaker has reminded the House that an application must be directed solely to seeking to prove that an issue is sufficiently important, specific and urgent to change the business of the House so as to provide for an emergency debate and is not an occasion to debate the issue itself.18 The submission of both an application under Standing Order No 24 and of an urgent question is contrary to the practice of the House.19
The debate takes place on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter. This is normally expressed in neutral terms rendering the motion incapable of amendment by virtue of Standing Order No 24B.20
- 1. An application from the Prime Minister for an emergency debate under Standing Order No 24 has been granted, HC Deb (18 March 2013) 560, c 630.
- 2. For example, HC Deb (1977–78) 951, c 1194; ibid (1977–78) 954, c 1146; ibid (1983–84) 45, c 157. The Deputy Speaker has declined to entertain such a late application on the grounds that it was a matter for the Speaker, ibid (1998–99) 328, c 1103. These times are earlier than those set out in Standing Order No 24 (see para 17.2 ).
- 3. HC Deb (1979–80) 979, cc 1372–73.
- 4. The Speaker has indicated that proposed applications must meet the basic criteria under the Standing Order, and that if applications were received that totally failed to meet those criteria, Members would be advised to seek other ways of raising such matters, HC Deb (1990–91) 196, c 329; for recent examples see ibid (2001–02) 391, cc 36, 558–59.
- 5. HC Deb (1969–70) 801, cc 825–26.
- 6. HC Deb (1986–87) 106, c 24; ibid (1986–87) 121, cc 651–52.
- 7. HC Deb (1967–68) 763, c 1306; ibid (1985–86) 91, c 307.
- 8. HC Deb (1979–80) 986, cc 36–37.
- 9. HC Deb (29 March 2017) 624, c 303. See also ibid (10 October 2016) 615, c 71, for an example of the Speaker giving an indication of reasoning for declining an application on the grounds that the matter was likely to be brought before the House by other means in a timely manner.
- 10. HC Deb (1969–70) 798, cc 214–15.
- 11. CJ (1961–62) 235; ibid (1975–76) 379.
- 12. See, for example, HC Deb (5 July 2011) 530, cc 1372–73; ibid (28 February 2012) 541, cc 170–71; ibid (19 March 2012) 542, c 516; ibid (17 December 2018) 651, c 614 (announcement made before the half hour adjournment).
- 13. CJ (1969–70) 117, 120; ibid (1982–83) 167, 170; HC Deb (2001–02) 382, c 169. For an example of a debate granted under SO No 24 on the matter of a prayer about to be out of time, see HC Deb (2017–18) 624 c 146.
- 14. CJ (1968–69) 98; CJ, (1974–75) 171; CJ (1978–79) 110, 143–44; CJ (1992–93) 704–5; HC Deb (2016–17) 620 cc 704–5; ibid (19 December) 651, cc 585 and 862; ibid (3 September 2019) 664 c 76 – on that occasion, the motion itself being lengthy and complex, a copy of the motion was printed and circulated in advance of the debate (c 81).
- 15. Except as provided in Standing Order No 15(2) for the moving of motions to allow specified business to carry on beyond the moment of interruption.
- 16. See for example HC Deb (19 December 2018) 651, c 907.
- 17. HC Deb (1978–79) 961, c 57.
- 18. HC Deb (1978–79) 964, c 1101. An SO No 24 application, deprecated by the Speaker, was not proceeded with, HC Deb (1982–83) 32, c 862. For a refusal by the Speaker to submit an application relating to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, see HC Deb (1977–78) 940, c 747.
- 19. HC Deb (1984–85) 83, c 738.
- 20. See First Report of the Modernisation Committee of Session 2006–07, HC 337, para 85, and decisions of the House on the report CJ (2006–07) 609. For examples of motions under SO No 24 accepted by the Speaker not expressed in neutral terms, see Votes and Proceedings, 11 December 2018, 3 September 2019 and 9 September 2019 (two motions); the motions on 3 September and 9 September (first motion) were respectively for the purpose of securing a consequent decision of the House (a) on the arrangement of its business and (b) on an address to secure papers.