Orders (and standing orders) and resolutions
20.96Every question, if agreed to, becomes either an order or a resolution of the House, and is recorded as such in the Journal of the House.1
By its ‘orders', the House directs its committees, its Members, its officers, the order of its own proceedings and the acts of all persons whom they concern.
Orders of a permanent character which ‘stand’ in force from one session to another and (unless indicated otherwise) from one Parliament to another, codify and direct many of the procedures and practices of the House and are known as standing orders. Standing orders may be amended or repealed, or new standing orders introduced, by motion and decision in the House in the normal way; there are no set rules on how such a motion may arise.2 Typically, such motions are tabled by the Government, but sometimes following proposals from select committees, in particular the Procedure Committee. The Backbench Business Committee can provide time for debates to amend standing orders, although the Committee cannot, under Standing Order No 14(6e), provide time for debates on motions to amend the standing orders setting its own terms of reference (Standing Order No 152J) or the standing order governing the arrangement of public business (Standing Order No 14).
By its ‘resolutions', the House declares its own opinions and purposes. Such resolutions, therefore, unless deriving force from some other authority (for example statute, as with motions to approve statutory instruments), do not have direct legal impact, though they may have varying degrees of political force depending on circumstances.3
- 1. In some instances, a single motion can give rise to both an order and a resolution. See, for example, Votes and Proceedings, 7 June 2018; ibid, 26 November 2015.
- 2. HC Deb (28 May 2015) 596, c 161.
- 3. In 2017, the Government indicated in a written statement that ‘Where a motion tabled by an opposition party has been approved by the House, the relevant Minister will respond to the resolution of the House by making a statement no more than 12 weeks after the debate.’ HC Deb (26 October 2017) 630, c 12WS; the 12-week period was subsequently reduced to 8 weeks. In February 2021, the Government suggested that the commitment was no longer in place, indicating that the Government position would be set out during the debate: PQ 145046 (on Opposition Days: Government Responses), 2 February 2021 (HC Deb (28 January 2021) 688, c 570). See also Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Fifteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Status of Resolutions of the House of Commons, HC 1587, and Government Response to that Report (Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Fourteenth Special Report of Session 2017–19, HC 2066, p 2).