Chairing and Chair's powers

23.9Sittings are chaired by members of the Panel of Chairs.1 Members of the Panel (other than any of the Deputy Speakers) are addressed by name when chairing Westminster Hall.

Procedures in Westminster Hall follow those in the House, save where otherwise provided, and therefore the Chair's powers reflect those of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers in the House. As well as the general powers of calling speakers and regulating debate, these include specific relevant standing order powers not explicitly excluded:

  • selection of amendments under Standing Order No 32 (though in practice, since business almost entirely comprises general debates, the question of selection of amendments does not arise);
  • decision on whether to accept dilatory motions under Standing Order No 35;
  • instructing a Member to resume their seat for irrelevance, tedious repetition or breach of the sub judice rule (Standing Orders Nos 42 and 42A);
  • imposing a time limit on speeches (Standing Order No 47).

Under Standing Order No 10(15), a number of significant standing orders are specifically excluded from applying to proceedings in Westminster Hall, thereby affecting the powers of the Chair and having an impact on the character of proceedings (broadly requiring them to be more consensual in nature). The provisions of the following standing orders do not apply to sittings in Westminster Hall:

  • Standing Order Nos 29 (Powers of Chair to propose question), 36 (Closure of debate), 37 (Majority for closure or proposal of question); taken together these restrict the capacity of a majority to force a debate to come to a conclusion.
  • Standing Order Nos 38, 39 and 40 (Divisions), 41 (Quorum); taken together, these enable formal decisions to be taken only by unanimity (although there is provision for a decision to be referred to the House – see below).
  • Standing Order Nos 43 (Disorderly conduct), 44 (Order in debate), 45 and 45A (Members suspended, etc); taken together, these restrict the power of the Chair to ensure that business can continue in the face of disorderly behaviour by a Member or Members.

In relation to disorderly behaviour, the Chair instead has had a power since 2015, under Standing Order No 10(11), to order a Member to withdraw from the sitting if they persistently defy the authority of the Chair and to suspend the sitting if the Member does not withdraw.2

Standing Order No 10(15) also disapplies Standing Order No 163 (Motions to sit in private). The Chair retains however the inherent power of the Chair set out in the proviso to Standing Order No 163 to order the withdrawal of persons other than Members or Officers from the sitting if necessary.

Footnotes

  1. 1. Originally, provision was made for the House to appoint four other members of the Panel of Chairs to sit as Deputy Speakers in Westminster Hall. The first such Deputy Speakers were appointed on 25 October 1999, CJ (1998–99) 519 and the last such appointments were made in 2003; the provision was ended alongside other Standing Order changes made on 24 February 2015 (Votes and Proceedings, 24 February 2015).
  2. 2. A Deputy Speaker presiding over a sitting in Westminster Hall has suspended a sitting following disorderly conduct and has reported the occurrence to the House, HC Deb (2001–02) 381, cc 89WH, 450; CJ (2001–02) 390.