Speaking time limits and distribution of time within debate

23.11The 30-minute debates held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays follow the same practices as end-of-day adjournment debates in the House, so that the debate is between the Member calling the debate and the Minister. Other Members may only make a speech with the permission of the Member in charge and the Minister. Opposition spokespersons should not intervene or make a speech during a half-hour debate within their portfolio, and any Opposition spokesperson participating on a matter outside their portfolio whether by speech or by intervention must do so from a non-frontbench position.1 As in the House, the Member who moved the motion is not called to reply to the debate.

For the 60, 90 and 180-minute debates, it is open to other Members – including opposition and third party spokespersons – to seek to speak. If there is time at the end of the debate, the mover may be called to make a short reply and, following normal House practice, may do so without seeking the leave of the House.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has authority under Standing Order No 47 to impose speaking limits on backbench speeches. This authority is routinely granted, leaving it to the discretion of individual Chairs whether to make use of it or rely on informal guidance from the Chair. If the Chair imposes a formal limit, the rules follow those of the House with additional time granted for the first two interventions taken. Limits as low as one minute have been imposed for Westminster Hall; in practice it is common, since less debating time is generally available in Westminster Hall than in the Chamber, for the Chair instead to seek the informal cooperation of Members in making brief speeches rather than to impose a very low formal limit.

The following table sets out the guidance given to frontbenches2 regarding speech length in the longer Westminster Hall debates. These are subject to the discretion of the Chair, having regard to the number of speakers. In particular, where a 90-minute debate has a local focus, the Opposition and third party responses will commonly be limited to five minutes each.

Debate duration Speaker Guidance
60 minute Minister 10 minutes
Opposition and third party spokesperson 5 minutes each
90 minute Minister, Opposition and third party spokesperson 10 minutes each
Three hour Minister, Opposition and third party spokesperson At Chair's discretion

Footnotes

  1. 1. Letter from Chairman of Ways and Means to Panel of Chairs, March 2014.
  2. 2. The Second Church Estates Commissioner has, by arrangement with the responsible Minister, shared responsibility with that Minister for replying to an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall (HC Deb (2002–03) 403, cc 66–67WH).