25.34A statement by a Minister on a matter of public importance may be made by leave of the House without notice. Such statements are commonly synchronised in the two Houses. When the responsible Minister sits in the House of Lords, the statement is usually made after questions (or, on Fridays, at the start of business). If the responsible Minister sits in the House of Commons, the statement may be repeated in the Lords at a convenient moment after the statement has started in the Commons, if the Leader, having consulted the opposition parties, considers it to be a matter of public importance.1
Questions may be asked and brief comments made upon ministerial statements, but they should not be made the occasion for immediate debate (Standing Order No 34).2 The Opposition frontbench spokespersons (or spokesperson, if there is only one main Opposition party) usually each respond to the statement and the Minister replies to both of them together. Frontbench exchanges are generally limited to 20 minutes, though Ministers should not cut short their replies, even if this means going beyond the 20-minute limit.3 Further discussion is limited to 20 minutes from the end of the Minister's reply to the Opposition spokesmen. If debate on a statement is desired, a notice should be tabled for a later date.4 Where a statement contains material which is too lengthy or too complicated to be given orally in the House the additional material may be published in Hansard without being given orally.5
If the House of Lords is not sitting on a day on which a statement is made in the House of Commons, it is not the usual practice to repeat it when the Lords next sit, save in the case of an exceptionally important statement. If a statement made in the House of Commons is not repeated in the Lords an italic reference to the statement giving the appropriate reference in the Commons Hansard may be inserted on the cover of the daily Lords Hansard.6
Where a private notice question is asked in the House of Commons the answer may be repeated in the House of Lords in the form of a statement.7
Written statements may be made when the House is sitting, by Ministers or the Senior Deputy Speaker. Notice is not required. Written statements are placed in the Library as soon as they are received, and are printed in Hansard.8
- 1. HL Deb (1987–88) 493, c 939. On days when there are two balloted or time-limited debates a Commons statement is normally repeated between the two debates, LJ (1994–95) 581, HL Deb (1995–96) 567, cc 461–62.
- 2. HL Deb (1984–85) 465, c 1187; ibid (2002–03) 643, cc 213–20.
- 3. Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 1994–95, HL 9; HL Deb (2000–01) 621, cc 136–62.
- 4. HL Deb (1989–90) 515, cc 1094–98; LJ (1993–94) 197, 250.
- 5. LJ (1987–88) 284, 368.
- 6. HL Deb (1970–71) 321, cc 322–23; ibid (1987–88) 493, c 939; Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 1998–99, HL 33.
- 7. HL Deb (1984–85) 465, c 1188.
- 8. HL Deb (17 December 2003) 655, cc 1159–69.