Time-limited debates

25.80The House commonly limits debates to a specific number of hours.1 If such debates are interrupted, for example by a statement, the time limit is correspondingly extended. Within the overall limit, the amount of time allotted to particular speakers is calculated in advance and stated on the list of speakers.

The following time limits apply:

Length of debate Opening speech Opposition replies Ministerial reply
Under 2 hours 12 8 15
2 hours or over 15 10 20
4 hours or over 20 12 25

The remaining time is divided equally among the other speakers on the speakers' list. If the number of speakers on the speakers' list is small, every speaker enjoys an equal speaking time (up to the recommended maximum of 15 minutes for any speech), except for the Minister in reply who has at least the guaranteed minimum time set out in the table.2 At the appropriate time before the end of the debate, whoever is speaking is expected to give way to the front benches. Members of the Lords taking part in time-limited debates should respect the time guidelines and keep their speeches short, in order to enable all those who wish to speak to do so. Members of the Lords may also speak in the gap3 if time allows, but must again have regard to the time constraints on the debate. During time-limited debates, speeches should be interrupted only if time allows.4

If the debate is still continuing at the end of the time allotted to it, the Clerk at the Table rises, whereupon the Lord Speaker brings the debate to an end by inquiring whether the mover of the motion or, if there is an amendment to the motion, the Member of the Lords who moved the amendment, wishes to withdraw it, or by putting the question.5


  1. 1. Time limits are applied by business of the House motion: para 25.36. Questions for short debate and short (balloted) debates are automatically time-limited without motion: see paras 25.43 and 25.41.
  2. 2. LJ (1992–93) 627–28.
  3. 3. For a maximum of four minutes; see paras 25.41 and 25.43.
  4. 4. HL Deb (1990–91) 525, cc 1279–83.
  5. 5. SO No 37; HL Deb (1990–91) 530, cc 706–9.