Speaker's powers by usage

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4.25The Speaker may ensure orderly conduct of debate by repressing disorder when it arises, by refusing to propose the question upon motions and amendments which are irregular, and by calling the attention of the House to bills which are out of order (and securing their withdrawal). The Speaker has by usage a general power of suspension that can be used to ensure the orderly conduct of debate.1

The Speaker also rules on points of order submitted by Members on questions either as they arise or in anticipation, but generally refuses to rule on a hypothetical question. Any notice of a question seeking a ruling must be notified to the Speaker privately and not placed upon the Order Paper. The opinion of the Speaker cannot be sought in the House about any matter arising or likely to arise in a committee.2

The Speaker will also advise Members of all parties when consulted privately upon any action which they propose to take in the House or upon any questions of order which are likely to arise in its proceedings. Such private rulings of the Speaker generally settle the questions at issue, but they may, if necessary, be supplemented by rulings given from the Chair.

The Speaker's rulings constitute precedents by which subsequent Speakers, Members, and officers are guided. Rulings not given on the floor of the House may be reported in the Official Report.3 Such precedents are noted and in course of time may be formulated as principles or rules of practice. They are an important source of determining how the House conducts its business.

The Speaker also decides whether a Member who has raised a matter of privilege should be allowed to table a motion which would take precedence over the orders of the day on the following day (see paras 15.32, 19.30 ) and whether a Member should be allowed to make an application in the House that the House should debate a specific and urgent matter under Standing Order No 24 (see para 19.21 ).

The Speaker may receive advice on matters of practice and procedure from the Clerk of the House or other parliamentary officials (see para 6.7 ); in 2020, the Speaker indicated that he was establishing a new procedure allowing the Clerk of the House to record an alternative view where the Clerk considered a Speaker’s decision `to comprise a substantial breach of the Standing Orders, or a departure from long-established conventions, without appropriate authorisation by the House itself’.4


  1. 1. HC Deb (12 July 2018) 644, c 1156; ibid (6 November 2018) 648, c 1395 (suspension to allow Members to attend the Remembrance service in St Margaret's Church).
  2. 2. HC Deb (22 April 1987) 114, c 676; ibid (14 January 1988) 125, c 464; see also ibid (1997–98) 300, c 114; HC Deb (19 October 2010) 516, c 827; HC Deb (8 July 2014) 584, c 164.
  3. 3. For example HC Deb (9 December 1981) 14, c 970; ibid (30 October 2001) 373, c 250WH.
  4. 4. HC Deb (29 January 2020) 670, c 781 (see para 6.7, fn 3A).