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Recall of Parliament during adjournment

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8.13When Parliament is dispersed through the adjournment of both Houses, its reassembly is generally effected under powers specifically conferred by each House on its Speaker.1

In the Commons, under Standing Order No 13, the Government may make representations to the Speaker that the House should meet at an earlier time during an adjournment. If the Speaker is satisfied that the public interest requires such a meeting, they may give notice accordingly, whereupon the House meets at the time stated in the notice.2 The Chairman of Ways and Means, or a Deputy Chairman, may act instead of the Speaker, in the event of the latter being unable to act owing to illness or other cause. The business on the day of recall is appointed by the Government3 and any government order of the day or notice of motion standing on the Order Book may also appear on the Order Paper.4 Once the House has been recalled there must be a new Resolution to re-establish any adjournment after the recall.5

In the Lords, Standing Order No 16(1) provides for a recall of the House during a period of adjournment. This empowers the Lord Speaker (or in their absence the Senior Deputy Speaker) after consultation with the Government, to give notice for the meeting of the House on a day earlier than that to which it stands adjourned if they are satisfied that the public interest so requires. On certain occasions when one House has already arranged a sitting for a particular day, a notice has been necessary only in respect of the other.6


  1. 1. A power of interfering with adjournments in certain cases has been conceded to the Crown by statute. The Meeting of Parliament Act 1799, amended by the Meeting of Parliament Act 1870, provides that when both Houses of Parliament stand adjourned with more than 14 days still to run, the Queen may issue a proclamation, with the advice of her Privy Council, declaring that the Parliament shall meet on a day not less than six days from the proclamation; and the Houses then stand adjourned to the day and place declared in the proclamation; and all the orders which may have been made by either House and appointed for the original day of meeting, or any subsequent day, stand appointed for the day named in the proclamation. Subsections (2)–(4) of s 28 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 require the Speakers of the two Houses, or those authorised by the Standing Orders of each House to act in their absence, to recall them within five days of the making of emergency regulations under s 20 of the Act if either House is adjourned beyond that time.
  2. 2. Both Houses met pursuant to such notices on 12 September 1950, 4 October 1951, 12 September 1956, 18 September 1959, 17 October 1961, 26 August 1968, 22 September 1971, 9 January 1974, 3 June 1974, 3 and 14 April 1982, 6 September 1990, 24 September 1992, 31 May 1995, 2 and 3 September 1998, 14 September, 4 and 8 October 2001, 3 April and 24 September 2002, 20 July 2011, 11 August 2011, 10 April 2013, 29 August 2013, 26 September 2014, and 20 June 2016. For earlier examples, see Erskine May (22nd edn, 1997), p 235, fn 3.
  3. 3. See eg HC Deb (2001–02) 390, cc 24–25.
  4. 4. Notices of motion and Orders of the day may be preceded by a ministerial statement: see eg HC Deb (2001–02) 372, c 604ff, c 671ff; ibid (2001–02) 390, c 1 ff.
  5. 5. For example, CJ (2001–02) 110, 120, 124 and 732. The House of Commons made sessional resolutions giving power to the Speaker to recall the House after consulting the Government before the summer adjournments of 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1924 (eg 7 August 1924). The only recall under such provisions was for the Commons on 30 September 1924, to give legislative effect to the Irish peace treaty. This practice fell into desuetude until the beginning of the Christmas Adjournment in 1931 when a motion was made again giving power to the Speaker to recall the House after consulting the Government; from the summer Adjournment of 1932 the power of the Speaker was restricted by these resolutions to occasions on which the Government asked for a recall. Both Houses met pursuant to such orders on 8 September 1931, 18 October 1932, 22 October 1935, 28 September 1938 and 13 April, 24 August, 29 August and 1 September 1939. In 1947, these ad hoc resolutions were replaced by the standing order.
  6. 6. Thus the Commons met pursuant to notice on 30 September 1924, 16 January 1968 and 26 May 1970, and the Lords on 21 September 1931, 8 December 1941, 25 November 1963, 25 January 1965 and 22 January 1968.