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9.17A message is the most simple mode of communication. It is frequently used, for sending bills from one House to another, for the interchange of reports and other documents and for communicating about joint committees or private bills. Messages are carried from one House to the other by one of the Clerks of the House which sends the message.1 The receipt of a message does not interrupt the business then proceeding,2 but a message cannot be received by either House if it is in division.

In the Commons, the receipt of a message from the Lords is recorded in the Votes and Proceedings and the Journal, and any action required to be taken is normally set down for a subsequent day. Notice is generally given of the proceedings to be taken. If the matter of the Lords' message concerns a bill, the House makes the necessary orders by book entry. In the case of a bill, these are, that it be read a first time3 and ordered to be read a second time on a named day; in the case of Lords amendments that the amendments be considered on a named day; and in both cases that the bill or amendments be printed. The subsequent proceedings are then set down as an order of the day (see paras 19.3119.33 ). Proceedings on other matters are set down as notices of motion.

The Commons may proceed upon a Lords' message on the day of its reception in pursuit of a programme or other similar order (see para 30.6 ). Alternatively, the Speaker may inform the House between the orders of the day (or may even interrupt the business under discussion) of the receipt of a message from the Lords. The House may then order the Lords' message to be read and considered forthwith (see para 30.6 ). The House has resolved that it would not adjourn on a particular day until any Lords message received on that day either in general terms or on a specified bill had been dealt with.4

In the Lords a message from the Commons is recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings and the Journal. The message may, if desired, be received forthwith without notice (Standing Order No 39). A message that the Commons have passed a bill may be read by the Clerk at any convenient time, and the bill is subsequently read a first time (see para 29.7 ).5

When a message is sent that does not cause a bill to be printed, such as a message that a bill has been agreed to without amendment or a message relating to a joint committee, the message is sent while the receiving House is sitting.6 If, however, a message would cause a bill to be printed, and the receiving House is not sitting, the message is carried directly to the Public Bill Office of that House rather than being taken to the Table, and the bill is printed under the relevant Standing Order.7 The bill as printed in the receiving House records the day on which the message was actually received, and records that it is printed under the relevant Standing Order.


  1. 1. LJ (1854–55) 159; CJ (1854–55) 254. But in 1950 the leaders of the three political parties in the Commons, the Leader of that House, and the Father of the House delivered to the Lord Chancellor at the bar of the House of Lords a message from the Commons thanking the Lords for placing their Chamber at the disposal of the Commons from 1941 to 1950. The message was considered forthwith and the reply handed by the Lord Chancellor to the bearers of the Commons message, who had remained in attendance; HC Deb (1950) 478, c 2716; HL Deb (1950) 168, cc 1289–91.
  2. 2. In the past business has on occasion been interrupted by the receipt of a message, see CJ (1854–55) 254; ibid (1871) 57.
  3. 3. A bill sent from the Lords can be read the first time only if a Member has indicated an intention to take it up (see para 28.11 ).
  4. 4. For example, Votes and Proceedings, 24 April 2017. For a Business of the House order with a similar effect in respect of an unspecified future day, see Votes and Proceedings, 3 April 2019.
  5. 5. See SO No 39(3).
  6. 6. On 18 April 2017, the Commons received from the Lords a message relating to a joint committee, even though the Lords were not sitting. And a message that one House agrees amendments from the other, or does not insist on its own, may be delivered after the sending House has risen, eg European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, see Votes and Proceedings, 13 March 2017.
  7. 7. Commons SO No 57A; Lords SO No 49. The relevant Standing Order is cited in the record of the order to print: see Votes and Proceedings, 18 April 2017; Lords Minutes of Proceedings, 25 April 2017.