House of CommonsShort guide to procedure and practice

Adjournment debates

(See also Grand Committees.)

An adjournment debate (on the motion 'That this House do now adjourn') is simply a way of having a general debate without a substantive question on which the House comes to a decision. Adjournment debates at the end of each sitting and in Westminster Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings provide an opportunity for backbench Members to raise constituency matters or other matters relating to government administration or policy.

Applications should be made in a letter to the Speaker or on the form available from the Speaker's Office, and should state the proposed subject. Relevant interests must be declared.

Rules on subjects

Proposed subjects (i) must relate to a matter for which a Minister has

responsibility and (ii) must not involve a call for changes in legislation, except incidentally. The Table Office can provide advice on proposed subjects.

Half-hour at end of sitting

There is a half-hour adjournment debate at the end of each day's sitting.

Applications should be submitted to the Speaker's Office by 10 p.m. on Wednesday for the following week. Thursday's subject is chosen by the Speaker; for other days Members are selected by ballot (on Thursday mornings).

At 10 p.m. (7 p.m. on Thursdays and 2.30 p.m. on Fridays) or after all other business on the Order Paper has been disposed of, the Speaker calls a whip to move 'That this House do now adjourn'. The Member is then called to speak. It is important to leave ample time for the Minister to reply. There is no opportunity to reply to the Minister, but it is possible to intervene in the Minister's speech if he or she is willing to give way. Proceedings can last only 30 minutes (or, if begun before the usual time, until 10.30 p.m. on Monday to Wednesday, 7.30 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Friday).

At sittings in Westminster Hall

At sittings in Westminster Hall on Tuesdays there may be three one-hour debates followed by three half-hour debates. On Wednesdays there are two 1½ hour debates followed by three half-hour debates. In both cases the Speaker has discretion over the timings and may, for example, permit a three-hour debate on an important subject. The longer debates are intended to be more general debates involving a number of Members. Applications should be made to the Speaker's Office by 10 p.m. on the Tuesday of the previous week; ballots are held on Wednesday morning. Members may apply both for a general debate and a half-hour debate, but will not be successful in more than one ballot.


Members are notified by the Speaker's Office of the result of their application. Successful applications are listed in the Future Business paper. Unsuccessful applications are considered again only if re-submitted for a subsequent date. Members will not be granted more than one debate in the same week, or two debates in successive weeks.

In half-hour adjournment debates, Members other than the one whose debate it is participate only with the consent of that Member and of the Minister who is replying.

Contact: Speaker's Office, 5301, 5300; Table Office, 3302, 3303 (to discuss proposed subjects).


© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 14 February 2001