This Insight explains what the current law of prorogation is, why some experts think it should be reformed, and what some of the options for reform might be.
Today’s debate (30 January 2019)
The Government has tabled a motion to provide three additional Fridays for private Members’ bills (PMBs), on 8 February and 15 and 22 March 2019. An amendment, adding “and on no other day in this Session of Parliament” has also been tabled.
The Government has also tabled a Business of the House motion to allow the motion to be debated for up to an hour, from the beginning of proceedings on the Business of the House motion, this evening.
A number of motions to provide additional Fridays have been tabled since November 2018. A debate was scheduled last week but it did not take place. Three additional Fridays is in line with the Government’s initial proposal, which was objected to in November 2018 but fewer than it proposed in the intervening period (see below).
Update: The House approved the motion without debate on 30 January, agreeing that PMBs would have precedence on three additional sitting Fridays: 8 February, 15 and 22 March 2019.
Standing Orders provide that 13 Fridays are set aside for the consideration of PMBs in the House of Commons in each parliamentary session.
Before the session began, the Government announced that the session would last two years. When the dates of the 13 sitting Fridays were agreed, on 17 July 2017, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, announced that the Government would “expect to provide additional days in due course”.
In 2010-12, a two-year session, four extra Fridays were provided for the consideration of PMBs, part way through the session. The original 13 Fridays were agreed on 10 June 2010; and the additional four days on 30 March 2011.
A debate was scheduled for 23 January 2019
On Wednesday 23 January 2019, a motion to provide an additional five days for PMBs was to be debated. The proposed additional Fridays for PMBs were 1 and 8 February; and 1, 8 and 15 March 2019.
Amendments were tabled to provide that PMBs should not have precedence on other days and to prioritise debate on the representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill 2017-19.
The Government chose not to move the motion.
On 24 January 2019, Andrea Leadsom told the House that “given that amendments had been tabled to yesterday’s motion, we had to take the decision not to move it so that further discussions could take place to ensure that all Members are given an equal opportunity to bring forward their own important private Members’ resolutions. We believe that consensus can be found, and I expect a further motion to be brought forward next week”.
How the proposals for additional sitting Fridays evolved
In the current session, the Government initially proposed three additional Fridays (25 January, 8 February and 8 March 2019). The motion was moved after the moment of interruption on 12 November 2018, and objected to. The Government subsequently moved the same motion on 19 November and it was again objected to.
The motion reappeared on the Order Paper on 20 November, along with an amendment from Peter Bone and Sir Christopher Chope. It proposed that PMBs should be considered on the five Fridays 1 and 8 February and 1, 8 and 15 March 2019. The motion was not moved that evening.
The Government motion was then placed on the Remaining Orders (future business that has not yet been scheduled for a specific date). Peter Bone and Sir Christopher Chope’s amendment was added, appearing on 22 November.
On 26 November 2018, a Government motion, also signed by Peter Bone and Sir Christopher Chope, proposing that PMBs be considered on six Fridays, 25 January; 1 and 8 February; and 1, 8 and 15 March 2019, was on the Order Paper. An amendment from Valerie Vaz and Nicholas Brown proposed leaving out 25 January. The motion was not moved that evening.
The motion, proposing six additional Fridays, reappeared on the Remaining Orders on 28 November, along with Valerie Vaz’s amendment. It remained there until 17 January 2019 – the day on which Andrea Leadsom announced that the debate would take place, on 23 January. The motion that proposed the five Fridays that was to be considered then was only in the name of Andrea Leadsom.