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Dilatory motions

A dilatory motion ‘adjourns’ a debate, or an entire sitting—that is, ends it immediately without a decision being made on the question under consideration.

Dilatory motions are rare and tend to succeed only when some new development, or a failure of process (like key papers being unavailable) would make it pointless to continue the debate.

If you want to stop only the current debate, you say, “I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.” You can also move “that further consideration of the bill [or of the Lords amendments to a bill] be now adjourned.” If you want to end the day’s sitting, you say, “I beg to move that the House (or the committee) do now adjourn”.

You can only move a dilatory motion if:

  • the business you want to adjourn is already underway
  • you’re speaking (you can’t interrupt another MP’s speech to move a dilatory motion)
  • you haven’t already moved a dilatory motion during the debate

After you move a dilatory motion, one of three things will happen:

  • The Speaker will decide that the dilatory motion is an abuse of the rules of the House and will not put the question to the House for a decision. The original debate will continue.
  • The Speaker will put the question on the dilatory motion to the House for an immediate decision. If the dilatory motion is agreed, the debate (or sitting) will be adjourned. If it’s not agreed, the original debate will continue.
  • The Speaker will allow MPs to debate the dilatory motion. Debates on dilatory motions are strictly limited to the question of whether the debate (or House, or committee) should adjourn, and you shouldn’t continue arguments from the debate that was interrupted. When no more MPs want to speak, the Speaker will put the question on the dilatory motion to the House for a decision. If the debate is still in progress at the moment of interruption, the dilatory motion lapses.

You can move a dilatory motion in a general committee, such as a public bill committee. The Chair’s options for handling the motion are the same.