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Timings

Where to find guidance on taking part in proceedings during the current pandemic

On 2 and 4 June 2020, the House agreed motions to make changes to the way Members vote in the Chamber and to enable certain Members to take part virtually in proceedings on Questions, Urgent Questions and Statements (“scrutiny proceedings”) during the pandemic. These temporary arrangements came into force on 8 June and are due to remain in force until 30 March 2021. Guidance on these temporary (Virtual participation in proceedings during the pandemic) arrangements can be found in the following places:

The section of this Guide on proxy voting has been updated to reflect changes to the way voting works in the House of Commons, including changes resulting from the current pandemic. Otherwise, all the guidance on this site relates to normal proceedings in the House of Commons.

Timings

The House normally meets from Monday to Thursday, at regular times. Sometimes the House also meets on Friday to discuss bills introduced by MPs who aren’t ministers. Days when the House meets are known as sitting days. Breaks when the House isn’t meeting are called recesses. The Speaker can recall the House during a recess if necessary at the Government’s request.

The time between general elections is known as a Parliament. A new Parliament starts after each general election.
A Parliament is normally divided into sessions that last roughly a year, beginning in May or June and continuing until the following April or May.

Prorogation is the formal end of a session. A new session begins shortly afterwards with the State Opening and a new Queen’s Speech, usually at some point in May.

This pattern will continue until the Parliament reaches the end of its five-year term or there's an early general election.

The business for each week is announced the week before by the Leader of the House at business questions and is set out in the Order Paper, which is the agenda for each day's sitting. The Government control the timetable of the House and can change the business at short notice.

Government business usually has priority. But the House's rules (standing orders) provide for a number of days when non-Government business is taken, such as Opposition days and Private Members’ Bill Fridays. The Backbench Business Committee is also given time for debates in the Chamber and in Westminster Hall.

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