Parliamentary Privilege and Prayers in the House

Recently, in response to legal action brought by the National Secular Society, Britain’s High Court ruled that Bideford Town Council had acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said during meetings. This decision prompted quite a backlash in the UK media, and the Government announced that it would bring in early part of the Localism Act that aims to give councils greater powers and freedom, in essence reversing the High Court’s ruling. Partly in response to this incident, the Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders wrote an interesting column on the place of religion in public life. I don’t intend to enter into a discussion of the rightness or desirability of prayers at the start of public meetings, or the role […]

Inside the Canadian House of Commons

(Note: If you’re looking for information about the British House of Commons, see Inside the UK House of Commons.) I have written a number of posts explaining the role and purpose of various persons and objects in the House of Commons, but some readers want to know how the House of Commons is arranged – who sits where, who are those people at the table in the centre, etc.  The Canadian and UK Houses of Commons follow a similar lay-out, with government and opposition facing off on either side of the Chamber, while the Australian and New Zealand chambers have members seated in more of “U” lay-out. I will begin with a description of the lay-out of the Canadian House […]

Recalling Parliament

Most parliaments follow a parliamentary calendar, which provides a fixed timetable of sittings and adjournments for a full calendar year. Once a session begins, the calendar alternates sitting periods with adjournments at set points throughout the year. A sitting is simply a meeting of the legislature in question during a session. While the legislature’s Standing Orders will normally provide times and days for sittings of the House, it should be noted that a sitting is not synonymous with a calendar day. Some sittings are very brief, some last for more than a day, and sometimes, there can be two sittings in a single calendar day. A sitting ends with an adjournment, either as per a Standing Order which indicates that […]

Perceptions of parliamentary procedure: is the grass really greener?

Last week’s appearance by Rupert and James Murdoch before the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport (which you can view here if you missed it) as well as Prime Minister David Cameron’s ministerial statement in the House of Commons the following day (viewable here) received global media attention. Many Canadian journalists who normally report on proceedings in the Canadian House of Commons seemed enthralled by the often small, yet significant differences in how the UK and Canadian Houses of Commons function – the very same differences which I have been writing about here for over a year now. CBC reporter Kady O’Malley, who regularly liveblogs proceedings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, has since written two […]