What we have today is a grubby piece of schoolboy intrigue that Michael Dobbs would have been ashamed to have dreamt up for one of his novels. These are matters for the House to deliberate on properly and initiate, not the Executive. These are matters of due process and due thought.

Mr Gordon Marsden, MP

Procedural Passion

In a 2010 speech to the Oxford Union Society, UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow stated: “I appreciate that the words “parliamentary procedure” are not necessarily the most exciting in the English language. Yet, as I have indicated, parliamentary procedure matters.” Speaker Bercow is not the only Member of the House of Commons who feels that way; two of the most passionate debates in the UK Commons in recent months occurred over proposed changes to the House’s Standing Orders. Contrary to what one British journalist believes, the Standing Orders are not “an obscure parliamentary procedure“, rather, the Standing Orders are the rules which guide procedure in parliament. And on two occasions recently, the first on the very last sitting day […]

Interestingly, we learn from the Government e-petitions site that around one in five of the e-petitions submitted attract fewer than three signatures, and as many as 42% fewer than six.

E-petition News

In May 2014, the UK House of Commons adopted a motion supporting the establishment, at the start of the next Parliament, of a collaborative e-petitions system, which enables members of the public to petition the House of Commons and press for action from Government. The motion called on the Procedure Committee to work with the Government and other interested parties on the development of detailed proposals. On 26 November 2014, the Procedure Committee released its report outlining an e-petitions system for the House of Commons. The Committee proposed that joint system be based on the existing Government e-petition site: redesigned and rebranded to show that it is owned by the House and the Government. To emphasise the Parliamentary oversight of […]


On helping the Speaker clean up Question Period

The CBC’s parliamentary reporter, Kady O’Malley, has put forward a few suggestions on how to encourage the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons to take on a more activist role during Question Period. Her first suggestion is that once elected Speaker, the Speaker should resign both caucus and party. Currently, the Speaker does resign from caucus, but he or she does not resign from their political party. While they do tend to stay away from purely political party events, Kady’s new rule would require that they go further, avoiding all partisan activity including attending party conferences and local federal funding announcements, which currently is not the case. In the UK, the Speaker of House of Commons resigns from his […]


Standing Orders and Oral Questions: the UK House of Commons

In part three of our comparison of Standing Orders governing Question Period, we now turn our attention to the mother of all parliaments, Westminster. While Australia and New Zealand both had very clear rules in place governing their version of Question Period, rules which outline the content of both questions and answers, there are actually very few standing orders in place governing Questions in the UK House of Commons. I think this is an important point. There has been a lot of discussion recently in Canadian political circles about the need for tougher, clearer rules as a means of improving the quality of the Canadian Question Period. Australia has fairly clear rules governing both answers and questions, yet Question Time […]


Standing Orders and Oral Questions: New Zealand

In the second part of our review of Standing Orders governing Question Period in other jurisdictions, we will now look at New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament’s Standing Orders contain a rule addressing the matter of relevancy (SO 111): (1) All debate must be relevant to the question before the House. (2) After having called the attention of the House to the conduct of a member who persists in irrelevance or tedious repetition either of the member’s own arguments or of the arguments used by other members in debate, the Speaker may terminate that member’s speech. Unlike here in Canada and in Australia, however, there is no disclaimer in the New Zealand procedural manual, Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand (more […]


Standing Orders and Oral Questions: Australia

Following a rather raucous Question Period earlier this week (see my previous post, as well as this excellent overview of events by Aaron Wherry), Canada’s Official Opposition has tabled a motion proposing a slight change to the Standing Orders: That Standing Order 11(2) be replaced with the following: The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, including during responses to oral questions, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her intervention, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, […]