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Time Limits on Debate

Time Limits on Speeches

The Standing Orders contain provisions determining the length of Members’ speeches during debate . In most cases, the maximum length of a speech is either 20 minutes or 10 minutes. However, there are exceptions; indeed, in some cases Members can speak for an unlimited amount of time.

Twenty-minute Speeches

Unless otherwise provided in the Standing Orders, all speeches are subject to a 20-minute time limit. A Member can speak for not more than 20 minutes:

Twenty-minute speeches are generally followed by a 10-minute period during which other Members may ask questions or comment briefly on the speech and receive a reply from the Member. Questions and comments must be relevant to the Member’s speech. This period may not be used to propose any motion.

The Standing Orders allow the Whip of a recognized party to indicate to the Speaker that Members of his or her party will split their 20-minute speaking time in two. In such cases, Members speak for 10 minutes each, followed by a question and comment period of 5 minutes. However, Members require the unanimous consent of the House to split their speaking time for the opening round of debate during the second-reading or third-reading stage of a bill.

Ten-minute Speeches

Members can speak for not more than 10 minutes:

Ten-minute speeches are generally followed by a five-minute period during which other Members may ask questions or comment briefly. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. For instance, ten minutes are provided for questions and comments following speeches during take-note debates, and in some circumstances the Standing Orders do not provide for a question and comment period.

Other Cases

There are certain cases in which Members are not subject to the time limits on speeches. For example, a Minister moving a government motion (or the Parliamentary Secretary speaking on his or her behalf) and the Member speaking in reply both have unlimited time. This also applies to consideration of motions relating to Senate amendments. In many cases, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are not subject to any time limit.

During debate on the adjournment proceedings, the Member raising a matter may speak for not more than four minutes and the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary replying has four minutes to respond. Each may then make a subsequent one-minute intervention. The mover of an item of Private Member’s Business may speak for up to 15 minutes, subject to a five-minute question and comment period, and also has a five-minute right of reply to close the debate. During Statements by Members, the maximum intervention is one minute. During Question Period, the Speaker strictly enforces time limits on questions and answers that have been agreed to by the parties.

Termination of Debate

While debates normally continue until no Member wishes to speak, some Standing Orders provide for deadlines within which the Speaker can or must proceed with putting the question on specific matters, for instance:

In addition, special orders may also contain provisions for the Speaker to put a question at a specific time.

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