House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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12. The Process of Debate

Notice of a Motion

In order to bring a substantive proposal before the House, a notice of motion must generally be given. This is to provide Members and the House with some prior warning so that they are not called upon to consider a matter unexpectedly. [117] 

In most cases, notices of motions are required to be submitted in writing and printed in the Notice Paper[118]  Generally, the written notices of motions which are printed in the Notice Paper are for substantive motions — self-contained motions which are not dependent on any other question before the House. There are also provisions where notices of motions are simply given orally during a sitting of the House. [119]  However, some other types of motions do not require any notice. [120]

Depending on the type of motion and who is moving it, the notice period can vary from one hour to two weeks. [121] It is also possible to have more than one notice on the same subject (with the exception of items of Private Members’ Business [122] ); but once one of the motions is moved and the House makes a decision on it, any discussion or decision on the others is precluded. [123] 

Notice in Writing

Written notice is required for the following motions or items of business:

  • motions for leave to present a government or private Members’ bill; [124] 
  • motions for the appointment of a committee; [125] 
  • motions for concurrence in committee reports (including those reports for which the concurrence of the House gives rise to an order revoking a regulation or statutory instrument [126] );
  • opposition motions on Supply days; [127] 
  • notice of opposition to any item in the Estimates; [128] 
  • motions to concur in interim Supply, Main Estimates, supplementary or final Estimates, or to restore or reinstate any item in the Estimates; [129] 
  • report stage motions for amendments to bills; [130] 
  • motions of instruction to committees;
  • motions respecting Senate amendments to bills; [131] 
  • items to be considered during Private Members’ Business; [132]  and
  • motions dealing with the conduct of Members, Presiding Officers of the House, judges or the Governor General. [133] 

When the House is sitting, a Member giving notice must either table the notice (present it to a Table Officer in the Chamber) or file it with the Clerk (submit it to the Journals Branch), before 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or before 2:00 p.m. on Friday, for it to be effective on that sitting day; the item will then appear in the Notice Paper (which is appended to the Order Paper) on the next sitting day. [134]  On the last sitting day prior to any of the adjournment periods, the 6:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. deadlines do not apply. Notice for that day may be filed with the Clerk at any time up to 6:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the next scheduled sitting of the House. These notices are then printed in the Notice Paper for the day the House resumes sitting. [135]  If the daily deadline for giving notice is not met, the notice becomes effective at the following sitting of the House.

Members must sign any notices they are submitting for the Notice Paper in order to prevent the unauthorized use of their names and as authentication of the Member’s intentions. A notice sent by facsimile or electronic mail will be taken as an indication of a Member’s intentions; however, it must be followed up by the official notice bearing the Member’s original signature before the deadline in order to be included in the Notice Paper[136] 

If necessary, the procedural staff of the Clerk of the House will consult with the sponsoring Member when any modifications are needed to the text of the motion in order to make it procedurally conform with the rules and practice of the House. [137]  Rarely has the Speaker been called on to intervene. [138]  The notice is inserted under the appropriate heading in the Notice Paper. When several notices in the same category are received, they are inserted in the Notice Paper in the order they are received.

A long-standing practice exists whereby any Member giving notice of a motion may put it under embargo — that is, he or she may instruct the Table Officers to withhold explicit information about the content of the motion until that day’s deadline for filing of notices, or until the publication the following morning of the Order Paper and Notice Paper containing the notice. In 1990, when an embargo was placed on the notice of a votable Supply day motion, to be debated and voted on a Friday, an objection was raised on the basis that the embargo had the effect of reducing the 48-hour notice period required in the circumstances. [139]  In his ruling, Speaker Fraser reviewed the practice with regard to embargoes and concluded that the notice requirements in this case were met and that, while placing an embargo could potentially have serious consequences, the decision is in the hands of the motion’s sponsor, and the Chair and the Table Officers are bound to follow usual practice. [140] 

Members have raised points of order about the procedural acceptability of motions on the Notice Paper; at times, the Chair has refused to comment until the motions are actually before the House (i.e., called as an Order of the Day); [141]  at other times, the Chair has ruled before the motion was before the House. [142] 

Removal of Notice

As long as a motion has not been proposed to the House, it remains a notice of motion and the sponsor may secure its withdrawal unilaterally, without seeking the consent of the House. [143]  To do so, the Member either requests in writing that the Clerk withdraw it or rises in the House to withdraw the notice orally. [144]  The item is then removed from the Notice Paper or the Order Paper. Alternatively, if the sponsor declines to move the motion when the order is called, it would be dropped from the Order Paper[145]  Notices have also been removed from the Order Paper and Notice Paper on the Speaker’s initiative, following the death or resignation of the sponsoring Member. [146] 

A motion or notice of motion is considered to be in the possession of the House under the following conditions:

  • once a motion has been moved;
  • once a private Member’s motion has been selected following the draw for the establishment of the Order of Precedence; [147]  or
  • once an Order of the Day has been designated for a government notice of motion [148]  or notice of a Ways and Means motion. [149] 

Such a motion or notice of motion cannot then be removed from the Order Paper unless the House so decides. The sponsoring Member or Minister must request that it be withdrawn and the House must give unanimous consent to the request. [150] 

Alteration to Notice

A modification to a notice of motion standing on the Notice Paper is permitted if the alterations are editorial in nature and no change is brought to the substance or scope of the original notice. [151]  In order to bring a substantive change to an item on notice, it is necessary to replace it with a fresh notice which is then subject to the applicable notice requirement. [152] 

Oral Notice

Some items of business do not require 48 hours’ written notice, but only oral notice to be provided during a sitting of the House. For example, at least 24 hours’ oral notice is required before a Minister is permitted to move a motion for closure, [153]  or time allocation where there is no agreement among the parties in the House. [154] 

No Notice

As a general rule, there are no notice requirements for motions (called “subsidiary” motions) which are dependent on other business of the House. Other motions are also exempt from notice requirements either as a result of practice or a specific Standing Order. These include, for instance:

  • motions dealing with the progress of a bill after its introduction; [155] 
  • motions to commit (i.e., refer a matter to a Committee of the Whole or other committee);
  • motions for the previous question; [156] 
  • motions to adjourn the House; [157] 
  • motions to adjourn the debate;
  • motions for another Member to “be now heard”; [158] 
  • motions to proceed to the Orders of the Day; [159] 
  • motions to amend a question already before the House;
  • motions to postpone the question to a specific day; [160] 
  • motions to proceed to another order of business;
  • motions for time allocation to a bill, when there is complete or majority agreement among party representatives; [161] 
  • motions for the fixing of sitting days and the hours of meeting [162]  or adjournment;
  • motions to continue or extend a sitting; [163] 
  • government motions to suspend the rules governing notice and times of sitting, in connection with matters considered urgent; [164] 
  • government motions dealing with routine matters, for which unanimous consent is required but has been denied; [165] 
  • motions based on a prima facie question of privilege; [166] 
  • motions to correct the records of the House;
  • traditional motions disposed of by the House on the opening day of a session; [167]
  • motions to select a Deputy Speaker, a Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole, and an Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole; and
  • motions for the observance of the proprieties of the House.

Publication of a Special Order Paper and Notice Paper

Either before a session begins or when the House stands adjourned, the government may wish that the House, when it resumes sitting, give immediate consideration to a matter or matters for which notice would have to be provided. In these circumstances, the government communicates its intentions to the Speaker, who then directs that a Special Order Paper and Notice Paper be published, listing notices of any government measures requiring immediate consideration by the House. [168]  The Speaker also ensures that the Special Order Paper and Notice Paper is circulated to all Members at least 48 hours before the sitting. A Special Order Paper and Notice Paper has been printed and circulated on more than a dozen occasions. [169]

Specific Notice Requirements

The length of the notice period (i.e., the time which must elapse before the item can be considered by the House) varies, depending on the type of motion. Most notices appear in the Notice Paper; however, others may be given to the Speaker in writing or given to the House orally. A 48-hour notice period applies in most cases; [170]  other requirements range from one hour to two weeks.

Forty-Eight Hours’ Notice

In practice, the 48 hours’ notice requirement is not exactly 48 consecutive hours, but refers instead to the publication of the notice once in the Notice Paper and its transfer the next day to the Order Paper. For example, a Member might give notice at 6:00 p.m. on a Tuesday and be free as early as 10:00 a.m. on Thursday to proceed with his or her motion (the notice having appeared in the Notice Paper on Wednesday and in the Order Paper on Thursday). [171]  Furthermore, a Member giving notice of a motion on a Friday before 2:00 p.m. may propose the motion to the House on the following Monday, the minimum notice period (48 hours) having elapsed over the weekend. [172] 

Forty-eight hours’ written notice is required for:

  • leave to introduce a bill; leave to present a resolution or address; for the appointment of any committee or to place a written question on the Order Paper[173] 
  • notices to oppose any item in the Estimates, during the Supply period ending June 23; [174] 
  • motions in amendment at the report stage of a bill that has not yet received second reading; [175] 
  • motions for concurrence in any committee report (including those reports seeking an order to revoke a regulation or statutory instrument [176] ); and
  • motions to concur in interim Supply, the Main Estimates, and supplementary or final Estimates, or to restore or reinstate any item in the Estimates. [177] 

Twenty-Four Hours’ Notice

Some items of business require a notice period of 24 hours. Like the 48 hours’ notice, it is not timed by the clock. For written notices, the 24-hour notice requirement simply means that a motion may be proposed once it appears in the Notice Paper and Order Paper. (The text of the motion appears simultaneously in the Order Paper and the Notice Paper.) For example, if it is filed at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, it may be taken up at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. For oral notices, if it is given at any time during a sitting of the House, the motion may be taken up on the next sitting day.

Twenty-four hours’ written notice is required for:

  • opposition motions on Supply days; [178] 
  • motions respecting Senate amendments to a bill; [179] 
  • motions in amendment to a bill at report stage following second reading; [180] 
  • notices to oppose any item in the Estimates, except during the Supply period ending June 23; [181] 
  • the item from the Order of Precedence which is to be considered during Private Members’ Hour; [182]  and
  • meetings of any committee considering a private bill originating in the Senate. [183] 

Twenty-four hours’ oral notice is required for:

  • motions for closure; [184]  and
  • motions for time allocation to a bill, when there is no agreement among party representatives. [185] 

Two Weeks’ Notice

Private Members’ motions require a written notice period of at least two weeks. A Member can propose the motion only if it is selected following the draw for the establishment of the Order of Precedence and after the two-week period has elapsed. [186]  Private Members’ public bills, like other bills, require 48 hours’ written notice before the sponsoring Member may ask leave of the House to introduce it. Once the bill is read a first time and printed, second reading is subject to the same requirements of selection after the draw and a two-week notice. [187] 

One Week’s Notice

Written notice of one week is required for the meeting of any committee considering a private bill originating in the House of Commons. [188] 

One Hour’s Notice

There are two situations in which Members must provide at least one hour’s written notice to the Speaker; this is required if a Member wishes to:

  • raise a question of privilege on a matter which has not arisen out of the proceedings in the Chamber during the course of a sitting; [189]  or
  • request permission to move a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of debating “a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration” (request for an emergency debate). [190] 

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