House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …

21. Private Members’ Business

Private Members’ Motions

Private Members’ motions are used to introduce a wide range of issues and are framed either as orders or resolutions, depending on their intent. [58]  Motions attempting to make a declaration of opinion or purpose, without ordering or requiring a particular course of action, are considered resolutions. [59]  Hence, such motions which simply suggest that the government initiate a certain measure are generally phrased as follows: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider …”. The government is not bound to adopt a specific policy or course of action as a result of the adoption of such a resolution since the House is only stating an opinion or making a declaration of purpose. [60]  This is in contrast to those motions whose object is to give a direction to committees, Members or officers of the House or to regulate House proceedings and, as such, are considered orders once adopted by the House. [61] 

No motion sponsored by a Member who is not a Minister can contain provisions for either raising revenue or spending funds, unless it is worded in terms which only suggest that course of action to the government. As an alternative to a bill which might require a royal recommendation obtained only by a Minister, a private Member may choose to move a motion proposing the expenditure of public funds, provided that the terms of the motion only suggest this course of action to the government without ordering or requiring it to do so. [62]  Such a motion is normally phrased so as to ask the government to “consider the advisability of …”.


A private Member must provide at least two weeks’ notice of his or her intention to move a motion. [63]  Notice of a private Member’s motion appears on the Notice Paper for the date on which notice is given and is transferred afterwards to the list of “Private Members’ Business — Items Outside the Order of Precedence” which may be consulted at the Table in the Chamber or on the electronic version of the Order Paper. The sponsoring Member can move the motion only if the item has been selected following the draw establishing the order of precedence, and only after the two-week notice period has elapsed.

Similar Items

If a Member submits notice of a motion which the Speaker judges to be substantially the same as an item already submitted, the Speaker has the power to refuse the most recent notice, to so inform the Member sponsoring it and to return the motion to him or her. [64] 


A Member who wishes to support a motion already appearing on the Order Paper may second that motion by indicating in writing to the Clerk of the House his or her desire to do so. [65]  A motion may have up to 20 seconders, although the number of seconders has no bearing on the motion’s chances of being selected as a votable item. [66]  The names of these seconders are listed with the motion on the Order Paper. Once the motion has been proposed to the House, no additional names may be appended. [67]  The Member who seconds the motion in the House need not be one of the seconders listed on the Order Paper.

Please note —

As the rules and practices of the House of Commons are subject to change, users should remember that this edition of Procedure and Practice was published in January 2000. Standing Order changes adopted since then, as well as other changes in practice, are not reflected in the text. The Appendices to the book, however, have been updated and now include information up to the end of the 38th Parliament in November 2005.

To confirm current rules and practice, please consult the latest version of the Standing Orders on the Parliament of Canada Web site.

For further information about the procedures of the House of Commons, please contact the Table Research Branch at (613) 996-3611 or by e-mail at