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

21. Private Members’ Business

Time Limits on Debate

Non-Votable Items

An item of Private Members’ Business not selected to come to a vote is debated for up to one hour and, once the debate has concluded or the time for debate has expired, the item is then removed from the Order Paper[129]  Debate does not last the full hour allotted for Private Members’ Business if no other Member rises to speak on the item, if a quorum is lost, or if a motion to adjourn is carried.

The removal of an item of Private Members’ Business from the Order Paper does not constitute a decision since a question is not put to the House. [130]  Thus, a Member whose non-votable item has been removed may resubmit it by giving notice of the item in the usual manner. It remains on the Order Paper on the list of items outside the order of precedence until it is chosen again for inclusion on the order of precedence. [131] 

Votable Items

An item of Private Members’ Business selected as a votable item is eligible for up to three hours of consideration before the question is put to dispose of it. [132]  Votable items work their way up the order of precedence in the same way that all other items do, but at the end of Private Members’ Hour on the day the item is debated, if debate is not concluded, they are placed at the bottom of the order of precedence instead of being removed from the Order Paper[133]  The item continues to work its way up to the top of the list again, is debated and then placed at the bottom once more. Unless the item has been disposed of earlier, this continues until exactly two hours and 45 minutes of debate have been completed, at which time the Speaker interrupts the proceedings and puts every question necessary to dispose of the item.

If the votable item is a motion framed as a resolution, the House makes a decision either for or against that item of business and, accordingly, it is disposed of. No further action is required since it is solely an expression of opinion or a declaration of purpose. If the votable item is a motion framed as an order to the House itself, its committees, its Members or officers, again the House makes a decision either for or against and, if agreed to, further action will be required to execute the order.

If the votable item is a bill and second reading is agreed to by the House, the bill is then referred to a committee for study. [134] The committee is obliged, within 60 sitting days from the date of reference, to either report back a bill with or without amendment, or to present to the House a report recommending not to proceed further with a bill or requesting a one-time extension of 30 sitting days to consider a bill. Reasons must be given for either recommendation. Should a committee fail to report back to the House as required, the bill is automatically deemed reported without amendment. [135] 

Report Stage and Third Reading

When a committee reports a private Member’s bill back to the House or is deemed to have reported a bill back, the order for consideration of the report stage is placed at the bottom of the order of precedence. [136]  Two Private Members’ Hours on separate sitting days are allotted for report stage and third reading consideration. [137]  On the first day, if there are no motions in amendment at the report stage on the Notice Paper, the motion for concurrence at the report stage is put immediately and, if adopted, the motion for third reading is moved and debate commences at third reading. [138]  If there are motions in amendment at the report stage and debate on these motions concludes during the first hour, the question is put on all motions to dispose of the report stage and, if the bill is concurred in at report stage, the House immediately proceeds to the consideration of the third reading stage. [139]  At the end of the first Private Members’ Hour, unless the bill has been otherwise disposed of, it drops to the bottom of the order of precedence and works its way up to the top for consideration by the House during the second Private Members’ Hour. Fifteen minutes before the end of the time provided for this second consideration, all questions necessary to dispose of the bill at the remaining stage or stages are put and the bill, if passed, is sent to the Senate for consideration. [140] 

The time provided for the consideration of a private Member’s bill at report stage and third reading may be extended by up to five hours on the second day of debate. If a bill is not disposed of within the first 30 minutes of debate on the first day of consideration, during any time then remaining on that day, any Member may propose a motion to extend the debate on the second day for a period not to exceed five consecutive hours. [141]  This non-debatable, non-amendable motion is deemed withdrawn if fewer than 20 Members rise to support it. [142]  The motion may subsequently be proposed again during the time remaining provided an intervening proceeding has occurred. [143]  If the motion is adopted and the time for consideration is extended on the second day, the Standing Orders relating to the normal hour of adjournment are suspended. [144]  Not later than 15 minutes before the conclusion of the time provided on the second day, the Speaker puts every question necessary to dispose of any remaining stages of the bill. [145]  On Monday, the extension of up to five additional hours of debate begins at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment. [146] 

Senate Amendments to a Private Member’s Bill

The order for the consideration of Senate amendments to a private Member’s bill is placed at the bottom of the order of precedence when the message is received from the Senate. [147]  The Standing Orders do not specify any time limit for the consideration of a motion respecting Senate amendments. When the item reaches the top of the order of precedence, it is considered during Private Members’ Hour and, if not disposed of at the end of the hour, it is placed again at the bottom of the order of precedence. This process is repeated until the debate ends and the question can be put on the motion. [148] 

Notices of Motions (Papers)

Motions for papers may be debated for a total of one hour and 40 minutes before the question is put. [149]  Unless otherwise disposed of, the item is placed at the bottom of the order of precedence after the first hour of debate. After the item has worked its way up the order of precedence, it is debated for a further 30 minutes. At that time, the Speaker interrupts the proceedings and allows a Minister to speak for a maximum of five minutes, even if he or she has already spoken in debate. [150]  The mover of the motion is then permitted to speak for an additional five minutes to close the debate before the Speaker puts the question to the House. If the motion carries, it becomes an order to the government to table the documents requested in the motion.

Individual Speeches

During debate on a votable item of Private Members’ Business, the sponsor may speak for 20 minutes, while other Members may speak for 10 minutes each. [151]  Debate on a non-votable item begins with the mover of the item speaking for up to 15 minutes. Other Members may speak for up to 10 minutes, with the time allotted for 10-minute speeches limited to a maximum of 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, or sooner if no other Member rises to speak, the Member moving the motion has the right of reply to conclude the debate by speaking again for a maximum of five minutes. [152] 

Although there is no practice of a fixed pattern for the recognition of Members wishing to speak during Private Members’ Business, the Chair seeks to ensure that there is a smooth flow of debate, providing opportunities for all points of view to be expressed. [153]  Members speaking during Private Members’ Business require the unanimous consent of the House to share their time with another Member. [154]  There is no question and comment period after each speech. [155] 

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.

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