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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

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Each Thursday, after Oral Questions, the Speaker recognizes the House Leader of the Official Opposition, or his or her representative, to ask the Government House Leader, or his or her representative, about the government orders to be considered by the House in the succeeding days or week.[439] The Government House Leader then proceeds to outline for the House what business the government intends to bring forward.[440] This practice is commonly known as the “Business Statement” or the “Thursday Statement”. The Weekly Business Statement is not referred to in the Standing Orders but is permitted subject to the discretion of the Chair, the government being under no procedural obligation to announce to the House in advance which items of business it intends to call or when.[441] Furthermore, the government is not bound by anything said in the Weekly Business Statement.[442]

The Weekly Business Statement was inaugurated on September 23, 1968, when the then President of the Privy Council, in announcing the business the government intended to call the following day, stated that a new practice would begin whereby on every Thursday the government would outline its intentions for the forthcoming week and then respond to questions.[443] Prior to this, it had been the custom of the Government House Leader to announce, at the close of each sitting day, the business to be considered the next day.[444]

The Speaker has stressed on many occasions that the time provided for this Statement should not be used by Members as an opportunity to engage in negotiations or debate.[445] The Speaker has also not been inclined to consider the question of House business at any time other than on a Thursday during a week of regularly scheduled sittings.[446] On occasion, the Government House Leader has used this period to request the unanimous consent of the House to propose, without notice, motions related to the business of the House.[447]

[439] The question about the business to be considered by the House in the coming days is not always posed by the House Leader of the Official Opposition. See, for example, Debates, October 26, 2007, p. 450; March 14, 2008, p. 4197.

[440] Occasionally, following the comments of the Government House Leader, other Members (customarily, but not exclusively, the House Leaders representing parties in opposition) may be recognized to pose brief questions on specific items of business or to clarify information (Debates, November 9, 1995, p. 16443). Although all Members are permitted to participate in posing questions to the Government House Leader, the Speaker has suggested that Members of the opposition should make their representations known to the House through their respective House Leaders (Debates, February 14, 1985, p. 2359). See also Debates, June 3, 1999, pp. 15814‑5.

[441] Standing Order 40(2).

[442] See Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, June 1, 1994, pp. 4709‑10.

[443] Debates, September 23, 1968, p. 383.

[444] The wording of Standing Order 38(6) still refers to the old practice of providing, at the end of a sitting, information about the future business of the House.

[445] See, for example, Debates, October 11, 1990, p. 14048; November 8, 1991, p. 4838; April 2, 1992, pp. 9262‑4; May 7, 1992, pp. 10328‑9.

[446] Debates, April 17, 1984, p. 3144. In ruling out of order a Member attempting to inquire into the business of the House on a day other than Thursday, the Speaker stated: “There is a traditional way of dealing with House business. There are the usual channels by which information is transferred and discussions take place relating to House business”. See also Debates, May 23, 1984, pp. 3962‑3. The Weekly Business Statement has been given on a Wednesday, on one occasion because the House would be adjourned on the Thursday afternoon for an Address by the Prime Minister of Australia in the Chamber of the House of Commons (Debates, May 17, 2006, p. 1494), and on another because the House would be adjourned on the Thursday and the Friday because of the Liberal Party leadership convention (Debates, November 29, 2006, p. 5521). See also Journals, May 5, 2006, pp. 134‑5; November 9, 2006, p. 673, for the wording of motions to adjourn the House.

[447] See, for example, Debates, March 30, 1995, pp. 11300‑1; September 28, 2006, pp. 3393‑4; February 22, 2007, pp. 7213-4.

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