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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 12. The Process of Debate - Notice of 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.[125]

In most cases, notices of motions are required to be submitted in writing and published in the Notice Paper.[126] Generally, the written notices of motions which are published 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 whereby notices of motions may be given orally (accompanied by a written text) during a sitting of the House.[127] However, some other types of motions do not require any notice.[128]

Depending on the type of motion and who is moving it, the notice period can vary from one hour to one week.[129] It is also possible to have more than one notice on the same subject (with the exception of items of Private Members’ Business[130]); but once one of the motions is moved and the House takes a decision on it, any discussion or decision on the others is precluded.[131]

*   Notice in Writing

Written notice is required for most substantive motions and items of business, including:

*       motions for leave to present a government or private Member’s bill;[132]

*       report stage amendments to bills;[133]

*       motions respecting Senate amendments to bills;[134]

*       motions to be considered under Government Business;[135]

*       motions for the appointment of a committee;[136]

*       routine motions empowering committees to travel;[137]

*       motions for concurrence in committee reports;

*       resolutions for the revocation of regulations or statutory instruments presented to the House in the form of reports from the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations;[138]

*       motions of instruction to committees;[139]

*       opposition motions on supply days;[140]

*       notice of opposition to any item in the estimates;[141]

*       motions to concur in interim supply, main estimates, supplementary or final estimates, or to restore or reinstate any item in the estimates;[142]

*       items to be considered during Private Members’ Business;[143]

*       written questions on the Order Paper;[144]

*       notices of motions for the production of papers;[145]

*       motions dealing with the conduct of Members, Presiding Officers of the House, judges or the Governor General;[146] and

*       motions for a resolution or address.[147]

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.[148] 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 published in the Notice Paper and Order Paper for the day the House resumes sitting.[149] 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 written notices they are submitting for the Notice Paper in order to prevent the unauthorized use of their names and as authentication of their 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.[150] Since 2005, Members have also been able to satisfy the requirement for written notice by submitting items electronically following a secure protocol by means of which their identities are confirmed.[151]

If necessary, the procedural staff of the Clerk of the House will consult with the sponsoring Member with regard to any modifications to the text of the motion required in order to make it conform procedurally to the rules and practice of the House.[152] Rarely has the Speaker been called upon to intervene.[153] The notice of motion found to be admissible is inserted under the appropriate heading in the Notice Paper. When several notices in the same category are submitted, they are inserted in the Notice Paper in the order in which they are received. In the case of identical motions, only the first one submitted is published.[154]

A long‑standing practice exists whereby any Member giving notice of a motion may place it under embargo―that is, the Member may instruct the Table Officers to withhold explicit information about the content of the motion until that day’s deadline for the filing of notices, or until the publication 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.[155] In his ruling, Speaker Fraser reviewed the practice with regard to embargoes and concluded that the notice requirements in this case had been met and that, while 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.[156] The practice was again upheld by Speaker Milliken in a 2005 ruling in similar circumstances.[157]

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);[158] at other times, the Chair has ruled before the motion was before the House.[159]

Removal of Notice

As long as a motion is not yet in the possession of the House or placed in the Order of Precedence, it remains a notice of motion and the sponsor may effect its withdrawal unilaterally, without seeking the consent of the House.[160] To do so, the Member either requests in writing that the Clerk withdraw it or rises in the House to withdraw the notice orally.[161] 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 is dropped from the Order Paper.[162] 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.[163]

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 placed in the Order of Precedence following a draw for the establishment or replenishment of the latter;[164] or

*       once an Order of the Day has been designated for a government notice of motion[165] or notice of a ways and means motion.[166]

Such 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 before removal can be effected.[167]

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.[168] In order to bring a substantive change to an item on notice, it is necessary (in the absence of unanimous consent to the change) to replace it with a fresh notice which is then subject to the applicable notice requirement.[169]

*   Oral Notice

Some items of business do not require 48 hours’ written notice; it is sufficient that an oral notice (accompanied by a written text) 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,[170] or time allocation where there is no agreement among the parties in the House.[171]

*   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;[172]

*       motions to commit (i.e., refer a matter to a Committee of the Whole or other committee);

*       motions for the previous question;[173]

*       motions to adjourn the House;[174]

*       motions to adjourn the debate;

*       motions that another Member “be now heard”;[175]

*       motions to proceed to the Orders of the Day;[176]

*       motions to amend a question already before the House;

*       motions to postpone the question to a specific day;[177]

*       motions to proceed to another order of business;

*       motions for time allocation on a bill, when there is complete or majority agreement among party representatives;[178]

*       motions for the fixing of sitting days and the hours of meeting[179] or adjournment;

*       motions to continue or extend a sitting;[180]

*       government motions to suspend the rules governing notice and times of sitting, in connection with matters considered urgent;[181]

*       government motions dealing with routine matters, for which unanimous consent is required but has been denied;[182]

*       motions based on a prima facie question of privilege;[183]

*       motions to correct the records of the House;

*       motions traditionally disposed of by the House on the opening day of a session;[184]

*       motions to select a Deputy Speaker, a Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, and an Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole;[185] 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.[186] The Speaker also ensures that the Special Order Paper and Notice Paper is distributed to all Members at least 48 hours before the sitting. A Special Order Paper and Notice Paper has been published and distributed on more than twenty occasions.[187]

*   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 (accompanied by written text). A 48‑hour notice period applies in most cases;[188] other requirements range from one hour to one week.

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).[189] 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.[190]

The requirement for 48 hours’ notice applies to motions for leave to introduce a public bill; leave to present a resolution or address; for the appointment of any committee or to place a written question on the Order Paper.[191]

Other items of business requiring 48 hours’ written notice include:

*       meetings to elect committee Chairs;[192]

*       committee meetings convened pursuant to Standing Order 106(4);

*       notices to oppose any item in the estimates, during the supply period ending June 23;[193]

*       motions in amendment at the report stage of a bill that has not yet received second reading;[194]

*       motions for concurrence in any committee report;

*       resolutions for the revocation of regulations or statutory instruments presented to the House in the form of reports from the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations;[195]

*       motions to concur in interim supply, the main estimates, and supplementary or final estimates, or to restore or reinstate any item in the estimates;[196]

*       opposition motions on supply days;[197]

*       motions setting out the subject matter and designating the days on which take-note debates shall take place;[198]

*       exchanges of position in the Order of Precedence (Private Members’ Business);[199] and

*       notices of motions for the production of papers.[200]

Twenty-Four Hours’ Notice

Some items of business require a notice period of 24 hours. As with 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 both the Notice Paper and the 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 (accompanied by a written text), 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:

*       motions respecting Senate amendments to a bill;[201]

*       motions in amendment to a bill at report stage following second reading;[202]

*       notices to oppose any item in the estimates, except during the supply period ending June 23;[203]

*       the item from the Order of Precedence which is to be considered during Private Members’ Hour;[204]

*       items of Private Members’ Business rescheduled pursuant to Standing Order 30(7); and

*       meetings of any committee considering a private bill originating in the Senate.[205]

Twenty‑four hours’ oral notice (accompanied by a written text) is required for:

*       motions for closure;[206] and

*       motions for time allocation to a bill, when there is no agreement among party representatives.[207]

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.[208]

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;[209] 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).[210]

Rules Similar in Effect to Notice

While not themselves notice requirements, some procedural rules are similar in effect to notice requirements in that items of House business may not be transacted until a specified period of time has elapsed following the presentation of a report or another event in the House. Examples are:

*       report stage of any bill referred to any standing, special or legislative committee before second reading may not begin prior to the third sitting day following the presentation to the House of the report of the said committee;[211]

*       report stage of any bill referred to any standing, special or legislative committee after second reading may not begin prior to the second sitting day following the presentation to the House of the report of the said committee;[212]

*       ten sitting days must elapse between the first and second hours of debate on private Members’ bills at the second reading stage or on private Members’ motions when these have not been previously disposed of.[213]

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[125] Notice requirements have been part of the Standing Orders since Confederation. For a description of the operation of notice in the British House, as it developed rules and principles to organize and arrange the “introduction, treatment and disposal” of the large amount of business before it, see Redlich, Vol. III, pp. 8‑26.

[126] Standing Order 54. For further information on the Notice Paper, see Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.

[127] For example, notices of motions for closure (Standing Order 57) and notices of motions for time allocation where there is no agreement among party representatives (Standing Order 78(3)).

[128] For example, no notice is required for a motion to adjourn a debate or to amend a motion.

[129] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Specific Notice Requirements”.

[130] The Speaker has the discretionary power (Standing Order 86(4)) to refuse the most recent notice, to so inform the sponsoring Member and to return the item to the sponsor. See Debates, November 2, 1989, pp. 5474‑5. For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[131] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Debates, September 14, 1973, pp. 6589‑90.

[132] Standing Order 54.

[133] Standing Orders 76(2) and 76.1(2).

[134] Standing Order 77(1).

[135] Standing Order 54. Standing Order 53.1 exempts take-note debates from this requirement for notice.

[136] Standing Order 54.

[137] Standing Order 56.2(1).

[138] Standing Order 123(4).

[139] Written notice is required for any motion of instruction moved in the form of an independent motion in the House. See, for example, Order Paper and Notice Paper, May 30, 2005, p. III. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[140] Standing Order 81(14)(a).

[141] Standing Order 81(14)(a).

[142] Standing Order 81(14)(a).

[143] Standing Order 94(1)(a) and (2)(a).

[144] Standing Order 54.

[145] Standing Order 97(1).

[146] Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 300‑1. See, for example, Debates, March 13, 2000, p. 4397; Order Paper and Notice Paper, March 15, 2000, p. III. For further information, see Chapter 4, “The House of Commons and its Members”, and Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.

[147] Standing Order 54.

[148] Standing Order 54(1). The Order Paper and Notice Paper is published daily when the House sits. The Order Paper is the official House agenda and lists all items of business which may be brought forward on a given day. The Notice Paper lists all notices of bills, motions and questions which Members may wish to bring before the House. Until 1971, the Notice Paper was appended to the then Votes and Proceedings (now the daily Journals), so that each notice given by a Member was printed with the Votes and Proceedings of the sitting at which the notice was given. For further information, see Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.

[149] Standing Order 54(2). Adjournment periods are defined by Standing Order 28(2).

[150] In 1993, a Member’s notice of a motion (to amend a bill at report stage) was refused for inclusion on the next day’s Notice Paper because it had been faxed. A point of order was raised and, in his ruling, the Speaker advised that, in addition to having been received after the 6:00 p.m. deadline, the notice was inadmissible because notices submitted for the Notice Paper are not considered official until an original document with the Member’s signature is received (Debates, February 15, 1993, pp. 15899‑900).

[151] Par. 32 of the Fourth Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, presented to the House on June 12, 2003 (Journals, p. 915) and concurred in on September 18, 2003 (Journals, p. 995); Twenty-Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House and concurred in on February 9, 2005 (Journals, pp. 407‑8).

[152] This procedure has been followed since Confederation. See Bourinot, J.G., South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints Inc., 1971 (reprint of 1st ed., 1884), pp. 308‑9.

[153] See, for example, Journals, January 14, 1953, p. 127.

[154] See, for example, Notice Paper, March 10, 2008, p. VIII.

[155] Debates, March 22, 1990, pp. 9613‑24, 9628‑9.

[156] Debates, March 26, 1990, pp. 9758‑61.

[157] Debates, June 21, 2005, pp. 7543, 7582.

[158] See, for example, Debates, May 24, 1988, pp. 15697‑703.

[159] See, for example, Debates, June 19, 1990, pp. 12963‑7; May 28, 1991, pp. 702‑3; February 15, 2008, pp. 3173‑4.

[160] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, December 7, 1989, p. 6584.

[161] See, for example, Debates, February 12, 1993, p. 15851; June 6, 2007, p. 10217.

[162] Standing Order 42(2).

[163] For example, notices sponsored by Jean‑Claude Malépart (Laurier–Sainte‑Marie) (died November 16, 1989), Catherine Callbeck (Malpeque) (resigned January 25, 1993) and Stephen Harper (Calgary West) (resigned January 14, 1997) were withdrawn from the Order Paper. They included notices of motions for Private Members’ Business, notices of written questions and notices of motions for the production of papers. Private Members’ bills awaiting introduction and notices of motions under Routine Proceedings would also be withdrawn in such circumstances. Sponsorship of a private Member’s motion has also been transferred on occasion by unanimous consent following the resignation of the original sponsor. See, for example, Journals, September 27, 2000, p. 1996.

[164] Standing Order 87. For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[165] Standing Order 56(1).

[166] Standing Order 83(2).

[167] Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 296‑7; Standing Order 64. See, for example, Debates, May 11, 1994, p. 4211; February 3, 2004, p. 64.

[168] May, 23rd ed., p. 386. See also Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 299.

[169] See Speaker Lemieux’s ruling, Journals, March 26, 1928, pp. 200‑1.

[170] Standing Order 57. For further information on closure, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[171] Standing Order 78(3). For further information on time allocation, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[172] Standing Order 54. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[173] Standing Order 61.

[174] Standing Order 60.

[175] Standing Order 62.

[176] Standing Order 59.

[177] Standing Order 58.

[178] Standing Order 78(1) and (2). For further information, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[179] Standing Order 54 refers to the “times of meeting” which has been interpreted as the hours of sitting. See Speakers’ rulings, Debates, May 21, 1920, pp. 2625‑6; Journals, December 20, 1951, pp. 345‑7.

[180] Standing Order 26(1). For further information, see Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”.

[181] Standing Order 53. For further information, see Chapter 15, “Special Debates”.

[182] Standing Order 56.1. For further information, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[183] Standing Order 48. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”. See, for example, Journals, June 17, 2008, p. 1003.

[184] For further information, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[185] Standing Orders 7 and 8.

[186] Standing Order 55(1). See, for example, the Special Order Paper and Notice Paper published prior to the opening of the First and Second Sessions of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament (Debates, April 4, 2006, p. 7; October 16, 2007, p. 3). This has also happened when the House has been recalled. See Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”. For further information on the Special Order Paper and Notice Paper, see Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.

[187] For examples of its publication during recalls, see Appendix 14, “Recalls of the House of Commons During Adjournment Periods Since 1867”. Since 1991, it has been the practice to include the time the notice was received in the Special Order Paper and Notice Paper. This serves to demonstrate that the 48‑hour notice requirement has been met.

[188] See Standing Order 54.

[189] See Journals, October 6, 1970, pp. 1417‑20.

[190] The same applies on the rare occasions on which the House sits on a Saturday. Notices filed on a Saturday appear in the Order Paper on Monday. See Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 296; see also Speaker Michener’s ruling, Journals, May 8, 1961, p. 516.

[191] Standing Order 54(1).

[192] Standing Orders 104(1) and 106(1).

[193] Standing Order 81(14)(a). At other times, a 24‑hour notice period applies. For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[194] Standing Order 76(2).

[195] Standing Order 123(4). For further information, see Chapter 17, “Delegated Legislation”.

[196] Standing Order 81(14)(a).

[197] Standing Order 81(14)(a).

[198] Standing Order 53.1(1).

[199] Standing Order 94(2)(a).

[200] Standing Order 97(1).

[201] Standing Order 77(1).

[202] Standing Order 76.1(2).

[203] Standing Order 81(14)(a). During the Supply period ending June 23, a 48‑hour notice period applies. For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[204] Standing Order 94(1)(a)(i). For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[205] Standing Order 141(2)(a). For further information, see Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

[206] Standing Order 57. For further information, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[207] Standing Order 78(3). For further information, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[208] Standing Order 141(2)(a). For further information, see Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

[209] Standing Order 48(2). See, for example, Debates, November 25, 1997, pp. 2189‑90; June 17, 2005, p. 7378. A question of privilege arising out of House proceedings may be raised without notice. A Member wishing to raise a question of privilege may also place a notice on the Notice Paper pursuant to Standing Order 54. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[210] Standing Order 52(2). For further information, see Chapter 15, “Special Debates”.

[211] Standing Order 76(1).

[212] Standing Order 76.1(1).

[213] Standing Order 93(2).

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