With the Legislative Council returning to a full sitting program in June we are taking the opportunity to remind our readers of a decision made by the House in the pre-isolation days of February 2020. During that time the Council agreed to change its sitting week schedule to swap the precedence of business on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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This means that private members’ business – bills and motions introduced by members who are not Ministers – is now considered on Wednesdays, while Government Business is considered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Council now also starts its sittings earlier on Wednesdays, at 10 am.

In moving for the change the Government explained that swapping the days would usually result in a longer sitting on Wednesdays but a likely earlier finish on Thursdays.

Current sitting pattern

Due to the interruption to sittings caused by COVID-19 we are yet to experience a full private members’ business Wednesday (although we did come close in May, with the afternoon of the 13th dedicated to private members’ business after the House had passed the Government’s emergency COVID-19 legislation).

But fear not! Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Wednesday 3 June 2020 will mark the first ever full private members’ business Wednesday.

The process

In order to have an item of business considered on a Wednesday, members will need to ensure they have given notice in the House by Tuesday at the latest. This ensures that the notice of motion will be placed on the Notice Paper ready for debate the next day.

The Government Whip’s meeting to decide the schedule of business for a Wednesday will now take place on a Tuesday afternoon before the House sits. Members from all parties attend this meeting to ensure their items are placed on the list for debate. While this is technically an informal meeting, it is now an established practice that assists private members’ business day to run in a smooth and orderly fashion.

The list of items decided at the meeting is then turned into a Conduct of Business motion for the Government Whip to move in the House on Wednesday morning. The House agreeing to this motion formalises the list and order of items to be considered.

The House then proceeds to debate the motions in order. Often there are 20+ items on the list, and these are drawn from the hundreds of potential notices of motions listed in the Notice Paper.

Many of these motions are orders for government papers – often referred to as Standing Order 52s. Over 20 such orders have already been agreed to in 2020 and this trend will likely continue in June.

If you would like to find out more about the schedule of business listed for private members’ day, including any motions relating to orders for papers, the Procedure Office posts the Whip’s Conduct of Business motion on our real time ‘Running Record’ as soon as it has been agreed to.

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