Who decides whether the House will go into urgency?
While only the Government can seek urgency for specific business, ultimately this decision requires the agreement of a majority of members in the House. The primary constraint on the use of urgency is therefore political: the Government must be assured that it has sufficient support for urgency before it is moved. Since the introduction of mixed-member proportional representation, post-election arrangements have more usually involved the formation of minority Governments. A minority Government seeking urgency must obtain support from other parties that are not committed to the Government’s legislative programme, have other priorities, or otherwise may be unwilling to accept additional sitting hours.
What are the effects of urgency?
There are two main effects of dealing with business under urgency. First, the House may proceed with that business until it is completed. For example, a bill that is dealt with under urgency may be introduced and passed through all its stages (without going to a select committee), while under normal circumstances a bill cannot be taken through more than one stage each sitting day. The second effect of urgency is that the sitting hours of the House may be extended to allow the business to be completed.
How are sitting hours extended under urgency?
The usual sitting hours of the House are 2 pm to 6 pm and 7.30 pm to 10 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 2 pm to 6 pm on Thursdays. When the House’s sitting hours are extended under urgency, the sitting is suspended at the time it normally would finish that day, and the extra hours commence the next day. The only exception to this rule is that on Thursdays the sitting can continue into the evening (until 10 pm) if the Government has previously given special notice of its intention to move an urgency motion that day.
On the second day of a sitting under urgency, the sitting resumes at 9 am and runs until midnight. This continues on subsequent days until the business is completed or the Government decides not to continue, up until midnight on Saturday (the House does not sit on Sundays).
What is extraordinary urgency?
Extraordinary urgency extends the hours of the House even further, so that it sits through the night, including on the day the House agrees to a motion for extraordinary urgency. In addition to the hours that apply for urgency, under extraordinary urgency the House sits from midnight to 8 am. This is relatively rare.
A Minister can move a motion for extraordinary urgency for specified business, including business for which urgency has already been taken. The Speaker must first agree that the business justifies such a move. The Minister must, on moving the motion, inform the House of the nature of the business and the circumstances that warrant extraordinary urgency.
Why doesn’t the date change?
When the House agrees to urgency or extraordinary urgency, the extra hours are regarded as an extension of the day that the urgency motion was passed. This means that all business dealt with during that period of urgency is regarded as having been transacted on the same sitting day. The calendars in the House are not adjusted as they indicate the date of the sitting day in progress. The date recorded in the Journals of the House of Representatives, Hansard, and Daily Progress in the House (see Related links on this page) is the date on which the House went into urgency.
What are the effects of urgency on the business of the House?
If urgency carries over to subsequent days, an Order Paper is not produced for those subsequent days. However, if urgency finishes before 2 pm and the House then resumes for its normal sitting, there will be an Order Paper for that sitting.
Members’ Day (usually scheduled on alternate Wednesdays) may be postponed.
Question Time may not take place.
Can select committees meet when the House is under urgency?
Urgency may well affect select committee meetings. A committee can meet when the House is sitting only if all of its members agree or if the House has authorised it to meet while the House is sitting. Select committees normally meet on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, but these meeting times may not be available if the House is sitting then under urgency.