Recall of Parliament

What are the circumstances in which Parliament be recalled?

Parliament can be recalled only when it is “adjourned” – that is, in a temporary break during a parliamentary session, such as at weekends, or during recesses.

This is different from when Parliament is prorogued (the gap between the end of one parliamentary session and the beginning of another) – or when it is dissolved (the period when Parliament ends prior to a general election).

Can Parliament be recalled if it is prorogued?

Technically, no – but the date of Parliament’s scheduled next meeting can be accelerated.

This is because prorogation is done by a proclamation made by the Queen, on the advice of the government. In order to bring forward the date of Parliament’s next meeting, the Queen must issue a new proclamation setting out the new date. There are also specific situations in which, legally, the meeting of Parliament may have to be accelerated when it is prorogued:

  • if reserve armed forces are called out on permanent service
  • if emergency regulations are made by the government under the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act
  • on the death of the monarch.

How can Parliament be recalled?

When Parliament is adjourned – in other words, in recess or at weekends – it can be recalled on the request of the government only.

In the Commons, the government may ask the Speaker of the Commons to recall Parliament. If the Speaker believes that it would be in the public interest to recall Parliament, they will then give notice for its recall, and specify a new date of meeting.

The Lord Speaker can also recall the Lords when Parliament is adjourned, on the request of the government – again, if they believe it is in the public interest to do so.

Over the years, the fact that only the government can recall Parliament has been controversial. The current Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, has previously suggested that an additional procedure, allowing MPs to request the recall of Parliament, be considered. To date, no such change has been made.

When has Parliament previously been recalled?

The Commons was last recalled from a recess in June 2016, as was the House of Lords, following the murder of MP Jo Cox. According to the House of Commons Library, the Commons has been recalled on 29 occasions during a recess since 1948.

Update date: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Authors: Alice Lilly