We are about to prorogue – what does that mean?

So… I am in my Commons office after all the fuss over PMQs has died down, and the annunciator says “Sitting Suspended”, which means we are waiting for the Lords to finish up, and then we are going to prorogue. Someone just told me it will be at “about” 6.43pm.

Prorogation is a somewhat ludicrous business in the Lords which involves the Lord Chancellor dressing up in his robes, doffing his tricorne three times and someone speaking in Norman French. MPs, being generally inferior beings have to crowd in down the end of the Lords chamber if they want to watch it. I did it once, which was enough.

Once prorogued, Parliament won’t return till June 4th, for the State Opening of Parliament, aka the Queen’s Speech. It’s not like recess, when Parliament can be recalled if something urgent crops up, like the Syria vote last summer. There is no Parliament to be recalled.

Despite what you read in the press, this doesn’t mean MPs are on holiday till then. We weren’t actually expecting to prorogue until next week, so I’ve got meetings in the diary in Westminster tomorrow, and on Monday I’m speaking at Equity’s annual conference in London in my capacity as Chair of the Performers Alliance Parliamentary Group. Then it will be all-out campaigning for the local and Euro elections on the 22nd, as well as various meetings and events in Bristol. VegFest – the best Bristol food festival in my totally unbiased opinion – is the weekend after next, and I’ll be speaking at that too.

Prorogation also means MPs won’t be able to table any Parliamentary Questions for a good few weeks, and any of them that have already been tabled but haven’t yet been answered, will just disappear, and have to be tabled. The same applies to the 1337 Early Day Motions tabled over the past year. See here for details of the most popular – beer, badgers and disability benefits.

Something to look forward to when Parliament returns is the Private Members’ Bill Ballot, which will give a handful of MPs the chance of parliamentary time to take forward a bill of their choice. I am contemplating this – the Agroecology (Food Security) Bill – if I’m lucky enough in the ballot, which is highly unlikely – I hope if I don’t make the top fifteen then someone who does will take it up instead.

P.S. The bell has just gone to warn us of pending prorogation, which means my source was out by 1 minute. Sitting to resume at 6.42pm, when if we are so inclined we can traipse off to the Lords to watch the formalities.


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  • Phil  On May 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Someone really should put the Lords to sleep. The days of ‘dressing up’ belong to a different era.

  • Rob Skinner  On May 14, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Kerry. It’s good to know what some of those rituals mean. Can’t help thinking it would be good for parliament to drag itself into the 21st century. I remember reading the late Robin Cook’s account of modernising the Commons some 10 years ago. More to be done…


  • By The week in politics | Intelex on May 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    […] criticisms regarding the amount of time they will be spending away from Parliament, but MPs like Kerry McCarthy have emphasised that they will still be working in London, their constituencies, and campaigning […]

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