Parliamentary session

Parliamentary session

A parliamentary session is a period of time where the legislature in a parliamentary government is sitting.

In Commonwealth Realms, each session begins with a speech from the throne and a "pro forma" bill to allow the Parliament to deviate from that speech. Sessions can thereafter last from a few weeks to over a year. Between two elections, there are usually anywhere from one to six sessions of parliament.

Bills are numbered within each session and they expire if they do not become law by the time the session ends. In Canada, for example, each session's government House bills are numbered from C-2 to C-200 and when a new session starts, the first new bill is numbered C-2 again.

Historically, sessions would run for several months continuously and be followed by a prorogation of several months when members of parliament would spend time in their home constituencies. This pattern has become less necessary in modern times; transportation and communication technology make it easy for members to return home for short visits throughout each session. It is not uncommon for a session of parliament to be put into recess during holidays and then resumed a few weeks later exactly where it left off. Governments today end sessions whenever it is most convenient, and often, a new session will begin on the same day that the previous session ended.

The term "session" also has implications within the realm of parliamentary procedure as it applies to private organizations.

Legislatures plan their business using a legislative calendar.


A prorogation is the period between two sessions of a legislative body. When a legislature or parliament is prorogued, it is still constituted (that is, all members remain as members and a general election is not necessary), but all orders of the body (bills, motions, "etc.") are expunged. (In the British parliament, this has now changed somewhat in that Public Bills can be carried over from one session to another.)

In the British and Canadian parliamentary systems, this is usually due to the completion of the agenda set forth in the Speech from the Throne (in the UK, called the legislative programme). Legislatures and parliaments, once prorogued, remain in recess until summoned again by the Queen, Governor General, or Lieutenant Governor, and a new session is begun with the State Opening of Parliament and the Speech from the Throne.

In the parliament of the United Kingdom, prorogation is immediately preceded by the prorogation speech. Prior to the speech, the House of Commons is summoned by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod to the House of Lords. The speech is approved by the queen but is rarely delivered by the sovereign in person (Queen Victoria being the last sovereign to attend prorogation in person); instead it is presented by the Lords Commissioners and read by the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. This speech looks back at the legislative session, noting major bills passed and other actions of the government [] . The Lord Chancellor wears a tricorn hat for the occasion and the Lords Commissioners wear bicorn hats.

When King Charles I of England dissolved Parliament in 1628 after the Petition of Right, he gave a prorogation speech that effectively cancelled all future meetings of Parliament, at least until he once again required finances.

In Australia, the Parliament is prorogued before an election to prevent the Senate from sitting during the campaign and to expunge all existing senate business before the start of the next parliament. Prorogations not related to the conduct of an election are unusual.

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