In the Westminster system, an adjournment debate is a debate on the motion, "That this House do now adjourn." In practice, this is a way of enabling the House to have a debate on a subject without considering a substantive motion.[1][2][3]

Types of debateEdit

There are generally two types of adjournment debate: those proposed by the Government, which are used from time to time to permit general debates on topical subjects (e.g. flooding and coastal defences, regional affairs or International Women's Day); and the half-hour adjournment at the end of each day's sitting.[1] The half-hour adjournment is an opportunity for a backbench Member of Parliament to raise a subject of his or her choosing, of which advance notice has been given, with the appropriate Government Minister.[1] Normally, only the Member raising the debate and the Minister who is replying speak in the half-hour adjournment.[1] It is not uncommon for the Chamber otherwise to be empty.

The convention is that any subject may be raised on a Motion for the adjournment, since any matter of national or local importance may offer a good reason for the House to continue sitting (i.e. the House should not adjourn until it has considered the topic in hand).[1]

It is not usual for the House to vote on the adjournment Motion; it is either agreed to without a vote, or it lapses once the allotted time has expired. On rare occasions, however, where the debate concerns a matter on which there are strong differences of opinion (such as the prospect of going to war), backbench Members may engineer a vote. It was a vote on a Motion for the adjournment which brought down British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's government during World War II – the so-called Norway Debate.[4] Though Chamberlain won the vote (with the Government voting 'Aye', their opponents 'No'), it was by such a small margin that his credibility was fatally undermined.[4]

In the House of Commons of Canada, coming as it does at the end of the sitting day, the adjournment debate is colloquially known as the "late show."[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Adjournment debates". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  2. ^ "Adjournment Debate". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  3. ^ "Debates and adjournment debates | OIREACHTAS BRIEF". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  4. ^ a b Jefferys, Kevin (2015-09-10). Finest and Darkest Hours. Atlantic Books Ltd. ISBN 9781782398691.
  5. ^ "Adjournment Proceedings (Late Show)". Canada House of Commons. Retrieved 2016-02-25.