There are several different types of adjournment debate. Some allow the Commons to hold a general open-ended debate on a subject or a government policy without reaching a formal decision about it. Others provide an opportunity for backbench MPs to raise constituency issues or other matters relating to government administration or policy - and to obtain a response from a government minister.
In the Commons chamber
There is a half-hour adjournment debate at the end of each day’s sitting. Members apply for an adjournment debate to the Speakers Office. Subject matters of adjournment debates are varied; examples include debates on defence issues, pensions and combating benefit fraud. The Speaker chooses Thursday’s subject; for other days, MPs are selected by ballot.
At the end of the day’s business, which is normally 10pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, 7pm on Wednesdays, 6pm on Thursdays and 2.30pm on Fridays, the Speaker calls a government whip to move ‘That this House do now adjourn’.
The MP who tabled the relevant adjournment debate is called to speak and a Minister will reply. The MP has no right of response, but can intervene in the Minister’s speech if he or she is willing to allow it (called ‘giving way’).
In Westminster Hall
At sittings in Westminster Hall on Tuesdays and Wednesdays there are two one-and-a-half hour debates and three half-hour debates. The one-and-a-half hour debates are intended to be more general involving a number of MPs.
Each government department is available to respond to debates only every other week, according to a rota.
Timetable for Westminster Hall debates
Applications are made to the Speaker’s Office and MPs are selected by ballot on Wednesday mornings.
Successful applications, and the dates and times they will be debated, are listed on the Parliamentary website.
Members will not be granted more than one debate in the same week, or two debates in successive weeks.
Motions for the adjournment
General debates are often held on what is called 'a motion for the adjournment'. In practice this means that a motion is put forward that the House should adjourn (the day's business is finished) - but it's not actually answered.
Instead, the MP who tabled the adjournment debate starts to make their speech on the subject and a government minister responds to it. At the end of the half-hour debate the motion for the adjournment of the House is put forward again and agreed to - signalling the end of the day's business.
In the Lords chamber
The House of Lords do not have adjournment debates as such but their Questions for Short Debate have a similar purpose.
These questions allow for a short debate that lasts for up to one-and-a-half hours (or one hour if taken in the dinner break).