Parliamentary sessions and sittings

A Parliament is the period of parliamentary time between one general election and the next. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 sets the interval between general elections at five years.

Each Parliament is usually divided into five parliamentary years called ‘sessions’, beginning and ending in the spring. A sitting is a meeting of either House at the end of which the House adjourns (pauses) until the next sitting. A sitting is also used as a term for a meeting of a committee.

There is no fixed length for a session, but they generally follow the same pattern from spring to spring, with a number of recesses. The actual dates of sittings usually vary slightly between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Prior to 2010 sessions generally ran from autumn to autumn.

Find statistics on the business of Parliament by session

A recess is a break during the parliamentary session in which neither the House of Commons nor the House of Lords meets to conduct business. There are usually several recesses throughout a session and usually include Christmas, Easter and summer.

Recess is formally known as a periodic adjournment.

The House of Commons normally sits at the following times.  The times of sittings may be changed at short notice if the House agrees, or may finish earlier. The House generally only sits on thirteen Fridays in a session to consider Private Members’ Bills, but can agree to sit on other Fridays when government business would take precedence.

Debates take place in Westminster Hall on Mondays if agreed by the Petitions Committee, and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. If sittings in Westminster Hall are suspended for divisions in the House of Commons Chamber additional time is added.

House of Commons Chamber
Monday 2.30pm - 10.30pm
Tuesday and Wednesday 11.30am - 7.30pm
Thursday 9.30am - 5.30pm
Friday (if sitting) 9.30am - 3pm

 

Westminster Hall
Monday (if sitting) 4.30pm - 7.30pm
Tuesday and Wednesday 9.30am - 11.30am & 2.30pm - 5.30pm
Thursday 1.30pm - 4.30pm

House of Lords Chamber
Mondays and Tuesdays from 2.30pm
Wednesdays from 3pm
Thursdays from 11am
some Fridays from 10am

The House usually sits until 10-11pm, occasionally much later and sometimes all night.

A large part of the work of the House of Commons and the House of Lords takes place in committees, made up of MPs and/or Lords. These committees consider policy issues, scrutinise the work and expenditure of the government, and examine proposals for primary and secondary legislation.

Find out more about parliamentary committees, and when they meet.

When Parliament is not sitting, MPs work in their constituencies, including holding surgeries, and dealing with constituency casework and correspondence. They may also, for example, attend party conferences and work on party matters, and attend local events.

Members of the Lords do not represent constituencies. Many Lords hold additional jobs which they can devote more time to during recess. Most members of the House of Lords are not paid a salary, and are only eligible to claim allowances for their attendance at sittings of the House or committees in Westminster.

MPs and Lords who hold ministerial posts will continue their work in government departments during parliamentary recesses.

Image: PA

Related information

Recess dates

Find out when Parliament is in recess: