Parliamentary sessions and sittings
A Parliament is the period of parliamentary time between one general election and the next. By law, a general election must take place at least every five years.
A Parliament is usually sub-divided into several year-long ‘sessions', beginning and ending in the spring. A 'sitting' is the daily meeting of either House. At the end of each sitting day, the House adjourns (pauses) until the next sitting. A sitting is a term used also for a meeting of a committee.
- How long is a session?
- What are the recess dates for the House of Commons and the House of Lords?
- What are the sitting hours of the House of Commons?
- What are the sitting hours of the House of Lords?
- When do committees meet?
- What do MPs and Lords do when Parliament is not sitting?
How long is a session?
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
- House of Commons Sessional returns
- House of Commons Sessional Diary
- Research Briefing: Number of Commons sitting days by session since 1945
- House of Lords Business statistics
What are the recess dates for the House of Commons and the House of Lords?
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.
What are the sitting hours of the House of Commons?
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|
|Monday (if sitting)||4.30pm - 7.30pm|
|Tuesday and Wednesday||9.30am - 11.30am & 2.30pm - 5.30pm|
|Thursday||1.30pm - 4.30pm|
- Commons Research Briefing: House of Commons – hours sat and late sittings
- Commons Research briefing: sitting hours
- About Parliament: Westminster Hall Debates
What are the sitting hours of the House of Lords?
|House of Lords Chamber|
|Mondays and Tuesdays||from 2.30pm|
|some Fridays||from 10am|
The House usually sits until 10-11pm, occasionally much later and sometimes all night.
When do committees meet?
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.
- Parliamentary Business: Committee, including committee news and What's On
- About Parliament: Committees
What do MPs and Lords do when Parliament is not sitting?
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.