The Chair would like to make a statement regarding the period for questions and comments following speeches in the House. A series of points of order were raised on this topic on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. That day, some members immediately left the chamber after completing their speeches and were therefore unable to take part in the period for questions and comments thereafter.
The Chair thought it necessary to return to the House regarding this matter, given the numerous concerns expressed.
The provisions in the Standing Orders governing the period for questions and comments were adopted by the House on November 29, 1982, following the recommendations of the third report of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure. They were further modified on February 18, 2005, becoming the current Standing Order 43. In its report, the special committee expressed its intention that questions and comments exchanges be “short and sharp”. Our current practices have maintained this spirit.
The current iteration of Standing Order 43 includes references to both speeches and questions and comments periods. It shows those proceedings should be interpreted as complementary, as they enhance the qualities of each other. Setting aside time for questions and comments enriches debate and allows for a constructive exchange of views, instead of only a series of set speeches.
With respect to the events of last Wednesday, the issue raises concerns on what becomes of the period for questions and comments when the member who just completed their speech is unavailable.
This happens frequently when debate has been interrupted for another proceeding, resuming several hours or sometimes several days later. It is a well-established practice, in those cases, that the questions and comments period may only continue if the member having made the speech is present. This is the way my predecessors have consistently ruled.
These were not, however, the circumstances that occurred last Wednesday. Instead, members were leaving immediately after the conclusion of their speech. Many members, as well as the Deputy Speaker, expressed some concern that this resulted in the questions and comments period not taking place. While this does not appear to have been a widespread practice in the past, it was something contemplated by one of my predecessors.
On October 28, 1985, Speaker Bosley stated at page 8076 of the Debates:
I said quite precisely to the House that when a normal period of interruptions such as a lunch period, overnight period or adjournment of the debate has caused a problem then it seemed to me to be unreasonable or to be against the spirit of what was intended by the Report to allow the question and comment period to continue in the unavoidable absence of the Member.
If the...Member is interpreting from that that he thinks that I believe that the question and comment period can be obviated by a Member making a speech and leaving the chamber then he has not interpreted me correctly.
Based on this, it is the expectation of the Chair that members having just completed a speech take part in the ensuing period for questions and comments.
Furthermore, should a member making a speech not be available immediately thereafter, and while the content of the member’s speech is still fresh to all, the Chair shall still recognize other members wishing to ask questions or comment on the speech, for the duration of the prescribed period.
The Chair invites the House leaders to discuss this matter further should they feel it necessary. Perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may also want to study the matter and make recommendations back to the House.
I thank members for their attention.