Publications / Briefings

Back to Business: Parliamentary Calendar - Sessions, sittings and recesses

3 Jul 2024
©UK Parliament
©UK Parliament

A General Election in July poses challenges to the normal parliamentary calendar over the Summer. When Parliament sits will affect the timing of some of the key procedures at the start of the Parliament such as the setting up of Select Committees. It will also affect the timing of the Budget. So what will happen with the Summer and party conference recesses?

Before the General Election was announced, Parliament had been scheduled to rise for the Summer recess on Tuesday 23 July. However, that date was nullified with the dissolution of the last Parliament. It will be for the new Government to propose fresh recess dates.

If Parliament were to break for Summer recess as previously planned (on or around 23 July), there would be little or no time for any further business following the debate on the King’s Speech.

A spokesperson for Keir Starmer has indicated that it is “not sustainable” to begin parliamentary business on 17 July (with the King’s Speech) only to head off for the Summer a week later.[1] Similarly, Rachel Reeves has reportedly indicated that were Labour to win the General Election a shortened recess would help to demonstrate momentum in the Government’s first 100-days.[2]

This suggests Parliament may be required to sit later than usual - into July or early August - as well as returning earlier than usual at the end of August. A recent article in The Sunday Times suggested that Parliament will continue to sit until 31 July and return on 2 September, shortening the usual recess period by about a week.[3] If the Government wanted to shorten the recess period a little further then MPs might return after the Bank Holiday weekend (so returning on Tuesday 27 August) thereby reducing the usual six week recess period by about a fortnight.

Parliament normally sits during the first two weeks of September before adjourning for the party conference recess. The table below shows the known party conference dates for the main political parties in Great Britain.

Table 1: Party conferences dates

PartyConference dates
Scottish National PartyFriday 30 August - Sunday 1 September
Green PartyFriday 6 September - Sunday 8 September
Liberal DemocratsSaturday 14 September - Tuesday 17 September
Labour PartySunday 22 September - Wednesday 25 September (Labour Women's Conference takes place on Saturday 21 September)
Conservative PartySunday 29 September - Wednesday 2 October
Plaid CymruNot yet published
Reform UKNot yet published

If Parliament were to return from the Summer recess on 2 September as The Sunday Times has suggested, then it would be expected to rise for the conference recess a fortnight later on or around 12 September.

However, if the Government wished to press ahead with the Budget the earliest it could do so would be the following week, if it is to observe the Office for Budget Responsibility’s 10-week preparation rule to draw up an independent forecast to accompany the Budget (see Back to Business: The Budget and Estimates). This would mean Parliament sitting during the Liberal Democrat party conference.

Unless the Government decides exceptionally that Parliament should sit during one or more of the three party conference weeks beginning 16 September to consider the Budget and priority legislation, then it seems likely that Parliament will return the week commencing 8 October and the Budget will be considered soon thereafter.

Two of the last four opening Sessions of the Parliament following a general election have been of two rather than the usual one-year duration (2010-12 and 2017-19) and the opening Session of the last Parliament (2019-21) was extended to 16 months. Whether to follow suit in this Parliament will be an early decision for the Government’s business managers.

If it is to be a one-year Session, will it end early next Summer (in May or June) or will it extend into the Autumn (ending in October or early November)?

The advantage of a two-year Session is that it eases the pressure on the legislative programme created by the sessional cut-off. It also avoids early disruption to parliamentary scrutiny, particularly for Select Committees who will not really get up and running until the Autumn (see Back to Business: Creation of Select Committees) and may therefore face less than nine months of active work before a brief hiatus imposed by the end of a one-year Session. A two-year Session would also save money by eliminating the need for a State Opening of Parliament.

The disadvantage of a two-year Session is that it removes the benefit of the sessional deadline to force legislation through. There is a risk with a two-year Session that legislation may get bogged down in the House of Lords where the Government does not have a majority if Peers think they have a lot of time at their disposal for scrutiny. A two-year Session would also rob the Government of the opportunity for a King’s Speech which is a significant parliamentary and media moment to focus minds on a new legislative programme.

Below are some of the known and anticipated dates for key legislative, organisational and procedural matters that will occur in the early weeks of the new Parliament and which are addressed in later sections of this briefing.

Where the entries are italicised this means the information is indicative only, based on a best estimate of when the event may happen given the current lack of certainty about parliamentary sitting days.

July 2024

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[1] London Playbook PM: Pull the other one, Politico, 13 June 2024

©UK Parliament/Maria Unger

The new Parliament will assemble on Tuesday 9 July 2024, five days after the General Election. This guide explains the ceremonial, legislative, organisational and procedural processes that are engaged at the start of the Parliament. It examines the challenges a July General Election poses to the parliamentary calendar over the Summer and looks at the Government's plans with respect to legislation and public finances.

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