The following definitions cover some of the parliamentary terms associated with sittings of the House and the intervals between sittings. A diagram illustrating their relationship to the overall ‘parliamentary calendar’ is shown on the following page.
A Parliament commences upon the first sitting day following a general election and concludes either at dissolution or at the expiry of three years from the first meeting of the House—whichever occurs first.
A session commences upon the first sitting day following a general election or prorogation and concludes either by prorogation (the formal ending of a session), dissolution or at the expiry of three years from the first meeting of the House.
Sitting periods occur within a session. Sittings of the House in each calendar year are usually divided into distinct periods—the Autumn, Winter (or Budget) and Spring sittings (see page 238).
A sitting commences pursuant to the standing or sessional orders, or in accordance with a resolution of the House at a previous sitting, and concludes with the adjournment of the same sitting. The same sitting may extend over more than one day (and see Chapter on ‘Order of business and the sitting day’).
A recess is a period between sessions of the Parliament or the period between the close of a session by prorogation and the dissolution or expiry of the House.
An adjournment is said to occur when the House stands adjourned, by its own resolution or in accordance with the standing orders, for any period of time. Thus the term covers the period between the end of one sitting day and the commencement of the next, the gap (usually of two weeks) between sitting weeks within a sitting period, and also the periods of time between the main sitting periods each year, which are technically not recesses, although they are often colloquially referred to as such.
Suspension of sitting
Sittings are suspended, that is, temporarily interrupted, with the Speaker or Member presiding leaving the Chair, for a variety of reasons.
The parliamentary calendar in perspective
This calendar is based on a December election and February opening, and on a May Budget. It assumes a prorogation (if occurring) and the commencement of a 2nd session at the end of the first year of the Parliament; in practice a single session has usually run for the life of a Parliament (i.e. up to three years).