LEAVE OF THE SENATE
The Senate sometimes chooses to suspend or modify provisions of its Rules to allow something that would otherwise not be permissible. For instance, the Senate may agree to waive the usual notice period in order to expedite an item of business, or extend the speaking time granted to a senator during debate. Such actions can occur without notice if no senator raises an objection when the request is made. This agreement is referred to as “leave of the Senate”.
Definition and Purpose
Appendix I of the Rules defines leave as “[a]n agreement of the Senate, without dissent expressed, to take an action involving the suspension of a rule or usual practice without notice”. If any senator present objects to a request for leave, the normal rules and practices must be followed. The Rules also specify that leave is required for certain actions.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of actions for which leave must be sought:
- alter or waive the notice period required to expedite an item of business (second reading of a bill now, later this day or at the next sitting; third reading of a bill now or later this day; moving a motion normally requiring notice now; considering a committee report now or later this day, etc.);
- extend a senator’s speaking time;
- extend the time for Senators’ Statements[i];
- vary from the normal order of business (bringing forward an item, calling an item again, reverting to Routine Proceedings, etc.);
- table papers during Tabling of Documents, if the senator is not Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government[ii], or table papers during debate[iii];
- adjourn the debate on an item of Other Business in a senator’s name if that senator spoke at an earlier sitting or already adjourned the debate for the balance of his or her time;
- withdraw an item already under debate[iv];
- reduce the normal duration of bells before a standing vote, following a proposal from the whips[v];
- withdraw or change a senator’s vote after the announcement of results[vi]; and
- allow a senator to speak a second time in a debate to provide clarifications[vii].
The Rules require that a senator who seeks leave should state the rule or part of the rule to be suspended and provide an explanation[viii]. The senator may be asked to provide additional clarifications before a decision is made.
The Speaker’s role is to ensure that there is no dissenting voice. When a request for leave is made, the Speaker asks all senators present if leave is granted. If even one senator is heard to object, leave is not granted and the Rules and normal practices must be observed. If no senator is heard to object, leave is granted. The Speaker may ask the question again if the result was not clear.
The granting of leave does not necessarily dispose of the item; it relates to the process (i.e., can the normal notice period be waived?), not the substance of the matter being raised for decision (i.e., should a particular debatable motion be adopted?).
For instance, in the case of a non-debatable procedural motion, (i.e., for second reading of a bill later in the day or consideration of a motion later in the sitting), the grant of leave indicates the Senate’s acceptance of the procedural motion (i.e., deciding when the debate will occur). The substantive question (i.e., should the bill be read a second time? should the motion be adopted?) must still be put to the Senate in the normal manner, with the opportunity for senators to engage in debate, present amendments or even adjourn the debate on the matter if they so wish.
The fact that leave is granted is recorded in the Journals of the Senate. However, a decision reached with leave does not constitute a binding precedent as such variations from the Rules and regular practices are decided on a case-by-case basis.
The Rules of the Senate prohibit a request for leave to extend Tributes[ix].