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I was looking at a couple of Hansard reports and noticed that the last House of Commons debate of the day was preceded by a motion to adjourn. If the debate lasted more than half an hour, it was cut short. You can see examples of this at 2020-06-04 (not cut short), 1993-06-17 (cut short mid-sentence), and 1993-06-18 (cut short mid-sentence).

My question is why do it that way. If the house wants to adjourn, why not adjourn immediately? If it wants another debate, why not move to adjourn afterward, and then adjourn immediately? I assume there's some parliamentary reason behind this "let's adjourn now, effective in half an hour", but can someone explain it to me, please?

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  • Whether or not this is on topic here, questions of parliamentary procedure are common over on Politics.SE, so I'd recommend asking such questions there anyway. Jun 8 '20 at 14:37
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    @SteveMelnikoff, thanks, I didn't know that. I got an answer here, so I won't request a moderator migrate the question to there.
    – msh210
    Jun 8 '20 at 15:08
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It's the mechanism used to allow for adjournment debates:

An adjournment debate is a way in the Commons of enabling a debate to take place but without a question which the House must then decide.

An adjournment debate is held on the motion 'that the House (or sitting) do now adjourn'.

There is a half-hour adjournment debate at the end of each day’s sitting. They are an opportunity for an individual backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister.

At the end of the day’s main business the Speaker calls a government whip to move the motion 'That this House do now adjourn'. The MP who has been allocated the debate is then called to speak and the Minister is given time to reply.

Regarding the timing: Commons standing order 9 sets out the default schedule for sittings. The end of business for each sitting is known as the "moment of interruption" (MoI), and varies depending on the day (10pm Mon, 7pm Tue/Wed, 5pm Thu).

If the adjournment debate starts after the MoI, it lasts half an hour.

If it starts before the MoI, it may last until half an hour after the MoI.

In other words: the adjournment debate is guaranteed to last at least half an hour; but if the Commons finishes its other business early, the adjournment debate can expand to fill the extra time.

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