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Good question by Andrew Sparrow on the Guardian Politics' live blog:

According to the House of Commons website, the Commons has only sat on Saturdays four times since 1939.

Three of those sittings were prompted by way or military conflict: 2 September 1939 (the day before the outbreak of the second world ward); 3 November 1956 (the Suez crisis); and 3 April 1982 (the invasion of the Falklands).

The other took place on 30 July 1949, when the last sitting before the summer recess was on a Saturday. (Anyone know why?)

(To these sittings must now be added 19 October 2019.)

Nothing seems to stand out in the Hansard for that day or the previous week.

A Wikipedia timeline suggests that Parliament passed the Legal Aid and Advice Act on that date, which establishes a much-extended system of Legal aid in England and Wales -- but the source given doesn't specify the specific day.

What happened on that day that was so important to get Parliament to sit on a Saturday rather than on the following week? Was it the aforementioned Legal Aid and Advice Act indeed? Was it a desire to just get on with the recess? Or was there something else?

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    From Hansard, it seems it was just to wrap up business and receive notification of royal assent for a few bills before the recess. The Legal Aid and Advice Act was one of them, but there was another 51 bills. – Semaphore Oct 9 at 12:40
  • @Semaphore: so in other words, a last minute session to wrap up and go on recess the next day instead of postponing the latter until the following week? – Denis de Bernardy Oct 9 at 12:50
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    "Summer adjournment debates, last sitting of the summer" according to gaydio, which gives the same reasons for the other dates as the source in your question. Not sure about this source, though... – Lars Bosteen Oct 9 at 13:36
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    The statement regarding the Business of the House given the previous week seems to suggest that there was just too much to get through in the normal 5 working days, and the government didn't want House business to run into a new working week. – sempaiscuba Oct 9 at 14:33
  • @sempaiscuba: Can you post that as an answer? It looks like there were a few other Twitter answers to the same effect: theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/oct/09/… – Denis de Bernardy Oct 9 at 14:35
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The statement regarding the Business of the House given the previous week (on Thursday 21 July 1949) seems to suggest that there was just too much to get through in the normal 5 working days, and that the government didn't want House business to run into a new working week.

Parliament allocates time for debates, and this appears to have taken the full program from Monday 25 July 1949 to Friday 29 July 1949. The adjournment debate was thus scheduled for Saturday 30 July, together with other business including:

"... an occasion when hon. Members like the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) have an opportunity to raise matters affecting their constituents."


In the event, according to Hansard the Commons sitting on 30 July 1949 actually ended up including the following items of business:

  • Preamble
  • PRAYERS
  • ADJOURNMENT (SUMMER)
  • TELEVISION (SCOTLAND)
  • ROYAL ASSENT
  • TELEVISION (SCOTLAND)
  • B.B.C. RUSSIAN BROADCASTS (JAMMING)
  • FRUSTRATED EXPORTS
  • EDUCATION, CARDIFF
  • ARMY HUTS, LLANDEFEILOG (SALE)
  • CIVIL SERVANTS (POLITICAL ACTIVITIES)

Which all presumably needed to be cleared before the Parliamentary recess.

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