UK Politics

Timeline: When Parliament has been recalled

John Bercow
Image caption The Speaker decides whether it is right to recall the Commons from recess

Parliament is being recalled after the recent violence in London, only the 14th parliamentary recall in 30 years.

For MPs to be called back to Parliament the government has to pass a request on to Commons Speaker John Bercow, who then has the final say.

That request, made after David Cameron's return to Downing Street on Tuesday, has been granted by Mr Bercow with the House of Commons set to sit on Thursday at 11.30am.

There will be a statement by Prime Minister David Cameron, followed by a debate.

Technically, the Commons was recalled in July to debate phone hacking, although that effectively added a day onto the summer term, rather than interrupting MPs' breaks.

The House of Lords is usually recalled by the Lord Speaker at the same time as the House of Commons, although it has yet to be announced whether it is to sit this week too.


Before 2011, Parliament had not been recalled since September 2002, when then Speaker Michael Martin acceded to a request from the government for MPs to debate the situation in Iraq.

The recall was for the publication of the government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction, with Prime Minister Tony Blair warning MPs that "there are many acts of this drama still to be played out".

He concluded: "Should Saddam continue to defy the will of the international community, this House, as it has in our history so many times before, will not shrink from doing what is necessary and what is right."

Tributes to the Queen Mother

In April 2002, MPs returned from their Easter break to express their "deep sympathies and condolences" to the Queen over the death of her mother.

The Commons agreed that the Queen Mother had devoted her life "unstintingly" to "public service to the Country and the Commonwealth; who with his late Majesty King George VI rallied the nation in the darkest days of war and who in times of peace was a unifying figure for Britain, inspiring love and affection in all she met."

9/11 and Afghanistan

In 2001 there were three recalls, enabling MPs to discuss the terrorist attacks in the USA in September 2001 and a month later military action in Afghanistan.

The then Prime Minister Tony Blair described the attacks on the US as "hideous and foul" three days after they occurred.

He announced that "a series of air and cruise missile attacks" had been launched "on the terrorist camps of Osama bin Laden and the military installations of the Taliban regime" just over three weeks later.


After a bomb exploded during a community festival in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 1998, killing 29, MPs returned from their summer break to condemn the atrocity and pass emergency legislation aiming to make it easier to convict terrorists.


British troops had been operating in Bosnia since 1992, but in 1995 then PM John Major argued that the worsening situation in the country warranted a recall.

UN and UK troops were being held hostage in Bosnia, and the government had decided to send in reinforcements.

Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia

MPs devoted the second day of a two-day recall in September 1992 to how the UN was responding to events in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia.

"The world post-cold war is in many ways a better place, but in others it is more unstable," then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said.

The debate was punctuated by David Mellor's resignation statement, in which the former heritage minister blamed the tabloid press for publishing so many stories about him that he had become "heartily sick of my private life myself".

Economic crisis

The first day of the September 1992 recall enabled the House to consider the UK's forced withdrawal from the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM), twelve days earlier.

John Major argued that his government's policies would "allow the genius of British enterprise to flourish" and "secure for the British people the prosperity that they deserve".

But he faced accusations from then opposition leader John Smith of indulging in "delusions of grandeur" and promulgating "vainglorious nonsense".

Gulf War

Parliament was recalled in early September 1990 for another two-day debate, this time focusing for both days on how to respond to the annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which had taken place a month earlier.


In a highly unusual move, the Speaker recalled the Commons on a Saturday during parliamentary term time to debate the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland islands.

Defence Secretary John Nott was blamed for leaving the Falklands vulnerable to the Argentine invasion, and faced vociferous calls in the Commons for his resignation.

Parliament was again recalled 11 days later, during recess, as Royal Navy ships were "proceeding with all speed" towards the islands, according to then PM Margaret Thatcher.